Turbulent Bergen GOP Back Dramas Do Nothing to Stop Schmelz’s Declaration

Norman Schmelz, the Republican Mayor of Bergenfield, today formally launched his candidacy for Bergen County Executive at the home of his mother.

Schmelz is challenging incumbent Democratic Executive Jim Tedesco.

In the midst of a crowd of 150 people, Schmelz said he was exicited to be running.

He promised lower taxes, the elimination of waste, and a crusade against million dollar lawsuits by stopping corruption.

His candidacy comes in the middle of a GOP war for control in Bergen, defined in part at the moment by former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan’s challenge for the CD5 seat currently occupied by U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-5).

Lonegan opposes attorney John McCann, the preferred choice of Bergen County Republican Organization Chair Paul DiGaetano, the wounded party chieftain stained by his ill-starred bid for the state senate last year in LD40 and subsequent perceived failure to put together a convincing organization.

Schmelz, however, did his best today to project a legitimate candidacy, even as a wobbly DiGaetano appears headed for the exits as leader of the party.

Schmelz kicked off this weekend on the heels of a letter Lonegan penned to BCRO members, infuriated by DiGaetano’s decision to forego a convention.

“The so-called ‘moderates’ of the GOP’s Whitman-wing who run the Bergen County Republican Organization (BCRO) have shown us how weak they really are,” Lonegan wrote. “It’s now official. The BCRO has suspended their own rules, suspended the process of endorsing a candidate, and instead of a county convention the BCRO chairman will “give” the endorsement to the “moderate” of his choice. The BCRO chairman is a figure from the Whitman-era who presided over the loss of Republican control in the Legislature nearly two decades ago and then came back to preside over the demise of the BCRO last year. Now he wants to ensure that Nancy Pelosi is the next Speaker by putting together a ticket that will tank in November.”

For the record, DiGaetano was a no-show at Schmelz’s kickoff.

In fact, no leaders from the current BCRO attended the event.

Only McCann pout in an appearance.

Lonegan in his letter harped on the vacuum.

“It is the first time in memory that a BCRO chairman has played the authoritarian and taken away from the members of the Republican county committee, the right to choose which candidates they will endorse,” the CD5 Republican wrote. “The BCRO chairman has done this because he knows that his candidate for Congress, John McCann, doesn’t have the support to win a county convention.”

A widely circulated email last week savaged DiGaetano’s leadership of the BCRO, just days before Schmelz’s organization-deprived launch. 

“Under flickering burned out fluorescent lights, in a room that has not been cleaned in over a year, smelling of sewer gases from the women’s room because there was no water in the toilets he implied that somebody ‘broke’ into the BCRO to turn off the heat so as to cause the pipes to freeze and burst,” the email notes, referring to the chair’s performance at a meeting last month. “Furthermore that somebody was so devious that they caused mail to the BCRO to be redirected so that he would miss paying the insurance bills.

“Really? As an excuse, that is right up there with ‘the dog ate my homework’,” the letter added.DiGaetano’s management of the BCRO, as well as that of the Executive Director Carlos Ghione, is so incompetent that they couldn’t even manage to go out and buy a few boxes of coffee and donuts or even some bottles of water for the meeting.” 

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