ATLANTIC CITY – In the back of the Ri Ra Irish-themed pub at one of the first events of this year’s New Jersey League of Municipalities Conference, Bergen-based GOP Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi (R-39) tried to get past the blarney and get down to the core of the Bergen Republicans’ meltdown in the 2014 Bergen County Executive and freeholders’ races, all lost for the GOP.
“Years of fighting didn’t help. There were certain elements, even within our own party, that actively campaigned and worked against [outgoing GOP County Executive Kathleen Donovan],” said Schepisi at the Tuesday afternoon event sponsored by Lenox Consulting and NW Financial at the Tropicana Hotel. “[Donovan’s] campaign was not as well run as it should have been. I think [Democrat] Jim Tedesco’s campaign was exceptionally well run. They managed to get out door-to-door, which helped with name recognition.”
Schepisi also noted that Tedesco’s strong campaign support from many members of the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office, led by Republican Sheriff Michael Saudino, also played a key role.
“Although Kathe did a great job for the four years she was in, I think voters were sick of hearing about all of the fighting,” said Schepisi, a reference to numerous lawsuits contested between Donovan and the Democrat-dominated freeholder board, which included issues surrounding the proposed merger of the Bergen County Police and the Sheriff’s Office. Donovan opposes the merger, while Tedesco supports it. “It was a culmination of many factors which were negative for us, and which were positive for Jim.”
When she looked to how the Bergen GOP can stage a comeback, Schepisi first looked across the partisan aisle.
“We need to learn from what the Bergen Dems did this past campaign. Our ground game is poor, but we’ve started to change that. That’s something we can build. Most of all, we have to be a united front regardless of whether or not people like or dislike each other. We can’t fight in public,” said Schepisi, a nod to the recently tamped-down rivalry between Donovan and Bergen County Republican Chairman Bob Yudin. “A lot of politics is like making sausage. Most people don’t want to see the ugly, messy process, and we’ve spent too many years making sausage in front of everybody. When you saw any Democratic campaign event this year, you saw unity.”