The Republican organization line in Bergen County will face a test in Tuesday’s primary, where two slates face off in races for county executive and county commissioner.
The organization candidate, Todd Caliguire, a flawed perennial candidate who served as a freeholder in the 1990s, faces Fort Lee realtor Linda Barba for the chance to take on two-term County Executive James Tedesco. Caliguire has the line. Both are running with three candidates for county commissioner.
Most of Bergen is in the 5th district, where the two slates are allied with candidates for Congress: Nick De Gregorio, a U.S. Marine combat veteran who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan, faces Frank Pallotta, a former investment banker who ran against Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff) in 2020. Caliguire is running with De Gregorio, while Barba and Pallotta share a line.
It’s not clear how ballot position will affect the strength of the line.
The rival late, under the “Bergen County Republicans banner, drew the better ballot position, Column 1. The organization, which uses the “Republicans for Responsible Government” slogan, are in Column 2.
Perhaps most importantly, with no presidential or U.S. Senate candidate up this year, the line has no marquis name to draw voters.
In 2018, Paul Duggan ran off the line for county executive in 2018 and came within 123 votes of upsetting the organization candidate, Bergenfield Mayor Norman Schmelz. Duggan ran on a ticket with Steve Lonegan, who lost an NJ-5 primary to against the the organization-backed congressional candidate, John McCann.
In 2020, an all vote-by-mail primary, Pallotta lost Bergen by just 1,258 votes and four percentage points against McCann.
Most municipal and county committee candidates are running with the organization in Column 2. So is Billy Prempeh, who is unopposed for the GOP nomination in the 9th district. The Barba slate backs Prempeh, so there is a hole at the top of her ticket in South Bergen.
The battle between Caliguire and Barba is a precursor to the next election a few weeks from now, when Bergen County GOP Chairman Jack Zisa faces a challenge from Raymond Herr, a former Fairview councilman.
Running for county commissioner on the Caliguire ticket are: Dr. Douglas Holden, the Saddle River GOP municipal chairman; Dr, Diedre Paul, a prominent community leader in Englewood; and Dr. Ronald Lin, who ran last year.
Angelique Hakim, Mary Guinchard and Paul Duggan are running for county commissioner on the Barba slate.
Barba has raised about $25,000, while Caliguire has brought in just $16,000.