As the dust continues to settle after last week’s unexpected upset in Bergen County’s Executive race, state Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-37) — a close ally of the contest’s victor, Jim Tedesco — said she’s not surprised the Democrat beat out Republican incumbent Kathe Donovan.
“No, I anticipated it. Had you asked me three months before, maybe, but I was out in the field and I sensed what was going on,” Weinberg told PolitickerNJ at an unrelated event in Newark yesterday. “The opposition campaign didn’t have anything to talk about, didn’t have anything to talk about, they didn’t have any accomplishments, other than lawsuits and counter arguments and I’m a friend of the taxpayers. And I think that Tedesco touched a nerve across the county, with the bold idea about Bergen Regional and the veteran’s hospital, I think was tremendous”
Tedesco’s victory over Donovan came as a surprise to many political observers of that race if only because the Republican, an accomplished North Jersey pol who served four terms as county clerk and one in the state assembly before winning the exec’s seat in 2010, had the benefit of experience and the power of incumbency on her side.
Tedesco, alternatively, came into the race a first term county freeholder, and though he quickly picked up the support of fellow Democrats — from Weinberg to 2017 gubernatorial hopefuls like Senate President Steve Sweeney and Jersey City mayor Steve Fulop — he was largely considered an underdog to Donovan in the months and weeks leading up to election day.
But as Tedesco continued to cut into Donovan’s lead in the last days of the race, Weinberg argued it was obvious the Democrat stood a real chance at defeating the incumbent. She said his campaign goals — which included pushing for a VA clinic to be stationed at an embattled Bergen Regional Hospital, more public transportation access, and increased funding to Bergen County’s schools — ultimately won voters over.
By Tuesday night Tedesco had declared victory with 53 percent to Donovan’s 46 percent of the vote.
“He was a great candidate and worked very hard, and I don’t think anyone on the other side gave voters a reason to vote for them,” Weinberg said.
One other element of Tuesday night’s elections that some say might have helped prod Tedesco further over the finish line, however, was the campaign of Democratic hopeful Roy Cho in North Jersey’s fifth congressional district. CD5 includes parts of Bergen County, and while Cho ultimately lost his much-talked about bid to Republican incumbent Scott Garrett, political observers say his campaign might have helped turn out extra voters in Bergen, ultimately giving Tedesco a bump in numbers.
Weinberg, who pulled Cho into the discussion while PolitickerNJ pressed her on the exec’s race yesterday, said she thinks the young Democrat’s campaign likely helped nudge Tedesco to victory — and offered as evidence the attention Cho had received on the senator’s Facebook page.
“When I posted something about you on Facebook, I had 635 likes, plus god knows how many comments,” Weinberg said, directing her attention to Cho. “That’s phenomenal. He touched a nerve I think, and it was a hard loss, not only for the people who worked with him but for those of us who know that he’s the one who should be there.”
Asked what the party has in store for Cho going forward, Weinberg said she sees a “big future for him.”
“You know there’s always governor,” she laughed.