Rating Bergen County’s 2016 (Political Edition)

Rating Bergen County’s 2016 (Political Edition)

Paul DiGaetano

Bergen County Republican of the Year:    Paul DiGaetano

Bergenites could debate this one back and forth until New Year’s 2018, but, at the end of the day, when you win the Chairmanship of the party in a rout and put the organization back on sound financial footing a few short months after? It is difficult to choose anyone else. The Former Assembly Majority Leader spent the first few months of the year debating whether to enter the fray but from the moment he did he never looked back as an overwhelming favorite.

In the immediate aftermath of the BCRO Election, DiGaetano allies swept all the District Chair races including beating Senator Cardinale’s chosen candidate in his home turf (Cardinale is a close ally of former Chairman Bob Yudin).  DiGaetano immediately flexed his muscles and showed the party was going in the direction he had chosen.

It was not a perfect year; losses in November and a squeaker loss for his preferred candidate in District 40 were setbacks to be sure, but 2017 figures to be as big, if not a bigger year, for DiGaetano’s BCRO. After all: there’s nowhere to go but up….

Best Campaign of the Year:             Hasbrouck Heights Republicans

Like last year, the best campaign is not necessarily always the one where a Republican squeaks by; it is the one where they make it look much easier than it should have been.  Facing a well-funded challenge from an aide for Democrat Assemblyman Tim Eustace and his running mate, Republicans Ron Kistner and Josephine Ciocia coasted to victory when neighboring towns had a poor year. Behind the strong leadership of Mayor Jack DeLorenzo, the pair made mincemeat of their Democratic rivals and perhaps scared off a strong challenge from the Democrats next year. For Republicans to make a run at 38, expect running up numbers in Hasbrouck Heights to be an important part of the strategy.

Scott Garrett

Worst Campaign of the Year:         Scott Garrett for Congress

Painful to say but the problems began probably before the campaign in earnest.  Unnecessary squabbles and remarks put Garrett behind the 8-ball and let Gottheimer build up the head of steam necessary to win the election. More on the candidate than the team, Garrett bungled what should have been an easy win into a loss. Expect national Republicans to make CD5 a top target in 2018 where Republicans have no shortage of exceptional candidates.


The Young Republicans

Dubbed “The Minion Squad” by their detractors, Save Jersey contributor Matt Gilson and his Young Republican bunch played an integral part of leading Paul DiGaetano to victory, and then again a few weeks later for Tommy Toscano in the District 37 race. YR Giancarlo Ghione was named Executive Director of the BCRO, a role he continues to serve in, as a testament to the BCRO’s renewed commitment to cultivating the next generation of talent.

Holly Schepisi

Holly Schepisi

Though she didn’t get behind DiGaetano until the 11th hour, Schepisi played a decisive role in that race and is playing a large role in helping rebuild the BCRO.  She also remains one of the most well-liked and well-known officials in the county.  Her brand is becoming synonymous with success, and whatever office she chooses to run for 2017, expect a victory from the rising star. Here’s hoping she doesn’t get caught up in whatever infighting envelops LD39 next year.

Kevin Rooney

It was an up, down, all-around kind of year for the Wyckoff Mayor then Assemblyman.  Rooney started the year as a candidate for chair, spent the middle campaigning for and losing along with Bob Yudin, and finished as an Assemblyman after a razor-thin convention victory. District 40 is almost certain to see a primary, but having the incumbency is a leg up. He’s #winning. No doubt about it!


Sen. Cardinale campaigns for then-Chairman Yudin

Gerry Cardinale/Bob Auth

In the same boat, Cardinale and Auth both hitched their wagons to Yudin and now find themselves in a precarious situation heading into 2017.  Cardinale may have been fatally wounded, politically-speaking, after his candidate for District 39 Chair was soundly defeated. With a host of primary challengers lining up for a bite at both and not many allies in sight, expect stocks to only continue to tumble for these two in the new year. Anything is possible but all we can do is assess the battlefield from where it stands today.

District 38 Republicans

With John Cosgrove’s announcement that he will not be a candidate next year, District 38 Republicans took a big hit as he was far and away the best candidate Republicans had to offer.  A strong stable of candidates assure that the race will be competitive, but Cosgrove’s entry would have made it far and away the top target for NJGOP. Recruitment continues….