PATERSON – In the face of Passaic County Democratic Committee Chairman John Currie’s personal choice of a candidate this afternoon, former Paterson Police Chief Larry Spagnola won’t back down from his own quest to win the party’s nomination.
“Of course, I’m confident my nomination will be seconded tomorrow night (at the county committee meeting at the Steakhouse banquet room in Paterson),” Spagnola told PolitickerNJ.com.
“It was Democrats banging down my door for me to get in this thing to begin with and now they’re too scared to come forward,” added the former chief, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Paterson in 2006.
Standing next to Clifton Police Lt. Richard Berdnik, the man he wants to position in front of the committee tomorrow for ratification, Currie said Spagnola’s trying to create mayhem to sink the Democratic Party.
“I think he’s a Republican operative,” said the veteran chairman. “If he thinks he can come in as a total outsider like this – it’s ridiculous. I will take as evidence who he surrounds himself with. What right has he earned to be a Democratic candidate? We had a number of excellent qualified candidates, and here we’re talking about a weak, Johnny Come Lately.”
A supporter of Chris Christie’s last year who basked in the Republican gubernatorial candidate’s praise as “the next mayor of Paterson,” Spagnola denied he’s GOP underground trying to railroad the Democrats, a party spooked in part by former Sheriff Jerry Speziale’s decision ten weeks before Election Day to suddenly take a job at Port Authority with a sign-off from the Christie administration.
“I’ve been a card-carrying Democrat for 11 days,” Spagnola said, acknowledging his recent party registration after a lifetime as an unaffiliated voter.
“Currie wants to blame me for creating mayhem? This party was in chaos long before I showed up,” Spagnola added. “This is a chairman who lost the governor and the freeholders last year, his sheriff just bailed and he’s going to blame this on me? He’s been the chairman. He’s driving the bus. All I want is a seat on the bus. What am I doing here? I’m fighting to make the Democratic Party more democratic.”
Worried that the fix is in for Berdnik, Spagnola has threatened to sue Currie and the Democratic Committee if tomorrow’s vote isn’t above board.
“I will follow the rules,” Currie told reporters. “A suit won’t affect us. We’ll be out there campaigning. Tomorrow night I will take the advice of my attorneys and there will be an election by secret ballot – if necessary. Be prepared for a long evening.”
Spagnola laughed off – then strongly denied – a rumor circulating that by playing into a civil war storyline in the wake of Speziale’s springboard out of Passaic, he’s bucking for an appointment to the parole board or some other government job.
“I take offense to that,” the former chief said. “No, I haven’t talked to anybody. I did this because the people, the Democrats, told me to do this and because I’m the most qualified.”
As for Currie, “He’s off his medication,” Spagnola said. “We should all calm down a little bit. The party is paranoid. They get paranoid when they lose touch with the people. When someone suggests doing something as democratic as wanting to run for office, they start saying someone’s sending someone against them. The committee has the right to vote – and they will.”