The Bergen County Republican Organization will hold a convention tonight to pick two Freeholder candidates and settle a hotly contested race for State Committeewoman. Four candidates are seeking a shot to challenge Democratic incumbents Julie O'Brien and Vernon Walton: Mahwah Councilman Robert Hermansen, Paramus GOP activist John Driscoll, '08 Freeholder candidates Christopher Calabrese, and perennial candidate Sabaudin "Sab' Skenderi. The front runners are Hermansen and Driscoll, who have been endorsed by the BCRO Policy Committee and won the Northeast Republican Organization (NERO) convention two weeks ago.
The real race to watch is for State Committeewoman, where Eleonore Nissley, the grand dame of the Bergen County GOP (so says Charles Stile, the respected columnist for The Record), is seeking a return to the seat she held from 1965 to 2005. Nissley narrowly lost her bid for an eleventh term to 25-year-old Collette Campbell, who managed Steve Lonegan's campaign for Governor. Campbell resigned her seat earlier this year. A former GOP State Vice Chairwoman, Nissley faces competition from Mary Conway, who has the backing of GOP County Chairman Robert Yudin, and former Franklin Lakes Councilwoman Pearl Spector.
Bergen Republicans will also endorse a candidate for Governor. Former U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie is the favorite to win. He has dominated the endorsement game in Lonegan's home county and won 91% of the vote at the NERO convention. Lonegan has stopped campaigning for organizational endorsements and made an unsuccessful effort to get Yudin to remove his name from the ballot. Even though Lonegan is not actively seeking votes, it will be telling to see how well he does on his home turf.
When Lonegan ran for Governor four years ago, he finished fifth in Bergen County with 8.1%. Paul DiGaetano, a former Assembly Majority Leader who represented part of the county in the Legislature, won the organization line in 2005; he finished fourth in the primary with 8.2%. In Bergen, Douglas Forrester beat Bret Schundler 32%-28%. Washington Township Committeeman Robert Schroeder, who won NERO that year, placed third with 12%. Todd Caliguire, who had served as a Bergen County Freeholder, came in sixth with 6%, just 168 votes ahead of Morris County Freeholder John Murphy.