Revealed: At Diner Meeting, Raia and Shotmeyer Asked DiGaetano To Deep Six McCann

DiGaetano offered financial backing in LD40 race if he withdraws support for challenger in 39

DiGaetano

Paul DiGaetano is the Bergen County Republican chairman; he is also running for state senate in LD40. Alyana Alfaro for Observer

PolitickerNJ has learned of a deliciously New Jersey meeting that occurred in which State GOP Chairman Sam Raia and Bergen County fundraiser Charles H. “Chuck” Shotmeyer met with Bergen County GOP Chairman Paul DiGaetano, who is also running for state senate in LD40. The meeting occurred on Wednesday at a coffee shop in Ramsey.

PolitickerNJ has learned that a topic of discussion at the meeting was an offer made by Raia and Shotmeyer. If DiGaetano, in his role as Bergen Chairman, pulled his support from John McCann’s run for state senate in District 39 (where he’s primarying longtime incumbent Senator Gerry Cardinale), then Raia and Shotmeyer would unite behind DiGaetano’s senate run in the 40th and raise him significant money in support of that ambition.

Speculation on what’s in it for Raia and Shotmeyer is as intriguing as the meeting itself. One experienced political operative, who has deep knowledge of LD 40 and its unique “little bit of four counties” dynamics, told PolitickerNJ, “Sam’s got a long-standing history with Gerry, and there is speculation that if Gerry ever hung up his bootstraps, Sam Raia would be the next senator.”

Bootstraps, cleets, whatever – the point being that Mr. Raia, who is also the former mayor of Saddle River, would presumably like a shot at Sen. Cardinale’s seat someday. Cardinale is 83 years old and although he’s got plenty of energy and still works as a dentist, surely someone aiming at that seat would rather replace him than see McCann, who’s 30 years younger than Cardinale, win the seat.

As a sitting state party chairman, it’s unusual for Raia to take sides in a contested primary, though perhaps less so when it comes to fending off challengers to incumbents.

As for Shotmeyer, his family has been successful for years in raising funds for Republicans for years. As PolitickerNJ was first to report, he is increasingly mentioned as a possible Congressional candidate for the seat Scott Garrett lost in 2018.

Reached by PolitickerNJ, Shotmeyer confirmed that the meeting took place but declined to comment on specifically what was discussed. “Paul and I and Sam did have a conversation earlier this week. It was all to do about Bergen County politics. District 39 was a topic of discussion, yes. It was in person — got together for a cup of coffee. No meal was had – it wasn’t mealtime.”

Chairman DiGaetano declined to comment for this story. Chairman Raia could not be reached by presstime; if he returns a message, this story will be updated.

It’s not clear whether DiGaetano, the former Majority Leader (and then Minority Leader) in the Assembly and a skilled political maneuverer, even has the power to knock McCann out if he wanted to. That’s especially true now that McCann won the line in Passaic, and even more especially since DiGaetano is running his own Senate race in the 40th and struggling, at least in the three non-Bergen parts of LD40; he’s already lost the line in Passaic and is expected to do so in Essex as well, which is home to current 40th Senator Kevin O’Toole, who is backing Kristin Corrado as his replacement. (Morris County has no line.)

Whether McCann is susceptible to pressure from DiGaetano depends in part on what’s motivating the former Cresskill Councilman and General Counsel to the Bergen County Sheriff to run in the first place. Is he taking a shot at the much-loved long-serving senator as part of a populist anti-incumbent feeling sweeping the GOP? Or is he doing so as a way to help DiGaetano get back at Cardinale for supporting Bob Yudin, the former chairman who was bested by DiGaetano?

Ultimately, if DiGaetano was able to pull off a deal to eliminate McCann, it would serve the ambitions of all the participants of the Ramsey meeting. DiGaetano would secure the financial backing of both the state chairman and one of the county’s most successful fundraisers. Raia and Shotmeyer would get a clearer path for their own hoped-for candidacies.

On Wednesday, McCann and Corrado both won the backing of the Passaic County Regular Republican Organization (PCRRO). This makes the March 23rd Bergen County Republican Organization (BCRO) convention, always a spectacle, that much more critical. Considering that this secret meeting occurred in a race that has already featured death threats, expect more intrigue to ensue.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story stated that Sam Raia is the mayor of Saddle River; he is the former mayor, and his term ended in 2016. The Observer regrets the error. Revealed: At Diner Meeting, Raia and Shotmeyer Asked DiGaetano To Deep Six McCann