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Todd Caliguire. (Photo: Caliguire for County Executive).

Bergen GOP picks Caliguire as County Executive candidate

Holden, Lin, Paul win organization line for county commissioner

By David Wildstein, March 23 2022 11:55 pm

Bergen County Republicans have picked perennial candidate Todd Caliguire, who served as a freeholder in the 1990s, as their candidate for County Executive.

Caliguire defeated Fort Lee realtor Linda Barba and two others to capture  the GOP organization at the party’s annual convention on Wednesday.  He’s now the front-runner to take on two-term incumbent James Tedesco in the general election.

Republicans also picked Saddle River GOP municipal chairman Doug Holden, 2020 candidate Ronald Lin, and prominent Englewood Republican leader Diedre Paul as their candidates for county commissioner.

The 66-year-old Caliguire defeated Barba 467-108, a 76%-18% margin.  Timothy Walsh, a former Bergen County Young Republican Chairman, finished third with 29 votes (4%).  Another perennial candidate, Paul Duggan, received 12 votes (2%).

Holden was the top vote-getter with 490, followed by Lin (426) and Paul (372).  They defeated Michelle Han (301) and Russell Doherty (47).

Once viewed as a rising star in Bergen GOP politics, the Midland Park resident and former Kean administration official  first sought party support for congressman in 1984 and for county executive in 1986.  He’s lost two races for State Senate, one for county executive — he lost by 20 points in 2006 — and one for the Republican nomination for governor.  He was a two-term freeholder but hasn’t won an election since 1995.

His last campaign, a 2007 State Senate race against Kevin O’Toole, seemingly ended his political career after being pilloried for a racist, anti-Asian mailer.

His responsibility for the mailer essentially attacking him for being Asian American in a county that has seen its Asian American population grow by 31% over the last decade and is now 18.4% of the Bergen County’s population will likely become an issue in his political comeback bid.   There are enough Korean American voters in Bergen County that all ballots are also required to be printed in Korean.

Caliguire sent out a mailer that ran side-by-side photos of O’Toole, who was the state’s first Asian American legislator, and Rev. Al Sharpton, alleging that O’Toole was “the Republican Al Sharpton.”

“Democrats like Al Sharpton have divided America with their fixation on race and affirmative action,” the mailer stated.  “Now Kevin O’Toole is guilty of the same thing.”

O’Toole referenced the mailer in a column on Asian hate he wrote for the New Jersey Globe in March 2021.

“The not-so silent hand of racism would rear its ugliness when my opponent, in a blatant effort to stir racial waves, sent a mailer of me and Reverend Al Sharpton, referring to us as Affirmative Action babies” he said.

Caliguire’s campaign manager, Kevin Collins, defended their messaging in an interview with The (Bergen) Record.

“We could have altered the photo.  We did not,” Collins told The Record.  “We could have made a more jaundiced look to his skin.  We did not.”

The Republican State Chairman at the time, Tom Wilson, smacked Caliguire for race baiting.

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