Bergen County Republican Organization Chairman Jack Zisa stands like a colossus over the fractured Republican Party, beset more by its own local food fights and past stubbed toes than the reverberations of national party politics.
In this case, Zisa wants to fend off Linda Barba, Frank Pallotta and company, those Republicans who played for, and failed to secure, the backing of the BCRO.
“There was, as there always is, a process, as designated by our bylaws, which calls for the party committee to interview and recommend candidates for each slot,” the party chairman told InsiderNJ on the eve of Primary Election Day.
Around ninety people on the committee reviewed the candidates, Barba and Todd Caliguire among them, and they picked Caliguire over Barba, the chairman said.
“I think the policy committee [of the BCRO] have chosen Todd Caliguire based on his business experience, and the fact that he’s a lawyer,” Zisa said. “They decided 4-1 that he’d be the best candidate. There’s no mystery to it. …Linda Barba was not ready for the crushing loss she had at the convention. She’s looking for excuses as to why she lost. The committee process was open and she lost by a considerable margin.”
The chairman likewise defended the process by which the committee picked Nick De Gregorio over Frank Pallotta in CD-5.
“Frank felt it was owed him,” Zisa said, reflecting on Pallotta’s attempt to secure the BCRO line again after failing to defeat incumbent democrat U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-5) two years ago.
Pallotta didn’t have the confidence of the committee, he added.
The chairman, moreover, said Gottheimer’s decision to highlight Pallotta’s connection to Donald Trump with a mailer suggested Democrats’ efforts to try “to choose their opponent by attempting to bolster Frank Pallotta by attaching him to Donald Trump.”
“Donald Trump did not endorse Frank in this race,” the chairman added.
As for Barba’s argument that Bergen Republicans can’t credibly regroup with Zisa as chair, he said, “We have a unity session scheduled for June 14th. Unity is unity, no matter who wins. Don’t ask us for support and then fail to unify when you are defeated, Unity is unity.”