Debunking Guy Talarico

Apparently feeling the heat for his controversial decision to dump 2 incumbent office holders from "the line" (which doesn't seem to exist anymore, but that's another story), Bergen County Chairman Guy Talarico sent a letter to county Republicans this week explaining the rationale behind his course of action. I provide excerpts below along with my comments indented:

"Please allow me to take a moment and communicate to you my position on recent controversies affecting our organization. For the second year in a row there is an attempt to splinter our Republican party to the benefit of the Democrats."
Well, I can't disagree with that!
"...Prior to the last state-wide redistricting, Bergen County had four Republican State Senators. We currently have two! If Bergen County surrenders this Senate seat to Essex County, the largest county in the state would be reduced to one Senator. Furthermore this situation could jeopardize Senator Gerry Cardinale. Democratic Chair Joe Ferriero has promised to spend millions of dollars to defeat State Senator Cardinale."
This entire line of argument is flawed. (continued...)Talarico suggests that a victory by Kevin O'Toole, who lives in Cedar Grove, would serve as a catalyst for Bergen Republicans to lose all their clout in the County. True, the scenario he depicts is a possible one. But what Talarico fails to mention is that with a strong effort in Districts 36 and 38, where he has lifted barely a finger to recruit and support candidates against incumbents Joseph Coniglio, Paul Sarlo, Bob Gordon, and Joan Voss, who have been served subpoenas and could be in legal trouble, could increase the current 2 State Senators to 3, and as a bonus give the NJGOP clout in Essex County politics.
"The morning after Senator McNamara's decision not to run, Kevin O'Toole who is the Chairman of Essex County Republican Organization and Scott Rumano (note: his name is spelled Rumana), who is the Chairman of the Passaic County Republican Organization published a press release announcing their candidacy for office. They autonomously staked a claim to these seats...Many people have said that a conversation with the Bergen County Chairman prior to their announcement about candidates in Bergen would have been the appropriate course of action. Needless to say, I was never approached by the other Chairman and have once again been confronted with difficult decisions not of my own making."

Too often our County Chairs think they are more important than the democratic process and should have veto power over every political aspiration. Can Talarico honestly claim that he didn't expect that Kevin O'Toole would announce his candidacy for the D40 Senate seat, and that Rumana would seek to fill his Assembly spot? This has been well-planned for years, and was shelved as a turn-key solution to be implemented immediately following McNamara's retirement.

Besides, since when is announcing candidacy for a primary "autonomously staking a claim"? Kevin O'Toole is not some bozo who just rolled into town. He's a respected legislator who has represented the district for years and has earned the right to launch a confident candidacy for a vacated State Senate seat. Dozens of elected officials from Bergen County seem to agree and have given him and his team strong endrosements.

"However the choice for me is clear, whether you support me or not. I am attempting to protect the Bergen County Organization's line, as well as the interest of all Republicans in Bergen County. We cannot have the Essex County Chairman representing us in Trenton. We will be better served by Todd Caliguire, a Ridgewood native, who will have Bergen County's interest at heart far better than would Essex County's Kevin O'Toole."

Fair enough. But as I argued earlier, if Talarico's goal was 'Bergen First', why ditch David Russo? The Chairman has the right according to the by-laws to give "the line" to whichever 3 candidates he chooses. How THEY wish to affiliate is their own business and represents their own interests. If Talarico is so concerned about Bergen County's interests, he should have give the 3rd slot to Russo, not Joseph Schweighardt.

"How can we support what O'Toole and his cronies are doing to the party right now such as putting forth opposition slates for county tickets and numerous municipal seats forcing Republican organizations to spend time and money they can little afford on internal battles?"
I'll give Talarico one thing: it takes guts to put something this ridiculous in writing. It is Talarico who put forth opposition municipal slates (including Democrats in Oakland) because O'Toole was so well-respected in D40 that the chosen municipal candidates in Franklin Lakes, Oakland, and Midland Park chose to bracket with his team on the "Bergen County Conservative Regular Republicans" line, not Talarico's.
"Even the County Clerk has joined their forces. Our freeholder candidates, chosen by you, the County Committee, were outraged to learn on Friday, April 20th, that Kathe Donovan rejected their petition for a slate to run with the municipal and state candidates who requested to be bracketed with the BCRO under our slogan 'Republicans for Responsible Government'. We are preparing a law suit now to fight her arbitrary and capricious decision and Bob Yudin said it best when he said that 'Kathe is favoring the O'Toole slate because Caliguire defeated her last year in the primary for County executive. The form we filed is a Request For Position On Ballot. I have a copy of what we filed last year and it is the same form.' Once again, Kathe has chosen to attempt to undermine the interest of the BCRO."

I do not know the legal ramifications of Donovan's decision, but I do hope that the candidates chosen by the County Committee in the convention are in fact permitted to bracket together and form a line. O'Toole recruited Freeholder candidates not to defeat those chosen by the Bergen County Committee (Paul Duggan, Charlie Kahwaty, and Bob Yudin) but merely to strengthen his ballot position. The convention results should be respected and I hope Donovan has the integrity to recognize that.

I would further hope that the O'Toole team does not obstruct this from happening - they have done their homework and will still win the primary fair and square, earning the right to run on the November ballot with Duggan, Kahwaty and Yudin (although don't expect them to shed a tear for him if he doesn't make it, because Yudin did not endorse them) against the Democrats.

"The attacks seem to be coming from many directions but they are really just coming from Essex County with the ultimate winners the Democrats. Trust me, I recently learned a lesson about people with a contrary agenda, the hard way. I brought in Joe Caruso, a Passaic County resident, and Chairman of the Red Faction to help us with the Finance Committee. Every time we worked together on an activity it was only about the Red Faction, not the BCRO. When it came time for him to pick between the interests of Bergen County or other Counties and his Red Faction he did not choose Bergen, even condemning me for supporting Bergen. He endorsed the Chairman of Passaic County and the Chairman of Essex County."

While pandering to the home crowd is one of the oldest and most effective tricks in the book, the fact is that these are neighboring counties and most people barely know the difference. It's not as if Bergen, Passaic, and Essex Counties have such divergent lifestyles, demographics, and interests that they need to assert their independence from each other. Quite the contrary. The fact that state and federal legislative districts cover parts of multiple counties means that there should be more coordination, not less.

As for Caruso, he is an autocratic County Chairman's worst nightmare - a guy who acts autonomously, gets results, and doesn't care whose ego he bruises or whose toes he steps on. We need more in-your-face activists and fundraisers like him.

"Joe Ferriero and the Bergen Democrats have proclaimed their intent to control all the State Senate seats in Bergen County. Kevin O'Toole and his cronies are helping him achieve that goal. In this light our decision moving forward must be made with the preservation of the Republican Party in Bergen County as our paramount concern."
Very poor. Again, O'Toole is no Johnny-come-lately. Does Talarico really think that he will successfully convince Bergen County Republicans that a longtime GOP Assemblyman is in bed with Joe Ferriero?
further comments:

One has to wonder how much Todd Caliguire, John Ginty, and Joseph Schweighardt actually approve of what Talarico is doing. They have been doing very little as of yet to advance their agenda and recruit supporters to their candidacy, which is puzzling considering that O'Toole is working his tail off! Other than the new finance committee that Talarico has launched, I cannot see any substantial grassroots support for this futile decision on the part of Talarico to waste hundreds of thousands of dollars that would otherwise have gone to Districts 36 and 38 (to win the senatorial courtesy that Talarico so covets) plus key municipal races. What a shame.