Wayne Attorney Mark Semeraro, a close ally of Passaic County GOP Chairman Scott Rumana, served as the M.C., and did a terrific job. He blasted the spending increases of the Freeholder Board as well as the sale of the Passaic County Golf Course, and with a polite apology for alarmism, he hinted at the possible sale of 401 Grand Street, warning that the selling off of assets is often a precursor to bankruptcy. In addition to thanking the guests for their financial contributions, Semeraro also made an appeal for the time and talents of everyone in the room, a critically important message to deliver, and much appreciated by those who shelled out $300 for a ticket. No donor likes to be viewed as a walking ATM, and Semeraro did the right thing for the Passaic County GOP by respecting the contributors.
Despite all of this good will, the Republicans will simply not raise enough money to win the countywide contests in the "air war" - our only hope is to instigate a "ground war", particularly amongst frustrated and overtaxed suburban homeowners. Our candidates are full of energy and ability - they are worthy of the task. (continued...)
First, we heard from County Surrogate candidate Jeremias Batista, an attorney admitted to the Bar in New York, New Jersey, and Florida. Batista has an impressive CV of community activism and discussed his ideas to improve the efficiency of the surrogate court.
Next came Freeholder candidate Jerry Holt, who hails from Ringwood, where he served on the council for several years, including a stint as Mayor. This guy really knows his stuff, and is going to take Pat Lepore and Terry Duffy to school over the next few months (see videos below, with apologies for poor quality).
I had the opportunity to discuss the budget with him before he spoke, and he actually pulled out of his pocket a spreadsheet printout of the past 10 fiscal years of Passaic County budgeting, broken down by department! I couldn't believe my eyes! The data rolls off Holt's tongue as he explains the Democrats' budget tricks with the confidence of a seasoned economist.
Holt was on a roll and his alter-ego, the ultra-personable Joe Stinziano, aka "Stinz" joined him at the podium, prompting Holt to joke that his running mate was going to pull him away with a hook. Stinziano then offered his remarks, which focused more on party building and community involvement. He particularly paid tribute to some of the "old timers" like former Paterson Mayor Pat Kramer and former Freeholder Dick DuHaime.
Following that came the big guns - Wayne Mayor, County Chairman, and District 40 Assembly Candidate Scott Rumana. He did not speak for long but made it a point to recognize, reinforcing some of Semeraro's earlier points, some of the key initiatives being pushed under his leadership. One key development was the formation of a Passaic County chapter of the New Jersey Federation of Republican Women, spearheaded by Wayne Councilwoman Ann Mary O'Rourke and fellow Wayne resident Susan Peracchio under the guidance of the 1st VP statewide, Clifton resident and Arab-American Republican activist extraordinaire, Sherine el-Abd. Membership has been growing and has been a catalyst for bringing together various factions of the Passaic County GOP.
Rumana and Semeraro also touched upon the creation of a countywide presidential convention later this year, which will allow County Committee members and club members to select who the County GOP will back in the presidential sweepstakes. More on that shortly, I presume.
The big bang of the night came from current District 40 Assemblyman and State Senate candidate Kevin O'Toole. He stood behind the podium for all of 90 seconds, just long enough to say:
"Three weeks from tonight, I can guarantee three things for you.As I said previously, I would NOT want to be Guy Talarico on June 6.
People say, 'why are you spending so much money?' Well, yeah, we are spending a lot of money, but this race is bigger than just the 40th District. This is about a rebirth of the Republican Party in Bergen County, in Passaic County, and in Essex County."
- Mayor Scott Rumana will be elected to the Assembly;
- Assemblyman Dave Russo will be re-elected; and
- I will be the next State Senator from District 40.