Anti-organization GOP slate in Passaic has not addressed gubernatorial issue

A Republican splinter group from Passaic County last night unveiled a slate of three freeholder candidates and one county clerk candidate to take on whomever the local Republican organization fields in the June primary.

Members of the group, called GOP Strong, said that about 300 people turned out to a Little Falls union hall to see the three freeholder candidates — Bruno Varano, a retired federal law enforcement agent from Wayne; Debra Andriani, a legal assistant from Totowa; and Robert Cruz, a Web developer from Pompton Lakes. The group also fielded county clerk candidate Kristin Corrado, who has a law practice and is the Totowa Municipal Attorney.

GOP strong, which countsformer Republican chairman Peter Murphy as a co-founder and isheaded upby activists Michael Ramaglia and Michael Mecca, has been feuding with currentPassaic County Republican Chairman and Assemblyman Scott Rumana (R-Wayne) over control of the mainstream organization.

Murphy's group, complaining of lackluster fundraising for county candidates last election cycle, believes that Rumana has let the party suffer at the expense of solidifying his Assembly seat.

Rumana's organization is just beginning the process of fielding candidates, who screen in front of county committee members and are selected by the group's executive committee.

The leadership of GOP Strong presents an interesting conundrum for line placement of the new candidates. Murphy has endorsed Christopher Christie, who prosecuted him on federal corruption charges when he was U.S. Attorney. Another leader of the group, former Assembly Majority Leader Paul DiGaetano (R-Nutley), supports Steve Lonegan's gubernatorial candidacy.

The group will not likely have the option of running on Christie's line, since he is the favorite to win the endorsement of the PCRRO. Murphy's group could join a slate with Lonegan, or in a less likely scenario, gubernatorial candidates Rick Merkt or Brian Levine. But that would put him at odds with the candidate he already endorsed.

Complicating matters further are the insurgent Republican Assembly candidacies of Joe Caruso and Anthony Rottino, who will likely run with the GOP Strong candidates.

At this point, GOP Strong spokesman Thom Ammirato said the group has not decided on whether or not their slate will run on a line with a gubernatorial candidate, or whether they'll run alone.

"I think the way this race will break down is it will be purely on local issues. I think this will be very separate from the Democrats – more of a referendum on Scott Rumana's leadership as chairman and what he has done and hasn't done in Passaic County," said Ammirato. "I don't know if it matters that much." Anti-organization GOP slate in Passaic has not addressed gubernatorial issue