After a raucous meeting that insiders present said seemed more like a family gathering after a tragedy than a typical political meeting, the Bergen County Democratic Organization’s Executive Committee agreed not to ask Chairman Joe Ferriero to resign – at least not until after the November election.
Tensions and emotions were high as Ferriero loyalists and critics argued it out over the fate of their Chairman, who’s been indicted on eight corruption counts. Old scabs were reopened and expletives flew unhindered among the roughly 30 members present.
Ferriero is currently on a temporary leave of absence while Vice Chair Kay Nest has been elevated to become Acting Chairwoman for the time being.
Nest said she’s working on a statement about the decisions made at today’s meeting, and wouldn’t comment further.
But multiple sources present at the meeting, which lasted about two hours, said the executive committee, which numbered roughly 30, voted unanimously for a resolution that there would be peace within the party while members work to elect Democrats in the run up to the November election. A second resolution, passed with the objection of only State Sen. Loretta Weinberg, vested Nest with the powers of the chairmanship – something that wasn’t clear in the organization’s bylaws.
Weinberg’s objection was not based on giving Nest the power of the chairmanship, sources said, but rather because the wording of the resolution called it “ratifying the action of the chair.”
“This was like a family meeting after something terrible happened to a member of the family. In this case, our friend and chairman, Joe Ferriero, was indicted, and took a leave of absence as chairman, appointing Kay Nest, our vice-chair, to assume all of the duties of the chairperson,” said U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman, who’s found himself a central player since Ferriero’s indictment on eight corruption counts last week. “The group today unanimously supported Kay, and we want the party to unite to elect our outstanding candidates from the bottom of the ticket to the very top. But like all family meetings of this kind, there was a very full, often times loud and exchange of views, not all of them in agreement on a whole host of subjects.”
Rothman himself was said to have gotten into a screaming match with County Surrogate Mike Dressler.
Rothman, however, said that the meeting served a cathartic role for members of a party that has long been fractured by a political civil war between Weinberg and Ferriero supporters.
“I’ve known a lot of people in that room for decades, and sometimes we agree on things and sometimes we don’t. And sometimes emotions rise to the surface and there’s some yelling involved,” he said. “But in the end, what’s important is our friendships remain intact and our party is now united around winning the races before us here in Bergen County at the local level, county level, and national level.”