Republicans will have a contested primary for Bergen County Executive, with former freeholder and perennial candidate Todd Caliguire and Fort Lee businesswoman Linda Barba facing off for the chance to take on two-term Democratic incumbent James Tedesco.
Barba will run on a line headed by GOP congressional candidate Frank Pallotta, a former investment banker from Mahwah who is seeking a rematch with Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff) in New Jersey’s 5th district.
U.S. Marine Corps combat veteran Nick De Gregorio defeated Pallotta at the Republican convention to score the organization line for Congress.
Caliguire defeated Barba by a 76%-18% margin at the Bergen County Republican convention last month to score the organization line. Saddle River GOP Municipal Chairman Doug Holden, 2021 candidate Ronald Lin, and Englewood GOP leader Diedre Paul will run for county commissioner on his line.
Paul Duggan, who also sought the county executive nomination last month, Angelique Hakim and Mary Guinchard, to run for county commissioner with Pallotta and Barba.
Once viewed as a rising star in Bergen GOP politics, the 66-year-old 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.