Chairman Zisa Heads off Trolls at Candidates’ Forum


HACKENSACK – Jack Zisa is warning Bergen County Republicans that they better play nice – at least with each other.

The chair of the county’s Republican organization used Thursday’s candidates’ forum to condemn negative comments – usually on the Internet – that he said some Republicans are making about others in the party.

The GOP has a spirited contest ongoing for the right to challenge Rep. Josh Gottheimer in the Fifth Congressional District. The top three candidates appear to be John McCann, who ran in 2018, businessman Frank Pallotta and Mike Ghassali, the mayor of Montvale.

Republicans in Bergen, by far the largest county in the four-county district, will endorse a candidate at a convention later this month.

In seeking to head off any future mischief on the Internet, Zisa told a crowd of more than 200 at GOP headquarters that they would be able to film the candidate of their choice speaking, but not any of the others. Clearly, the chairman didn’t want clips of a candidate’s speech being used in any way by opponents.

An upbeat McCann, who was enthused by the size of the crowd, proclaimed it one of the best nights in the recent history of the Bergen County Republican Party.

He also preached unity, imploring the candidates who lose the convention vote to “stand down” and not run in the June primary. He himself vowed to do precisely that.

As McCann put it, “An unfettered, wide open primary will decrease our chances to beat Josh Gottheimer.”

This wasn’t a time for an in-depth discussion of issues, other than a universal condemnation of socialism and strong support to reelect Donald Trump, which one speaker boldly predicted was “inevitable.”

If unity was the theme, it was in play on this night. All of the candidates who spoke were respectful of each other, as was the audience. Besides the CD-5 hopefuls, the roster of speakers included Republican candidates for U.S. Senate, CD-9 and county freeholder.

Zisa was quite serious about unity and trying to curtail any divisiveness.  As the evening ensued, he reprimanded some for filming more than one candidate, saying, “I thought I made myself clear.”

Actually, he had.

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