Ciattarelli Shows Murphy How to Eat Pizza (and Yogurt)

Ciattarelli devours pizza.

EDGEWATER – Pizza at 11 a.m, sushi at 1 p.m. and maybe a cannoli in between.

Gubernatorial candidates eat a lot, and so there was Republican Jack Ciattarelli on a restaurant-junket today in this now-trendy town along the Hudson waterfront.

“I’m going to be five pounds heavier and happier for it,” said Ciattarelli after downing a slice of pizza at Frank’s Pizzeria on Old River Road. Ciattarelli, by the way, doesn’t have a weight problem.

In a more serious vein, he said, “We can keep people safe while allowing businesses to operate and save livelihoods.”

As we said, visiting restaurants is standard campaign stuff even if the election is eight months away. At the same time, in visiting Edgewater and later Fort Lee, Ciattarelli was crossing enemy lines  Both towns are strongly Democratic, as is Bergen County itself. Once a GOP stronghold, Joe Biden carried the county last year by about 81,000 votes and both towns by a comfortable margin.

Ciattarelli knows that and also what it means.

In a state where registered Democrats exceed Republicans by more than a million, he needs a slew of cross-over voters.

And he thinks he can get them in Bergen.

At Dong Bang, a Korean barbecue restaurant in Fort Lee, Ciattarelli was joined by about two dozen local Bergen Republicans.

He told them that he considers Bergen a “swing” county. He said that Chris Christie carried the county, but that Kim Guadagno lost it in 2017. Clearly, Ciattarelli hopes it will swing back to Republicans this year.

And as candidates are wont to do when facing a friendly crowd, he perhaps got a little carried away, saying that he only wants to be governor if he would have a Republican Legislature with which to work. To put it mildly, that’s going to be difficult.

One of the overriding Republican issues is that Gov. Phil Murphy has kept the state in a pandemic-related “shut-down” for far too long.

Ciattarelli says restaurant capacity should be at 50 percent; it’s now 35 percent, although it was 25 for a long time. Ciattarelli also opposed the 10 p.m. restaurant curfew, which has now been eliminated.

Not surprisingly, he found a receptive audience.

Christian Zambrano, co-owner of Rebecca’s, a Cuban restaurant in Edgewater, said he never paid much attention to politics.

But now he is. He described Murphy-imposed restrictions as “harsh.”

Proving he once served a legislative district that served Princeton, Ciattarelli prepared to expertly devour a frozen yogurt.
Proving he once served a legislative district that included Princeton, Ciattarelli prepared to expertly devour a frozen yogurt.

 

Just up the block in Edgewater, the candidate sampled a small dish of yogurt at Yogart Frozen Yogurt.

Also on hand was Anthony Cappola, who makes his own cannolis.

Talking about the governor, Cappola said he fully realizes the seriousness of Covid.

“I get it,” he said. But he added that such things as depression, addiction and financial distress are real as well. And they are exacerbated by pandemic restrictions.

Back at Dong Bang, Ciattarelli was talking about another issue that the GOP is trying to capitalize on – marijuana.

Yes, he said, he knows legalizing recreational pot was strongly backed by voters. But he targeted a provision in the penalty section of the law that prohibits police who catch minors smoking weed from telling their parents – until the second offense.

“This isn’t what we signed up for,” he said.

He’s right about that, and this theoretically could be a liability for Murphy.

Then again, maybe not.

Democrats already have proposed legislation to strike that provision.

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