Linda Barba of Fort Lee wants to get elected Tuesday as the Republican Party’s candidate for Bergen County Executive. But after she handles Todd Caliguire – arguably a heavy lift, given his occupation of the county line – she wants Ray Herr to handle Jack Zisa.
Zisa’s the chair of the Bergen County Republican Organization (BCRO), and Caliguire’s chief supporter.
Short of expunging him on the other side of the primary, the Bergen GOP can’t come together, Barba argues.
Barba – a realtor by trade and former Fort Lee Board of Education candidate – was appalled by the way Zisa conducted the party convention.
“It was a dog and pony show and an absolute insult to anyone’s intellect,” Barba told InsiderNJ. “People were coming out of the booth and going to Jack Zisa and saying, ‘We voted.’ What is he, the great Oz? Don’t waste eight hours of my time, they picked the line already.”
As anti-establishment candidates around New Jersey cannibalize one another (CD-4 comes to mind, so does CD-7), Bergen at the very least offers the visual of a credible team running off the line, anchored by Barba and assisted by Frank Pallotta, the former CD-5 GOP challenger who’s running again, this time in defiance of the BCRO.
The BCRO backs Iraq War combat veteran Nick De Gregorio, who’s banking on his patriotic credentials to buttress him against Pallotta.
For her part, Barba says she raised more money than Caliguire ($25K to $15K), and says – just as the slogan – that she’s the real Bergen Republican. “We don’t have confidence in him because he’s in a government job,” Barba said of her opponent.
Barba says the county roads are a disaster.
If elected county executive, she says she would work better with local mayors – of both parties – than sitting incumbent Democrat Jim Tedesco. “These Democrats don’t fight back against [liberal Governor Phil] Murphy. That whole nursery home thing was a disgrace. Young mothers can’t find find baby formula for their children.”
Pallotta’s strong primary effort in CD-5 impacts 43 towns. In the other 27, Barba lacks the advantage of a congressional challenger at the top of her ticket, as Caliguire occupies a line also inhabited by Republican Billy Prempeh, who’s running against U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-9).
“My deepest respect and honor go to Nick De Gregorio,” said Bara, of the establishment’s pick in CD-5.” “I’m thankful and grateful to our veterans.”
But “Frank Pallotta has more of a name recognition and experience. I have not encountered many people who have said, ‘Ugh, you’re on Pallotta’s ticket.”
Finally, said Barba, “the line is a joke.”
“The Republican org should be supporting all of us, not just one or two of us. They made me feel like I’m an outcast.”
The Republican candidate backs a lawsuit that would abolish the organization line from New Jersey politics. “Yes, I support that 100%,” Barba said. “I would never want another candidate to go through what I went through. The line doesn’t make sense. Also, in this case, it’s predominantly male, with only one female. Everything is so intertwined. People shouldn’t have multiple government positions, as you see with the party’s assistant chairperson, who works for the Election Board. That shouldn’t happen. Ray Herr is stepping up to run against Jack Zisa. He has no personal agenda. He wants the party to grow and thrive, and so do I.
“Until Jack Zisa goes, it will be difficult to create a unified Republican Party.”