Frank Pallotta fell 17-point short in Bergen County in November 2020 (58.15% to 40.90%); his 50,000 vote deficit coming out of the state’s most populous county was significantly larger than Pallotta’s 31,842-vote deficit district-wide thanks to offsetting Republican turnout in the sprawling district’s western reaches.
The good news for the two-time GOP challenger to Democrat incumbent Josh Gottheimer, the fundraising dynamo with a $14 million warchest?
First, the new NJ-05 map is bluer but Jack Ciattarelli still came close to tying Murphy there last year.
Second, there’s every indication that the political pendulum in Bergen may be swinging back in the Republicans’ direction. Jack Ciattarelli lost Bergen by only 5.6-points in November 2021 after Joe Biden carried Bergen by 16-points (!) one year prior. Moreover, Bergen Republicans picked up ground locally and were surprisingly competitive in county races and legislative contests.
This year, Democrats are reportedly deeply concerned for their commissioner candidtes Thomas Sullivan, Mary Amoroso and Germaine Ortiz. Republicans Douglas Holden, Ronald Lin and Diedre Paul have a real shot for the first time in a decade after the Yudin Era collapse.
Could Bergen go red? And could Pallotta be this cycle’s “Ed the Trucker,” upsetting a vastly better funded Democrat powerbroker?
I spoke with my good friend of many years Alex Wilkes, former Chairwoman of the College Republican National Committee, a frequest Fox News guest and a prolific political communications consultant, about the shifting sands in North Jersey (she also happens to be a Bergen resident).
She describes Bergen Democrats as “overconfident” all “despite some early signs of trouble.” She also believes they’ve failed to rebuke the least popular aspects of the Biden-Murphy Democrats’ radical agenda at their own peril.
“Democrats have failed to meaningfully distance themselves from any of the policies that are animating voters this fall,” argues Wilkes. “Let’s take the economy to start. While it’s true that the crushing effects of inflation may have taken longer to penetrate in this largely affluent county, its prolonged and unyielding impact is finally settling in here. The housing market has cooled off, and people and businesses are reconsidering new spending.”
Wilkes believes the problem is particularly acute for the top of the ticket, Congressman Gottheimer, and County Executive Jim Tedesco. Their fortunes could rule all.
“Someone like Josh Gottheimer doesn’t have the political insurance to show voters he stood up against any of Biden’s inflationary spending; to the contrary, he enthusiastically supported it (minus some procedural SALT theater that voters have long forgotten),” Wilkes continued. “And where are Democrats like County Executive Jim Tedesco on the coming tax hikes as a result of Murphy’s bungled roll out of the new public worker health plans? To the extent that Bergen County is insulated from some of the inflation concerns, one issue that has parents extremely concerned are the new curriculum standards from Murphy Administration that mandate sex-ed to students as young as 7 years old. Again, where have Democrats at any level joined with parents in their outrage? The same is true for the rampant property crime plaguing the county. Tedesco may offer some token thoughts and Gottheimer may have another press conference announcing yet another taskforce, but they refuse to attack the real culprit: Phil Murphy and his irresponsible bail and “no chase” policies that got us into this mess in the first place.”
Polling is increasingly pointing to a major GOP victory across the nation; the most recent poll (Rasmussen) shows a +7 Republican lead on the congressional generic ballot. Wilkes says it could also only be the beginning for New Jersey Republicans with the entire legislature on the ballot with a new, slightly-redder map in 2023.
“All around the country and even the state, smart, vulnerable Democrats are “reading the room” by strategically distanced themselves from controversial parts of Biden and Murphy agenda,” added Wilkes. “We’ll see in 2022 and 2023 whether the Bergen County Democrats’ arrogance pays off.”