CD-5 Republican Flashpoint: Pallotta Versus De Gregorio

Pallotta, left, and de Gregorio

Frank Pallotta is convinced he’s the guy to return CD-5 to the Republican fold.

“I think I walked away from last year’s race with a good understanding,” of what running for the House is all about, Pallotta said of a campaign he lost by about 32,000 votes to Josh Gottheimer.

Losing candidates often run again, sometimes with better results.

But if Pallotta, who lives in Mahwah, was hoping for a smooth passageway to the GOP nod, it’s not happening.

Enter Nick DeGregorio, a Fair Lawn resident who spent nine years in the Marines. DeGregorio worked on Pallotta’s campaign last year, but now is running against him.

Talking over breakfast Tuesday morning at a luncheonette in Fair Lawn, DeGregorio said he hopes for a friendly competition.

“I’m going to stay professional,” he said. “I’m going to focus on Josh Gottheimer who’s really the opponent.”

That could be the case in six months-plus.

But what’s immediately on tap is a spirited primary in a district that ranges from the Hudson to the Delaware and along the way, covers at least parts of four counties – Bergen, Passaic, Sussex and Warren. Also in the race is Nicholas D’Agostino, the president of the Sussex-Wantage Regional Board of Education.

Things can change, but at the moment this seems to be a contest between DeGregorio and Pallotta, both of whom come from Bergen, by far the largest county in the district.

Pallotta in a conversation last week expressed confidence he will get the nomination, noting that there were nine candidates in 2020 and that he came out on top. He says he learned a lot in 2020 about the mechanics of running in a large and very diverse district. After all, there aren’t many similarities between Ridgewood and Oxford in Warren County.

He’s convinced that he represents what voters want in a congressional candidate. Pallotta grew up modestly in Queens, became a successful businessman on Wall Street and now spends time supporting many charitable endeavors.

Redistricting, which is ongoing, may change the map a bit, but Pallotta says, “With the right team, we’re prepared for everything.”

DeGregorio attributes his entry into politics to a life-changing event – 9/11. He was 16 at the time and said he decided – right then and there – to join the military when he became of age.

His nine-year stint, including combat tours in Afghanistan, followed.

More recently, he said his congressional candidacy was prompted by the Biden Administration’s atrocious exit from Afghanistan last summer.

He called the departure “extremely painful to watch,” adding that it resulted in our allies losing respect for the U.S. and our enemies laughing at us.

It’s doubtful if any Republicans would disagree with that assessment, but there is long-standing political reality here. Rightly or wrongly, foreign policy is seldom a riveting issue for many voters.

While nuances among the primary candidates will undoubtedly surface in time, a broadside attack on DeGregorio already has popped up. It came via a missive distributed last month by Kelly Ann Hart, the executive director of the Sussex County Republican Committee. Hart’s name appears on Pallotta’s FEC report as having received $2,500 in August of 2021 from his campaign.

Hart, who said in an email that she was speaking for herself, criticized both DeGregorio and his advisors, labeling them as RINOs, a dreaded insult to be sure.

The outside political universe may look at the Nov. 2 election as a success for Republicans given the closeness of the gubernatorial race and GOP gains in the Legislature.

Not Hart.

She said Republicans should have won both Virginia and New Jersey and not just a handful of seats. For that failing, she blames the “insider consultants,” who dominate the New Jersey GOP.

“Nick DeGregorio is the latest offering by that team,” Hart writes.

“Already, DeGregorio’s handlers are using the same cookie-cutter language employed in their failed (Bob) Hugin for Senate campaign. In common with the Hugin race, instead of policies the campaign is leaning heavily on the candidate’s biography.” For the record, Hugin lost to Bob Menendez in 2018.

This certainly seems like a harsh observation to make months before the primary campaign really begins.

Asked about it, DeGregorio shrugged and said, “It really doesn’t change my strategy at all.”

And that strategy is to focus on Gottheimer.

On that, not surprisingly, there was agreement between Pallotta and DeGregorio.

Gottheimer was profiled recently on CNN as a man “in the middle.” The point being that as a “centrist,” the incumbent Democrat gets heat from both sides. This is a legitimate observation. GOP condemnation is to be expected. However, the left wing of the Democratic party has been quite vocal, if not obnoxious, in attacking Gottheimer as well. Most recently, there were protests outside his district office and a small group even showed up in the driveway of his home.

Talk about uncomfortable “friendly fire.”

Of course, neither Pallotta nor DeGregorio buy the line about Gottheimer being a centrist.

“Josh has never been a centrist,” Pallotta says. “You are what the back of your baseball card says you are.”

As Republicans are wont to do, Pallotta asks how can Gottheimer really be a moderate if he votes often with Speaker Nancy Pelosi?

DeGregorio frames things this way:

He said the incumbent focuses more on “preserving his career than he does protecting the interests of his constituencies.”

The most significant bill to pass the Democratic Congress this year probably was the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill.

The Republican candidates agreed that fixing roads and bridges is a basic government responsibility, but they both have problems with the legislation.

Pallotta says only a small part of the appropriation actually goes to infrastructure; DeGregorio said he sees a lot of “pork” in the bill.

This sounds like standard Republican criticism, but it must be pointed out that the two GOP House members from New Jersey, Chris Smith and Jeff Van Drew, voted yes on the bill.

In general, there is an air of optimism here.

Pallotta says he ran into “headwinds” last year, but that 2022 looks different. He said Democrats have moved too far left and that he hopes to take advantage of the pendulum swinging back the other way.

DeGregorio points out that Jack Ciattarelli carried the district by 6 points on Nov. 2.

Those tidbits have CD-5 Republicans smiling, but the question is, which candidate will be grinning after next June’s primary?

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  • Michael Schnackenberg

    I could title this column “Wannabe Congressman Attacks Local Journalist”.
    But then it would be about me.
    It’s not.
    It’s about a disgusting piece of excrement named Frank Pallotta.
    You remember Big Loser Frank.
    He took on Josh Gottheimer in 2020. And in a county that Trump won handily, Pallotta lost by 7 points.
    He wants to try again.
    He’s not off to a good start.
    I visited his Facebook page recently and told him I thought he had no chance. I didn’t make any disparaging remarks or say anything personal.
    Here was his response:

    “Michael, Michael, Michael…… Are you sure you’re not confusing the prominence of your column with the far-left side of the double-stack pancake menu at your local iHop?? I’m honestly worried about you. You may want to start to think about focusing your attention on your own health. The WHO has indicated that obesity is the fifth leading cause of death across the globe. Additionally, at least 2.8 million adults die each year as a result of being overweight or obese. In fact, 44% of diabetes, 23% of ischemic heart disease, and up to 41% of certain cancers are attributable to overweight and obesity. I’m honestly worried about you, big guy. So if you want to live long enough to see Josh re-enter the private sector, you may want to refrain from supersizing that next McDonald’s drive through order in favor of a Kale/Salmon cobb salad with a champagne vinaigrette (on the side!)”.

    Now, I’m used to personal attacks. Ever since I started this column, all the Republican jackasses in Sussex County could do is attack me personally, harass me, send the authorities after me, etc. And, in the interest of full disclosure, yes, I do have a weight problem. What a moron like Pallotta doesn’t realize is that my problem came from a tumor (benign, thankfully) on my thyroid which is inoperable. Until now, no one other than those closest to me have known about this. So I’m forced to reveal this to repudiate a moron like Big Loser Frank, who (like all judgmental idiots) equate weight problems with overeating.

    By the way, Pallotta, I haven’t been to an IHOP in over 10 years, I don’t like McDonald’s, and I don’t even know what the hell a Cobb salad is (I prefer lettuce, celery and carrots). Obviously, though, all that Chianti you’ve been quaffing has eroded what few brain cells you have left, or maybe there’s some illegal substance in your spaghetti sauce?

    In any event, Frank, you’ve just joined the list of those in my journalistic crosshairs. Enjoy the campaign, because, just like 2020, it will end in failure. Because you’re a failure. And a disgusting person.

  • Michael Schnackenberg

    Let me get this straight…

    Chris Cuomo, the CNN news anchor who happens to be the younger brother of former New York governor Andrew Cuomo, gets fired from his job for using his position and media contacts to aid in his brother’s defense of sexual assault allegations.

    OK, I understand why CNN took the action they did in originally suspending Cuomo.  Journalistic integrity is an important thing.  And CNN should be above reproach.  But I vehemently disagree with the decision to terminate Cuomo, contrary to the bleatings of the morons in the right-wing media, such as Farming Fraud Joe Labarbera and his band of mental defectives.

    Like, for example, Fox News.  They employ a TV host named Lara Logan.  She, at one time, was a two-bit field reporter for Channel 2 News in New York.  The typical talking head–attractive face, no brains.  But once the Foxies threw money at her, she found her voice as another conservative nut.  In a recent commentary, she attacked Dr. Anthony Fauci, the well-respected head National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the person who has done more to combat the Coronavirus pandemic than anyone on the planet.

    Logan, who apparently has the brainspan of an amoeba, tweeted recently that Fauci is the modern-day equivalent of Dr. Josef Mengele, the infamous “Nazi Doctor” who conducted gruesome experiments on concentration camp prisoners at Auschwitz, many of whom later perished in the notorious ovens.  This twit’s claims, in her warped view, stem from clinical trials of a Fauci-run study of AIDS-infected foster children back in the 1980s, where medication was administered to these unfortunate victims of parental irresponsibility.  And while it is true that 25 children who were part of these trials later died, it was established that none of the deaths were a result of any administered medications, but rather from AIDS itself.  This information is in the public record, but Logan, who has completely sacrificed what integrity she ever had to right-wing idiot groups like Unite America First, conveniently left this information out, choosing the Nazi reference over the truth.

    Given the opportunity to walk back her slanderous claims, Logan reiterated them.  But that’s nothing new for Logan.  You see, she was also once a correspondent for the venerable CBS newsmagazine “60 Minutes”.  That is, until 2013, when Logan and her producer were suspended for six months for knowingly filing a completely fabricated account of the Benghazi attack that killed four Americans.  Several years later, Logan left CBS in disgrace and joined Sinclair Broadcast Group, another propaganda arm of the Republican Party.  From there, she migrated to Fox, where she now hosts a show on their streaming service.

    So, the question is:  why is Chris Cuomo, who did nothing but come to the aid of his brother, fired, while Lara Logan, who viciously and falsely slandered who I believe to be an American hero in Dr. Fauci, still on the air?

    Well, as I said earlier, it comes down to integrity.  CNN did the morally correct thing in initially taking Chris Cuomo off the air, although this should have warrented a suspension, not a termination. Fox News, well, I don’t think they’ve ever had morals.  Any network who can employ such ignorant dirtbags as Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Jeannine Pirro demonstrates consistently that they are the journalistic equivalent of a Bangkok bordello.   With the Republican Party as willing customers.

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