Accusing Bob Auth of reneging on an agreement to drop his State Senate bid and seek re-election to the Assembly, Bergen County Republican Chairman Jack Zisa endorsed Holly Schepisi on Friday night.
Zisa, who had remained neutral in the March 9 special election convention to fill the seat of the late Gerald Cardinale, said that Auth’s withdrawal from the race on Thursday followed by his reentry eight hours later, followed a meeting where had committed to end his Senate bid.
“To put it bluntly, it was selfish, erratic, and duplicitous,” Zisa said in a letter to county committee members. “More importantly, it was unbecoming of a sitting assemblyman and someone seeking to lead our party in district 39.”
Auth, a longtime aide to Cardinale, had entered the race last Saturday with the support of the late Senator’s widow, former Demarest Councilwoman Carole Cardinale.
Zisa said he arranged a 90-minute sit down between the two candidates on Wednesday in a bid to broker party unity. Auth came alone, he said, while Schepisi was accompanied by Betty Krystyniak, a longtime Cardinale ally and head of the North East Republican Organization (NERO).
“Over the next hour and a half we discussed what was best for the party. Bob put forth a list of desires he would want if he were to continue to run for the Assembly,” Zisa said. “No one pressured Bob. No one threatened Bob. In fact, the proposal put forth was Bob’s plan. Bob requested the evening to think about which path he wanted to continue down, and he promised an answer by 10:00 AM Thursday morning.”
On Thursday morning, Auth told the New Jersey Globe that he was exiting the Senate race and would run for re-election to a fifth term in the Assembly on the organization line. That evening, he told the NJ Globe that he had reconsidered and was re-entering the Senate race.
Zisa said Passaic County Chairman Peter Murphy and former New Jersey Republican State Chairman Doug Steinhardt tried to convince Auth to end his Senate run.
“Bob Auth has decided to put all of us in the unenviable position of having to choose sides in the race for State Senate,” Zisa said
Zisa also defended Schepisi on accusations that she has not worked to support down ballot Republican candidates.
Cardinale died on February 20 at age 86, after serving nearly 40 years in the New Jersey Senate. Schepisi had been challenging him for the GOP nomination at the time of his death.