Late last week, Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino shocked the county when he announced that, though he was planning on pursuing reelection, it would not be as a Republican. He announced that he would be switching his party affiliation and running as a Democrat in November. Now, Bergen County Republican Organization (BCRO) Chairman Bob Yudin is speaking out against Saudino’s party shift and outlining what steps the Bergen GOP plans to take moving forward.
“We are starting to reach out,” Yudin said of finding a replacement on the ballot for Saudino. “We have a number of people who have expressed interest.”
According to Yudin, the BCRO selects county candidates using a convention. Usually, the deadline to submit a letter of intent to run would be February 1. Because Saudino defected just two weeks shy of that deadline, Yudin says he is considering extending it to February 15 in order to give potential candidates more time.
“He had told both myself and many of my lieutenants that he was running as a Republican,” Yudin said. “So the actual timeframe for people to make a decision, instead of being months or a year or so, is less than two weeks. In all fairness to everyone who is thinking about this, I probably will extend the deadline.”
Yudin also had some harsh words to say about Saudino’s decision. When he spoke to PolitickerNJ the chairman recalled a conversation he had with the Sheriff before the party-switch bombshell was revealed. According to Yudin, Saudino disclosed that he had met with Bergen County Democratic Chairman Lou Stellato about potentially switching parties. Yudin went on to say that the Sheriff assured him he would remain a Republican and that he told Stellato that he was reassured by Yudin’s leadership style, supposedly citing that Stellato would try to impose more control over the governance of the Sheriff’s department.
“That is what the Sheriff told me,” Yudin said. “I took it as a compliment. I was very proud for the Sheriff to say that and for him to have said that to Lou Stellato. That is what I mean when I say I was so blindsided by this treacherous, treasonous act. It is a very, very despicable and dishonorable thing this man has done.”
Yudin said he believes Saudino’s decision to switch his party stems from his perception that he has a higher likelihood of reelection as a Democrat than as a Republican.
“I was a Navy flyer during the Vietnam War,” Yudin said. “I now know that I would never want to be in the same foxhole with Sheriff Saudino protecting my back.”
Sheriff Saudino’s announcement that he was switching parties—and his would-be running mate Freeholder Maura DeNicola’s subsequent blast of him—was the cherry on top of an already difficult few weeks for the BCRO. Two weeks ago, Freeholder John Felice announced that he would not be pursuing reelection. Also on Friday, LD40 state Senator Kevin O’Toole announced that he also would not be pursuing reelection. All of this comes in the wake of a series of losses in November that have led some to challenge Yudin as BCRO chair.
“I am running for reelection,” said Yudin of BCRO’s June election for chairman. “I am confident that I will be reelected, I am not overconfident. Many, many county committee people have reached out to me and say to me that they want me to run for reelection and that they are more than satisfied with my almost 8 years as chairman.”
As for who might be replacing O’Toole, Yudin said it was too early to know because the choice does not need to be finalized for 15 months. He also said that he has no favorite to succeed O’Toole as of now.
Yudin said that, while the BCRO is not asking for Saudino to return funds he got from the organization, they are asking him to return private donations he received from donors who thought he would be running as a Republican.
“He got that money out of false pretenses,” Yudin said.