Just days before he’s set to become the Bergen County Democratic Chairman, Paul Juliano scored a big win in Bergenfield by bringing feuding factions together in advance of a hotly contested mayoral campaign.
According to sources who were present at a breakfast this morning, Juliano negotiated a peace treaty between Councilmen Arvin Amatorio and Thomas Lodato. Amatorio is the Democratic candidate for mayor against Republican incumbent Norman Schmelz.
Juliano’s intervention – and promise of financial support for the general election – vastly improves the chances of Democrats to pick up the Bergenfield mayoral post.
With additional blocs of votes, there is no one person who controls a majority of the county committee votes in Bergenfield.
Amatorio was set to become New Jersey’s first Filipino-American assemblyman last year, but Democrats decided not to fan the flames in choosing between the two major factions. That made Christopher Tully, a former council president and Rep. Josh Gottheimer’s district director, an easier choice.
Juliano is expected to quickly move to raise money for the Amatorio campaign.
Bergenfield has been a tough place for Democrats for more than fifteen years.
When State Sen. Byron Baer (D-Englewood) resigned for health reasons in late 2005, former Assemblyman Ken Zisa initially defeated Assemblywoman Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck) by four votes at a special election convention to fill the Senate seat.
Amidst some chicanery with the vote, Weinberg went to court and wound up winning by one vote, 115-114.
Three years later, Bergenfield Councilwoman Elaine Rabbitt was indicted on charges that she forged county committee resignation letters in a bid to swing the election to Zisa. Rabbitt resigned from the council, along with Dennis Mulligan, who entered a PTI program. In 2011, Rabbitt was found not guilty. The episode also led to the resignation of Bergenfield Democratic Municipal Chairman Kevin Clancy, who lived with Rabbitt.
The Friday filing deadline passed without anyone emerging to challenge Juliano, the Fairview public works director who is slated to succeed Louis Stellato as county chairman this week.