Passaic County conflagration engulfs 40th District

At a Ridgewood restaurant ysterday, Bergen County GOP Chairman Bob Yudin stood up and addressed a crowd fiercely mobilized behind

At a Ridgewood restaurant ysterday, Bergen County GOP Chairman Bob Yudin stood up and addressed a crowd fiercely mobilized behind one of two warring Republican slates in the 40th District.

"I said that on June 3rd, we all have to unite behind the gubernatorial candidate and beat the Democrats in November," said Yudin.

Yudin, however, is at best aforward observer at the fringes of a political conflagration emanating from the Passaic County portion of the district which has engulfed this primary.

Right now, unity looks like a foreign concept to the establishment forces of Assemblyman Scott Rumana (R-Wayne) and Assemblyman David Russo (R-Ridgewood)and theiroff-the-line challengers Joe Caruso of Wayne and Anthony Rottino of Franklin Lakes.

"It's one of the most contentious primaries I've ever seen," said Yudin, whobacks Rumana and Russo, and who stands with former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie in the GOP primary against grassroots challenger Steve Lonegan, who's lined up with Caruso and Rottino.

The Bergen County portion of the 40th District comprises six of the 12 towns and half (20,192) of the GOP Primary voters here. But theflashpoint isPassaic County, home to 16,289 of the district's registered Republicans, where Rumana, the county chairman, is trying to stare down former chairman Peter Murphy, who backs Caruso and Rottino.

The Murphy/Rumana political blood feud lurks behind the flashy mailers and snappy spoundbites in this expensive Republican war where the incumbentshave buttressed themselves with $454,000against the challangers' $158,000.

Rumana's conscious of the once jailed Murphy trying toretake control of the party apparatus by appealing to the harder right and more populist strains of theGOP personified by Steve Lonegan. Caruso/Rottino say the race is not about Murphy but about Rumana and what they see as his troubling dual roleas party chairman and Trenton elected official.

Additng totheir rolling critique of Rumana as too much of a moderate for the district, Rottino sued the Wayne politicolast month, charging the Assemblyman/chairman with making false claims about Rottino's development company in a campaign mailer.

"When this is ovver, it's important that we support one another against the Democrats," Yudin said.

"Joe Caruso is my finance chairman," the chairman added.

He's on hiatus as he challanges the machine.

"I made it clear in Ridgewood yesterday that everybody would welcome him back as my finance chair when this over," Yudin said.

But Passaic County Republicans have their party convention two weeks from Election Day, and regardless of how Rumana fares against the renegades tomorrow in securing his Assembly seat and regardless of how Bergen Republicans welcome Caruso,Rumana's own fight for power will not end should he remain committed to serving as party chair – but extend.

Passaic County conflagration engulfs 40th District