A group of mayors and other local party officials led by former Lt. Governor candidate Carlos Rendo, will meet privately tonight to choose a candidate for Bergen County Republican Chairman against incumbent Paul DiGaetano.
Rendo, the mayor of Woodcliff Lake, said in an e-mail that a group of mayors met before Christmas to discuss the future of the Republican Party in Bergen, which has suffered massive losses over the last few years.
“The purpose of the meeting is to invite anyone interested in running for County Chairman to step forward and present his or her plan to improve our Party,” Rendo said. “At the conclusion of the meeting, the elected officials will take a vote as to their choice for Chair and will provide a formal endorsement for that person. It is incumbent on us to be united in building this party.”
One longtime party leader complained that Rendo is using his mayoral allies to make an end run of the Bergen County Republican Committee (BCRO) Executive Committee – long an influential subset of municipal chairman – to pick his own candidate.
“With all of the problems of the BCRO the one thing it does not need is another group meeting in an ad hoc manner outside of the organization’s bylaws,” said Bob Taschler in an e-mail to party leaders.
Taschler, an ally of former Chairman Bob Yudin – ousted two years ago as DiGaetano took the post to set up his own State Senate bid in District 40 – was highly critical of DiGaetano’s leadership. So Rendo and Taschler ought to be allies in the move to get a new chairman, but the two appear to disagree on a process.
DiGaetano, who got wiped out in his own primary last year, has barely raised enough money to pay rent on the mausoleum-like party headquarters – just $96,515 in 2016 — and provided no funding to local campaigns, Taschler said.
While DiGaetano has no fundraising events scheduled for this year, Bergen County Democratic Chairman Louis Stellato has a gala set for next month featuring the new Democratic governor, Phil Murphy.
Democrats now control every county office, and have beaten 40 incumbent Republican local officials since DiGaetano has taken office.
In Taschler’s view, the GOP lacks “a message that resonates with the public.
“Instead we use the standard “I’m a nice guy (or gal)” campaign which works in safe towns but fails in competitive races. ‘I’m not a Democrat’ is not a good campaign strategy. And ‘I’m not Trump’ is likely an even worse strategy,” Taschler wrote. “Our marketing sucks. Gov. Murphy supports NJ being a sanctuary state for illegal aliens and potheads. Perhaps Republicans could create a message about this.”
Long-term, Republicans like Taschler appear to lack confidence in their ability to compete in New Jersey’s most heavily populated county.
“It probably does not matter much. I keep hearing how the BCRO is dead and that the ‘fix is in’ because (former Hackensack mayor) Jack Zisa has already been picked to replace DiGaetano.
Taschler predicts that DiGaetano will “ignore the county committee in NJ CD-5 and hand the line to (John) McCann without holding a convention, Zisa will just walk in to the position. It is already baked in the cake.”
McCann is challenging former Bogota mayor Steve Lonegan for the chance to challenge freshman Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff) in a district that leans Republican.
“When we lose in November we can always blame Trump,” Taschler said.