Although Chris Christie declared victory against Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine just 13 hours ago, Bergen County Republican Chairman Bob Yudin already sees Christie as a potential future presidential candidate.
“I’d be the first one to vote for him,” said Yudin. “When a Republican can carry the vote in a state that has 700,000 more Democrats than Republicans, that’s the road to get the White House back and the Congress back into sane hands… I believe that Chris will not only be a national player, but that’s the kind of person we need in order to take back our country.”
Christie’s victory turned conventional electoral wisdom on its head. The mantra of New Jersey Republicans has long been that you can’t win statewide without winning Bergen County. Christie came close in Bergen and campaigned there possibly more than he did in any other county, but he lost it by a little under 6,000 votes (though a huge swing from Republican Doug Forrester’s 34,000 vote loss there four years ago).
Although Christie did not win Bergen, local Republicans fared well there.
John Driscoll, a tobacco salesman from Paramus, and Rob Harmansen, a councilman from Mahwah, beat two incumbent Democratic freeholders: Julie O’Brien and Vernon Walton – the first time Republicans have won seats on the board since 2003.
Republicans also did well at the municipal level, taking control of the council in Paramus and Englewood Cliffs and picking up seats in several towns, including River Edge, New Milford, North Arlinton and Rutherford.
“Just across the board, we were winning races at the municipal level, and that really bodes well for the Republican Party,” said Yudin.
Yudin said that the Republican freeholder campaigns focused mainly on taxes and spending, though they hit on the corruption theme at the end, sending out a mailer reminding voters with a mailer of the incumbents ties to corruption-convicted former Bergen County Democratic Chairman Joe Ferriero.
“Even the so-called experts said that the corruption factor played more of a role than they thought it would, but it still was about taxes and spending,” said Yudin, who has taken a lot of flack from fellow Republicans for focusing too heavily on the corruption issue in previous campaigns.
“I feel super vindicated,” he said. “The Republican Party in Bergen County is alive and well. It’s vigorous. We brought in new people when I became chairman a year, and a half ago I had not only a financially bankrupt party but a psychologically bankrupt party.”