Surrogates for Gov. Christoper Christie have tried to dissuade former Bergen County freeholder Todd Caliguire from running for county executive, according to Bergen County Republican Chairman Bob Yudin.
“I know that the Governor’s Office does not approve of what Todd is doing. They have reached out to him, and my understanding is that as of today, Todd is still planning on running,” said Yudin.
Yudin, who clarified his statement by saying that he was referring to Christie’s political advisors, not actual front office staffers, would not name those advisors.
Yudin, who has had a contentious relationship with County Clerk Kathleen Donovan over the last several years, announced with much fanfare last month that he would support her run for the Republican county executive nomination. But Caliguire, who narrowly beat Donovan for the Republican nomination to run for the post in 2006, told The Record’s Charles Stile early this month that he is considering challenging her again for the Republican nomination. This time, Caliguire would skip the party’s convention and run off-the-line – reversing his and Donovan’s roles in the 2006 campaign.
Caliguire and Christie have been friends since the 1990s, when Caliguire served on the Bergen County Freeholder Board and Christie served one term on the Morris County board. They have remained friendly enough over the years that Caliguire’s wife, Laurie, sang the national anthem at Christie’s inaugural ball last month.
But Christie has specifically called for unity in Bergen County’s notoriously fractious Republican organization, telling a gathering in November “don’t make me come up here” to settle disputes. And the Republican governor has a lot to gain from having a Republican ally in charge of the state’s most populous county.
Caliguire, a Ridgewood resident who runs a stationery business, would not comment on whether Christie or his advisors have reached out to him.
“I’m not going to get into who, what, where or when, but I’ve talked to a lot of different people over the last three weeks,” he said, adding that he is “very seriously” considering running and will make a decision by the end of the month.
Christie’s closest advisor, Bill Palatucci, declined to comment on whether he called Caliguire about the county executive run.
“The only thing I’ll say about that is I’ve known Todd for 25 years. I consider him a close personal friend,” he said. “But since we’re such good friends, my conversations with Todd are private and I wouldn’t comment on the substance of those conversations.”
Yudin, who ran as a freeholder on Caliguire’s 2006 slate, called his new potential run “hypocritical.”
“Todd disagreed with what Kathe did, running off the line,” he said. “Well he is not guilty of the same thing. He refused to enter our convention and he’s running off the line.”
Caliguire has run his share of underdog candidacies.
In 2005, he ran for Republican gubernatorial nomination, finishing last in a field of seven candidates.
In 2007, although then-Assemblyman Kevin O’Toole (R-Cedar Grove) had wrapped up most establishment support to replace retiring state Sen. Henry McNamara, Caliguire, who was backed by then-Bergen County Republican Chairman Guy Talarico – unsuccessfully challenged him in the primary.
O’Toole said a Caliguire candidacy for county executive would be “curious” and “quixotic,” but he doubted anyone would be able to talk him out of it.
“Those that know Todd know he’s not a guy you can dissuade,” he said. “Even in the sense of common sense and reason, you’re not necessarily going to get his attention.”
Caliguire, for his part, said that he was not being hypocritical because in 2006 he recognized Donovan’s right to run in the primary. He disagreed with Yudin’s charge that he is now “totally irrelevant,” and his prediction that he will be “overwhelmingly beaten.”
“I’ve actually gotten indications of encouragement and support from a number of people,” he said.