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Bergen Democrat Heartbreak?

By Matthew Gilson | The Save Jersey Blog


Bergen County Surrogate Michael Dressler

It may be close to Valentine’s Day, Save Jerseyans, but in Bergen County the Democrats are yet to fall in love with any candidate for County Executive.

That’s bad news for a party hungry to take its next big step in reconquering New Jersey’s most populous county.

While the hype for the bulk of the last year has centered on Surrogate Mike Dressler, it appears which each passing day that Dressler is less and less likely to seek the nomination.

Unlike other candidates, due to nature of his position, Dressler would have to resign his post to even run for another office. The Democrats are expecting to have his decision by the end of this week according to their chairman, Lou Stellato.

Many observers wonder whether the Democrats simply waited too long and are they simply without a strong enough candidate to take down incumbent Republican Kathe Donovan in an election which may very dominate the cycle. While it’s no secret Donovan would seek re-election, her campaign received a large boost in December when she received the backing of long-time party adversary, BCRO Chairman Bob Yudin. The Republicans also appear headed for a tame convention for the freeholder seats as Brian Fitzhenry and Bernadette Walsh appear to be headed for a comfortable victory.

Is this unity enough to win going away?

While ex-Freeholder Jimmy Carroll remains the only announced candidate in the field, the Democrats by and large appear to be ignoring his candidacy. The field would apparently clear for Dressler, but if he does not run (which as noted seems likely), the Democrats appear to be focused on Freeholder Tracy Zur, County Clerk John Hogan, and Assemblywoman Valerie Huttle. Each candidate comes with strengths and weaknesses but veterans Bergen political watchers doubt any of them can beat Donovan.

Donovan, who has been in county office for over two decades, won her clerk seat even in the Democratic sweep of 2008. Any candidate who gets in now may simply be too far behind to catch up.

The problem with all three of these candidates, the reasoning goes, is that they fail to cut into Donovan’s strong base in southern Bergen. Hogan would need to run a campaign centered around tying himself to Cory Booker and cutting into the traditional Republican areas in the north, especially the northwest where he served as mayor of Northvale prior to his stint as freeholder and then clerk.

Personally, I would rate him the strongest candidate to take on Donovan.

Others point to Zur and Huttle’s alleged ability to cut into the female vote with which Donovan performs very well, but I think they will both suffer from being unable to cut into other areas geographically where Donovan is strong. A Huttle candidacy would be centered around running up extremely large margins in the southeastern portion of the county. I fail to see where Zur would be able to make any traction, her hometown of Franklin Lakes and its surrounding areas are not going Democrat any time soon.

It is nothing more than a guess at this point, Save Jerseyans, but I think we are headed for a Donovan/Hogan showdown and with the late start I do not think this one will too much of a nail biter.

However, never count the Bergen County Democrats out of anything! Or the GOP’s ability to undercut itself.

2 comments on “Bergen Democrat Heartbreak?

  1. 335_Main_Streeter says:

    You are forgettting the elephant in the room and that is the the ongoing Dept. of Justice Investigations on Bergen Party Boss/Donovan Campaign Manager Alan Marcus and the very real sex-for-County Contracts. The smart money is staying far away from Donovan and have already quietly lined up behind the Democrats. Team Donovan is slowly disbanding and seeking shelter in State government jobs. The remains of the BCRO are going to focus on freeholders, taking all the funds they can from Walsh. It will not be to bad for Donovan as she already has a soft landing, as she is already collecting a generous pension.

  2. […] On Tuesday night, the BCRO hosted their monthly county committee meeting in front of a packed house. Despite the fact that we are a mere six weeks into 2014, much of the meeting’s discussion focused on the impending November elections. […]

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