Robert Yudin, a 67-year-old appliance store owner from Wyckoff, could be one day away from becoming the Bergen County Republican Chairman – a post that up until about six years ago was one of the most powerful positions in New Jersey politics. Yudin will face incumbent Rob Ortiz in a runoff election tomorrow night. Over the last few years, the former Wyckoff Board of Education member has made three unsuccessful bids for Freeholder.
Yudin's first campaign for public office came 41 years ago, when the 26-year-old Navy lieutenant who had just left active duty was recruited by Essex County Republicans as their candidate for Assemblyman.
In the 1963 mid-term elections, Republicans picked up an Essex County Senate seat when Robert Sarcone, the 38-year-old Assembly Minority Leader, unseated two-term Democratic incumbent Donal Fox. Republicans won five of the nine Assembly seats — a net gain of three. Two years later, Governor, Richard Hughes carried Essex County by 69,749 votes in his bid for a second term over State Senator Wayne Dumont of Warren County. Largely on Hughes' coattails, Democrats won four Senate seats (this was the first election after the Supreme Court's one-man, one-vote decision) and nine Assembly seats in Essex County.
There were no legislative districts in those days and the entire ticket ran countywide. Elected to the Assembly, in order of their finish, were: Victor Addonizio, the brother of the Mayor of Newark; attorney Paul Policastro, a two-term incumbent; Armand Lembo, a retired FBI agent and the Director of Inspections for the City of Newark; Joseh Biancardi, the President of Teamsters Local 97; David Mandelbaum, a two-term incumbent and, at age 29, the youngest member of the legislature (Mandelbaum is now a part-owner of the Minnesota Vikings); 27-year-old tavern owner Frank Dodd, who won a Senate seat in 1971, served as Senate President in 1974 and 1975 and sought the 1981 Democratic gubernatorial nomination; John Cryan, who later served three terms as the Essex County Sheriff (and the father of Assemblyman Joseph Cryan); Ronald Owens, a lawyer and congressional aide who as Assembly Speaker Pro-Tempore became the second African American to serve as Acting Governor; and Walter Vohdin, the President of the Bricklayers Union Local 16.
Yudin finished 16th in that race, trailing six of his Republican running mates: Newark Superintendent of Weights and Measures Michael Giuliano, who later served two terms in the State Senate; freshman incumbent James Wallwork, who spent sixteen years in the Senate and ran for Governor in 1981 and 1993; Jerome Burke, a one-term Assemblyman who later moved to Monmouth County and lost a 1975 Assembly bid there; Mario Genova, the Vice President of the Electrical Workers Union Local 430 who had won an Assembly seat in 1963; Helen Slowinski, and two-term Assemblyman William Everett. He finished ahead of Gerald Delane, the son of the North Ward Republican Chairman, and Mary Edmond. In Belleville, where Yudin grew up — his father was a lawyer and owned a paint store — he received more votes than any other Republican candidate. Yudin lost the election by 26,337 votes — unable to survive a 34,646 vote Democratic margin in the City of Newark.
In 1968, Yudin moved to Bergen County, where he owns an appliance store. He managed legislative and congressional campaigns in the 1970's and served two terms on the Wyckoff Board of Education. In 2004, defeated embattled Freeholder Louis Tedesco, who faces allegations of domestic violence, to win the organizational line at the Bergen GOP convention.