37th District Republicans try to qualify for Clean Elections funds

Democratic State Sen. Loretta Weinberg is a strong favorite to win re-election in a Bergen County district the GOP has not won since 1971.

For Republicans to stand any chance at all, their candidates say they’ll need to qualify for public financing from the Clean Elections pilot program.

But right now they’re not even close.

“We have a long way to go,” said Republican Assembly candidate Wojciech Siemaszkiewicz, who thinks that his campaign could be successful if his slate has $300,000 to spend against the incuments. “That’s the key element to our success.”

To qualify, each candidate will need at least 400 individual $10 donations by September 30 – which will net them about $50,000 each. And if they gather 800 total contributions of $10, donations, they’ll each receive $100,000.

According to the last filings available online, State Senate candidate Clara Nibot has pulled in nine $10 donations, while her running mates, Simaszkiewicz and Frank Cifarelli, have seven and ten, respectively.

Nibot, a retired data analyst from Bergenfield who has never held elected office, said that she has not been able to get enough of the donations yet because of restrictions on campaigning while Weinberg faced a competitive primary, even though Weinberg’s primary opponents agreed to drop out in April. But Nibot expects to be able to get the first 400 donations by July, and says she’ll have no problem meeting the September deadline.

“It’s going back to the old fashioned way where the people were the participants and you didn’t have help from special interests. I’m going out there,” said Nibot. “I’m very visible in the community, and I have no reason to believe I’m not going to reach the goal.”

The odds do look almost insurmountable for Nibot and her ticket, however. One Republican player who wished to remain anonymous joked that “she’s taking one for the team.”

But given the $300,000 that the state will provide if her slate qualifies for the Clean Elections Program, the Republicans say they may have resources to raise issues in a district they would never have put money into before.

“One of the reasons why you can never be competitive in the state district is to raise money to mount a challenge. This gives the underdog, the minority party if you will, part of a shot,” said David Rebovich, Managing Director of the Rider University Institute for New Jersey Politics. He pointed out, however, that the dominant party — in this case Democrats — can run general ads that will probably affect the outcome of local races.

In Nibot’s case, the issues she wants to challenge Democrats on are property tax, flooding and bossism – ironic, perhaps, since Weinberg is a strong critic of her own party’s leadership. But Nibot is convinced that Weinberg could be more adamantly opposed to Bergen County Democratic Chairman Joseph Ferriero.

“If she would have stayed in the primary until the end, if she would have not stopped until April 12th, the people would have more respect for her,” said Nibot.

Weinberg could not be reached for comment, but if she – and Assembly incumbents Valerie Huttle and Gordon Johnson — decide to participate in the Clean Elections program as well, Nibot feels she could perhaps — just maybe – squeak out a victory.

“If you told me fifteen years ago that New York was going to have Giuliani as a Mayor and Pataki as Governor when Cuomo was so powerful, I would have laughed in your face,” said Nibot.

37th District Republicans try to qualify for Clean Elections funds