Lyndhurst mayor and newly minted Democrat Richard DiLascio wants to clear the air.
He didn’t leave the Republican Party because Democratic Chairman Joseph Ferriero cut a deal with him, he said. He didn’t leave because he wanted to join the winning team. To hear DiLascio tell it, the county’s Republican party left him.
“I’ve been the chairman of this party in Lyndhurst for 20 years, a member for 30 years and in all that time there was always an opportunity to have discussions about different things facing the organization,” said DiLascio. “But lately the organization lost its focus- there’s nothing there but this totally irrelevant agenda that doesn’t meet its constituency’s needs.”
DiLascio reminisced about the moderate leaders who he said were alienated by the party: Congresswoman Marge Roukema; former County Clerk William “Pat” Schuber; former Freeholder Lisa Randall and County Clerk Kathleen Donovan.
“All of a sudden they were being called RINOS. They were out of step. Out of step is what the party is now,” said DiLascio.
But the final insult, DiLascio said, came when Republicans put up former Democrat Mike Guarino, a gadfly and constant thorn in DiLascio’s side over the controversial EnCap development, to run against State Sen. Paul Sarlo, who DiLascio said he has always had a good working relationship with.
DiLascio, who won the mayor’s seat two years with an anti-EnCap campaign, has been criticized for selling out to the developer. But he said that, with all the statewide investigations of the project, it would have been a waste for the town to hire its own attorney to look into it. And, he said, he earned concessions from the developer, like converting an old bus garage into a youth center with basketball courts.
DiLascio said that he decided to change parties between six and eight months ago, but decided to wait until now to demonstrate his support for State Sen. Paul Sarlo’s re-election campaign at a critical time, even if Sarlo is expected to have no problem winning re-election.
Lyndhurst’s governing board, DiLascio said, were ready to jump ship before he was.
“I brought it up with my commissioners and I was surprised with their response to it. It sounded like they were staying more as a courtesy to me,” said DiLascio.