The announcement that former Bergen County sheriff Michael Saudino is returning to the Republican Party after a six year absence – after a racist and homophobic tape caused his resignation – is causing a revolt among GOP candidates on the ballot this fall.
Nine Republicans signed on to a statement saying they don’t want Saudino involved in their campaign: Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi (R-River Vale), Assemblymen Bob Auth (R-Old Tappan), Christopher DePhillips (R-Wyckoff) and Kevin Rooney (R-Wyckoff), 38th district Assembly candidates Christopher DiPiazza and Michael Kazmir, and freeholder candidates Corrado Belgiovine, Alyssa Dawson and Kathleen Cericola.
“Former Sheriff Saudino has no place as an active participant in our party. We are united in condemnation of his hateful speech and pledge to refuse financial support of any kind from Mr. Saudino,” the group of Republicans said. “As legislators and candidates, we will continue to move our party forward in a positive and inclusive manner. Let us be clear, unlike our Democratic counterparts who remained silent against their fellow Democrat last September when this first came to light, we have and will continue to denounce all hatred, racism, sexism, bigotry and homophobia regardless of party affiliation.”
The claim that Democrats remained silent is not entirely accurate.
Gov. Phil Murphy, State Sens. Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck), Paul Sarlo (D-Wood-Ridge), Joseph Lagana (D-Paramus), Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff), county chairman Louis Stellato and county executive James Tedesco were among a long list of Bergen Democrats who quickly urged Saudino to resign.
The four GOP legislators – Schepisi, Auth, DePhillips and Rooney – were among the first to call for Saudino’s ouster.
Schepisi and Auth also criticized their 39th district Democratic opponents, Westwood mayor John Birkner, Jr. and Emerson council president Gerald Falotico, for their ties to Saudino and their failure to publicly call for his resignation last fall.
“Unlike our opponents, who remained shockingly silent regarding comments made by a fellow Democrat elected official as they personally attended the former Sheriff’s fundraisers, attended private parties with him, and had him swear them in shortly before the incident in question, we immediately denounced his comments and called for his resignation when it was first reported,” Schepisi said. “We stand by our statement.”
Auth said he was “glad to hear that after eight long months of silence, Birkner and Falotico finally joined us in denouncing former Democrat Saudino’s racist and incendiary comments.”
“Birkner and Falotico would rather play politics and hide their enthusiasm for the Saudino candidacy,” Auth said.
Schepisi called on Bergen County Democrats to return “every dollar of funding raised through any efforts of former Sheriff Saudino during his tenure as an integral part of the Democratic Party.”
Englewood Cliffs mayor Mario Kranjac also joined the list of Republican officials who oppose Saudino’s return to the Bergen Republican organization.
“There is no place in the Bergen County GOP for someone who spews racist hatred as Mr. Saudino clearly did while Bergen County Sheriff,” Kranjac said. “Unlike how the Englewood Cliffs Democrats recently protected and financially rewarded disgraced Police Chief Cioffi and other officers in their racist anti-Asian rants and actions, the Englewood Cliffs GOP will never tolerate racism or sweep it under the rug.”