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No convention likely for Bergen GOP

Cardinale, DiGaetano exchange words over process

By David Wildstein, March 14 2018 1:46 pm

Sources say that Bergen County Republicans are likely to cancel their convention this year, with GOP Chairman Paul DiGaetano making the determination about which candidates will run on the organization line.

A meeting of Republican municipal chairs last night reportedly grew tense when 84-year-old State Sen. Gerald Cardinale (R-Demarest) got into a shouting match with DiGaetano. Sources say that DiGaetano initially tried to prevent Cardinale from participating in the meeting, where candidates for the 2018 ticket were being interviewed and discussed, because Cardinale was not a municipal chairman. Cardinale refused to leave.

The current controversy in Bergen is over the 5th congressional district, where Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff) is seeking re-election to a second term. DiGaetano wants to give the organization line to attorney John McCann, but Republican insiders say that an open convention would likely produce a win for former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan.

Lonegan, sources say, is prepared to run his own line of candidates. He has offered a place on his ticket to the three Republicans seeking countywide office — Bergenfield Mayor Norman Schmelz for County Executive and two councilmen running for freeholder: Eric Kulmala of Oakland and Hector Olmo of Cresskill.

DiGaetano is reportedly not seeking re-election as county chairman and backing former Hackensack Mayor Jack Zisa for the post. Fernando Alonso, who ran for Assembly in 2011 and Senate in 2013, is mulling a run as the anti-DiGaetano faction candidate.

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