Bergen Republicans head toward March 15th convention in pieces

Wednesday night’s Bergen County Freeholder meeting demonstrated no new storyline other than freeholder John Driscoll’s and Rob Hermansen’s exchange of bitter words on the dais reflecting the depth of behind-the-scenes intraparty estrangement.

It’s so glacial that the two sides can only communicate when they are forced to sit together in public.

The words come out in virtual spasms.

Thus did rivals within the Republican Party try to keep a momentary lid on the rancor until after a scheduled March 15th county convention, doing their best, say sources, but ultimately unable to contain a public flare-up.

Wednesday night’s GOP jam again underscored, and this time arguably more dramatically than others, the stark division in the Bergen County Republican Party with the hours ticking down to judgment day, say mortified Republican sources.

The Democrats were only too pleased to paw at the turf in an election year where they see an opportunity to take back the majority on the board.

“This is more comical than watching the ‘Family Feud,’” observed state Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-36), Wood-Ridge.

Two Republicans aligned with Bergen County Republican Organization Chairman Bob Yudin on Wednesday voted with two Democrats in favor of a county auditor contract for Steven Weilkotz, a lawyer close to former Bergen County Democratic Organization Chairman Joe Ferriero.

Bergen County Executive Kathe Donovan said she would refuse to honor the freeholder board’s selection.

Voting against the contract, Donovan ally and incumbent GOP Freeholder Rob Hermansen very publicly finds himself on a collision course with the Yudin-dominant wing of the party in time for next Thursday.

The deepened divide between Hermansen and Donovan and Yudin continues to give fits to Gov. Chris Christie’s closest political operatives, who fear the chopped up party could harm the governor’s 2013 re-election bid in the state’s biggest county.

At the moment, Hermansen himself is on the chopping block in Yudin’s eyes, as the Republican organization chairman – given the history – favors Ridgewood attorney John Ginty, former Rivers Edge Mayor Margaret “Peg” Watkins or Washington Twp. Councilman Fred Goetz to run for two seats in next November’s general election.

Essentially anyone but Hermansen.

“If we don’t get our act together soon we are making very difficult our chances of holding onto a majority,” said the freeholder, trying to land the GOP nomination from an organization while warring publicly with the chairman.

He points out that when he cast his vote Wednesday night he did so accompanied by two other Republicans, while the Yudin-backed Freeholder John Driscoll and John Felice had to team with Democrats against Donovan.

Yudin’s allies laugh at Donovan balking at the Weilkotz selection, pointing out that the county exective has hired Democrats to key positions, including the former county counsel and the head of the Bergen County Improvement Authority.

Bottom line, the same source added balefully, “If we’re doing all this now how are we going to pull this off and get behind… Mitt Romney?” 

"This meeting is entirely off the record. Until somebody leaks it."
—Michael Kempner, addressing a roomful of Democratic powerbrokers organizng for Hillary Clinton