With the unfortunate news of Rochelle Park Mayor Frank Valenzuela dropping out of the Bergen County freeholder race not yet spread among the GOP’s decision-makers this morning, Bergen County Republican Organization Chairman Bob Yudin was making calls, trying to preempt what could be a gold rush for an open campaign seat.
Several sources confirmed that John Mitchell, a four-time candidate for township council in Cliffside Park, is the leading contender for the open slot on the ticket, but judging by the hotly contested nine-member primary he’s likely not everyone’s choice.
Was Yudin propping up Mitchell as “the guy” before the county GOP even knew Velenzuela was stepping down? “That’s not true,” Yudin said. “It’s just too early [to throw names out there].”
Does he deny that calls were made to the likes of district captains and other insiders before the news broke? “I wouldn’t flatly deny any of that,” he said, adding vaguely, “I imagine there were some calls out there.”
Nominations will be taken from the floor at a special Republican committee meeting next Thursday, Aug. 19, which means the process could give new life to candidates backed by Freeholder Rob Hermansen in the party primary.
Hermansen could push for Jeff Bader, a councilman in Woodcliff Lake, who could pull out Jewish voters and who would also represent the only Pascack Valley candidate on the ticket.
None of that matters if Yudin can hammer out widespread support for Mitchell in the meantime; the last thing Hermansen et al want is an intra-party melee.
The GOP’s freeholder campaign spokesman Thom Ammirato said his hope is that the committee selects someone compatible with running mates Maura DeNicola of Franklin Lakes and John Felice of River Edge and ready for the grueling task at hand: campaigning among the 70 municipalities that make up Bergen County.