Murphy Reasserts Political Alliance with Tedesco and Stellato in Bergen

HACKENSACK – This was the 6th floor room overlooking a cemetery in a jammed-together residential spill-zone where it started.

This was where Phil Murphy first aligned the North Jersey Democratic chairs to essentially suffocate anyone else who wanted to succeed Chris Christie as Governor of New Jersey.

That was 2016, a year and change before he finally sealed the deal in November of 2017.

So on the occasion of Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco’s reelection kickoff (his 2014 victory represented the jewel in the crown of Bergen Democratic Chairman Lou Stellato’s political career as chair) Murphy returned to Bergen (which produced a 129,265 general election vote total for him, second only [barely] among all counties last year to Essex’s 129,470 vote tally), rendezvousing with two other brand names alert to the benefits of keeping this increasingly Democratic County firmly bear-hugged: U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (up for reelection this year) and U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ).

“I don’t think anyone can touch your qualifications and experiences,” the Governor told Tedesco, perched at the front of the packed room.

Stellato World

An appearance here celebrating Paramus fireman turned countywide pooh-bah Tedesco was not only appropriate but a political requirement, as Hudson (one of the other counties in the quad that backed Murphy) and now Union appear headed for shake-ups.

Stellato played the role of master of ceremonies.

“Thank you for coming out here for me this morning,” he cracked.

Boston-born Murphy got some laughs when he noted his pain at having had to witness yesterday’s loss by the Patriots.

But he deflected his anguish by polishing Tedesco’s star.

“You’re going to have a Governor who works with you side by side as a partner,” Murphy told the county executive, who appears to be poised for a general election showdown with Bergenfield Mayor Norman Schmeltz.

The room of Tedesco backers also included U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-9), U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-5), Senator Paul Sarlo (D-36), LD36 Assembly pick Clinton Calabrese, Bergen Freeholder Tracy Zur, Freeholder Joan Voss, and Freeholder Steve Tannelli.

Gottheimer must confront his own 2018 narrative.

First elected in 2016 after dethroning a Republican incumbent in a supposedly GOP-solid district, the Democrat will defend his seat this year, either against Bergen attorney John McCann or former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan.

There’s a relationship there.

“On my election night, the chairman walked in and was getting us all rallied and my daughter walks in and says ‘but daddy, Jimmy…’ and I told her ‘Jimmy’s not on the ballot,’ and she says, ‘Ok, I was worried,'” Gottheimer recalled. “Everybody loves Jimmy.”

Amid all the love, Booker cracked of Tedesco, “We were both born in the sixties. I was born in the 1960s.”

“I got a lot of attention during a snowstorm as mayor by grabbing a shovel; this is a guy who does hours on a snowplow,” the junior senator added. “I ran into a fire once.” Tedesco’s a firefighter.

When he went up to the microphone at Booker’s prompting, Tedesco noted the environs of his first countywide run: the unlikely 2013 win with a then-surging Christie at the top of the opposing ticket. Stellato called him a  few weeks later and nudged him toward a 2014 county executive’s candidacy, at the time dismissed in some Democratic circles as the essence of a quixotic quest.


But Tedesco – with Stellato firmly at his side and given a boost by Bridgegate and a suddenly tanking Christie – pulled off the upset of then-Bergen County Executive Kathe Donovan.

“History will show we won one of the largest victories in Bergen County,” a lump-in-the-throat Tedesco told the crowd.

“I’m here today to officially announce my plans to seek another term as executive of Bergen County,” said the former Paramus mayor turned countywide blue collar brand name.

The crowd rose to its feet amid hurrahs.

It wasn’t all sweetness and light where Murphy was concerned – on several occasions Tedesco ribbed the Governor about making sure he gets a Bergen portion for the Hudson Light Rail done – but it was decidedly warmer than Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo’s “Cory Booker for President” launch last year.

Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, right.
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