Trouble in Bergen: Lumped-Up GOP Grimly Tries to Rebuild Amid Rifts

As it attempts to make sense of the split halves and tattered remains of self that constitute the once proud and sturdy Bergen County Republican Organization (BCRO), Bergen Republicans apparently must endure the further two steps back to go one step forward metamorphoses painfully required by growth.

Tonight, Woodcliff Park Mayor Carlos Rendo – a statewide candidate last year for lieutenant governor – wants to rally the faithful for a serious inquiry into the leadership of the county party organization, controversially fulfilled now by sitting Chairman Paul DiGaetano.

State Senator Kristin Corrado (R-40) blew out DiGaetano in last year’s GOP Primary to succeed Kevin O’Toole.

Now he clings to a fractured party organization, amid rumblings of an internal leadership hand-off by the chairman to pal Jack Zisa and a warpaint-wearing former Chairman Bob Yudin in revenge mode.

This per a Rendo email to party members:

“On December 20, 2017, the committee of Mayors meet to discuss the future of our Party. The committee recommended that all Mayors, elected officials and party leaders meet on January 24, 2018 at 7:00pm at the Tice Senior Center in Woodcliff Lake. The purpose of the meeting is to invite anyone interested in running for County Chairman to step forward and present his or her plan to improve our Party. At the conclusion of the meeting, the elected officials will take a vote as to their choice for Chair and will provide a formal endorsement for that person. It is incumbent on us to be united in building this party.”

At least one municipal chairman, Bob Taschler of Waldwick, disputes the spirit of the meeting, or at the very least, the process evoked by the communique.

Out of the loop, Taschler wrote in a circulating objection, “I understand that there is to be a meeting of mayors tomorrow, on Wednesday night, at 7PM in the Tice’s Corner Senior Center in Woodcliff Lake for the purpose of selecting a new chairman and endorsing him. (See Mayor Rendo’s he e-mail below at the end of my response.) At the end of the e-mail it states: ” If I missed anyone in this email, please spread the word. “

“Well,” Taschler wrote, “he seems to have missed all of the muni-chairs and the entire county committee, so I am spreading the word as requested.”

The local chairman doesn’t argue that the meeting may be well intentioned, but couldn’t help but size it up as an end run of the executive committee of the BCRO, which is made up of municipal chairs like himself.

“If this is about selecting a new chairman, which is BCRO business, then it should held at the BCRO HQ and include the majority of the muni-chairs and open to all CC members,” Taschler wrote. “This is similar to a town council having private meetings where the public cannot participate. It is just not good practice.”

He acknowledged the ailments of the party organization, and suggested Rendo’s meeting might only augment them.

“It is going to take about $500,000 in funds to begin to repair the damage of the past two years,” he said, referring to the DiGaetano years. “As you can see by the latest NJ ELEC report… DiGaetano can barely raise enough to make rent much less fund a valid county campaign. Only $97,515 and 68 cents raised in 2017 with only $7,337 and 33 cents remaining at the end of December. Given that the BCRO still owes Bob Yudin $10,000 that he lent to it that means the BCRO is in the hole by $2,662 and 67 cents. And no major fundraising events seem to be planned which is why so little funds are being raised. Remember the great Lincoln Day events that Karen O’Shea used to arrange? So before anyone gets endorsed for chairman perhaps the discussion should focus on how are you going to raise a pile of cash for any chairman to be able to spend.

“Finally, as an organization, we lack a message that resonates with the public. Instead we use the standard ‘I’m a nice guy (or gal)’ campaign which works in safe towns but fails in competitive races. ‘I’m Not a Democrat.’ is not a good campaign strategy. And ‘I’m Not Trump.’ is likely an even worse strategy,” he added.

Taschler said he wishes Rendo all the best, but bemoans excluding municipal chairs and the county committee as “not the best way to influence the county committee. It will likely have the opposite effect. “Well, it probably does not matter much,” he added. “I keep hearing how the BCRO is dead and that the ‘fix is in’ because Jack Zisa has already been picked to replace DiGaetano; much like how DiGaetano will ignore the county committee in NJ CD-5 and hand the line to [John] McCann [over Steve Lonegan] without holding a convention, Zisa will just walk in to the position. It is already baked in the cake. When we lose in November we can always blame Trump.”

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