Part Two In a Series: Who Do You Want to Be Governor? Calo and Dionna of Raritan

RARITAN – The river cuts through here past the crumbled and abandoned mills, the smashed glass and fortified stone work of faceless castles now jutting almost pointlessly above the eddies where the heron wade come spring.

Where the canal breaks from the river, a statue of a soldier stands with a bullet belt slung over a massive shoulder and an M-60 machine gun at the ready. It’s John Basilone, facing the front door of the home where Jack Ciattarelli grew up, campaigned for council and lost, then won, then went on to become a freeholder and assemblyman and eventually, in 2017, run for governor of the State of New Jersey.

“I learned how to drink and I learned politics in Raritan,” said the late Senator Ray Bateman, father of Senator Kip Bateman, Ciattarelli’s running mate of half a decade.

The name of the town comes from the Lenni Lenape tribe that lived here, whose princess according to legend threw herself off Chimney Rock because of a love affair gone wrong, where the immigrant men worked in the quarry years later and hit the churches and bars and bakeries in the downtown business district near the firehouse, where Ciattarelli was raised.

InsiderNJ walked up Main Street this week and asked the two men sitting in front of an Italian coffee shop who they planned to vote for in the upcoming gubernatorial election.

“Jack Ciattarelli,” they said in chorus.

Carmine Calo said he remembers the gubernatorial candidate from the time he was knee high, where his family lived right next to the fire-house.

“He was always a good boy,” Calo said. “He lost his father young. I think his father died of a heart attack, and Jack, he never gave up. He ran for council and I remember telling him not to give up after he lost and he didn’t. I remember the night, right there, right across the street, that he went into Republican headquarters when his father died, and he was feeling down but he never gives up, Jack, and he went from here and he has gone up and up and I always support him. He’s a good man.

“I have ten children – I had eleven but one died – and they are all going to vote for Jack Ciattarelli,” Calo added.

Frank Dionna likewise said he looks forward to backing Ciattarelli for governor.

“My son – God bless him, he died – served with Jack on the council, and I have only good things to say about Jack,” Dionna said. “He was a good boy, a good man, a good person.”

Calo said New Jersey forgot about immigrant mill towns like Raritan and he trusts that Ciattatrelli can restore hope in the place, down on its heels now,its schools inadequately funded, but hopeful with its native son in search of the Republican nomination for governor.

“I think Jack’s going to win,” Calo said.

The block where Ciattarelli grew up.



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