Pallotta v. De Gregorio

WOODCLIFF LAKE – You can’t go wrong mentioning Abe Lincoln and Ronald Reagan at any Republican gathering.

Frank Pallotta knows that. So in talking about his loss two years ago to Josh Gottheimer in CD-5, Pallotta on Monday night brought up Honest Abe and the Gipper.  They lost elections too, he said.

His point is that one loss does not end a career. And as it pertains to the House, history shows second time candidates have a much, much greater chance of  winning.

But before we get to Pallotta-Gottheimer Round Two, Pallotta needs to get by Nick De Gregorio in the GOP primary.

De Gregorio has been endorsed by the Policy Committee of the Bergen County Republican Organization, which probably makes him the favorite to win the endorsement of the full committee when it meets Wednesday night. Redistricting has taken Warren County away from CD-5 and expanded it into southeastern Bergen, seemingly making the Bergen endorsement more vital.

Pallotta, De Gregorio and two others seeking the GOP congressional nod, Fred Schneiderman and Sab Skenderi, came together Monday for a forum at a senior center sponsored by Republican organizations from seven towns in northwest Bergen.

One question eschewed any mention of philosophical musings for the very practical – just how do you beat Gottheimer, a well-funded incumbent in a district that has become a bit more Democratic?

De Gregorio, a Marine combat veteran, said his background is key. He said that if you look at 2020, Republicans gained House seats by running women, minorities and veterans – the box he checks.

“That’s what we need to do here,” he said, adding that the GOP ticket in 2020, which, of course, included Pallotta, lost by double digits.

The tally in Bergen, roughly, was 177,000 for Gottheimer and 124,000 for Pallotta. District wide, Gottheimer won by about 32,000 votes.

De Gregorio’s comments prompted Pallotta, whose background is in business, to evoke Lincoln and Reagan as proof that one can lose an election and still go on to do great things.

How would Pallotta beat Gottheimer in a rematch?

He said the key is for Republicans to stick to their core, conservative principles. Pallotta explained that independents and disenchanted Democrats can be won over if the party stays true to its beliefs. Or as he put it, “Attract them (to us) by being who we are.”

Schneiderman said the GOP should talk about Donald Trump’s accomplishments; one he mentioned was a Middle East policy that forged peace agreements between Israel and a number of its traditional adversaries. He also said Republicans should show voters that “one party rule” in Washington is not going well.

Skenderi stressed his belief that Congress should always strive to put the interests of Americans first. A self-proclaimed, “anti-vaxxer,” Skenderi said vaccine mandates are a form of “enslavement.”  Clearly, he is riding in the far right lane of GOP philosophy.

One issue that came up was SALT, or the federal tax deduction for state and local taxes. The deduction, which had been unlimited, has been capped at $10,000 since the Trump tax reform act of 2017.

Democrats from New Jersey have made eliminating the cap a chief policy goal, but so far haven’t been able to do so. The initial problem was GOP control of the Senate. The more recent obstacle was the failure in the Senate of the Build Back Better act, which included eliminating the cap.

Clearly, Republicans are going to use this failure to their advantage.

But that still leaves open the question of how they would get rid of the cap.

Pallotta said it may be necessary to chip away at the cap by first raising it to, say, $17,000, instead of eliminating it outright.

De Gregorio mocked Gottheimer’s failure to get the full deduction restored, calling him “inept.”

Schneiderman said the issue is more complex than it seems. He pointed out that eliminating the cap could necessitate other measures to replace the lost revenue from expanding the SALT deduction.

The BCRO endorsement, while important, is not the end of the game. Expect the intra-party skirmish to live on beyond Wednesday through the June primary.

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