At Passaic GOP screening, no velvet gloves and cape, but…

Some Passaic County Republicans hoped they might be surprised by Jerry Speziale walking through the front door of the Grande Chalet in Wayne this morning.

County GOP Chairman John Traier is conducting his screening of candidates for county office, including freeholder and sheriff.

A former Democratic Party sheriff with law enforcement rock star credentials, Speziale in 2010 took a job with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey rather than pursue another three-year term as sheriff.

His announcement stunned and hurt Passaic County Democratic Chairman John Currie, who was counting on Speziale’s candidacy a year after the GOP soundly whipped the chairman’s ticket.

It looked grim for Currie without Speziale, but with the aid of U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-9) at the top of the ticket, the Democrats’ candidate, Clifton Detective Richard Berdnik, beat Undersheriff Felix Garcia, a Republican, in the general election for sheriff.

Two and a half years later, the Passaic GOP watched Speziale closely to see if he might come back to the county, this time as a Republican with Gov. Chris Christie at the top of the ticket.

In tweets and FaceBook posts, Speziale didn’t rule out a return, but when he was a no-show at the screening this morning, Republicans accepted he would not be their candidate this year.

The main contestants screening for sheriff are Frank Feenan from the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office, retired Clifton Police Lt. Pat Ciser, and Garcia.

A late entrant to the race with some key party support, Ciser may not have Speziale’s movie star cred, but he does offer his own Van Damme-like narrative.

According to Amazon.com, the retired cop wrote a book called “Budo and the Badge, Exploits of a Jersey Cop.”

“Lt. Patrick J. Ciser (Ret.) of the City of Clifton Police Department, in New Jersey, is also known to his many karate students as Sensei (Teacher),” according to Amazon. “Ciser achieved national and international fame by representing the United States in five international karate tournaments, winning gold medals in South America and Europe. ‘Pat Ciser,’ as he is known in North Jersey, grew up and became a police officer in Clifton in 1977. Growing as a police officer, he started to realize that with his martial arts skills, he could save lives, surprisingly, on both sides of the law.  Newspaper accounts of Ciser’s exploits over the years bear witness to the true stories recounted in this book. Headlines and quotes give a glimpse of his illustrious career as he was continually called upon, in life and death situations. The Clifton Journal read, ‘Pat Ciser, Clifton’s answer to Superman’ … New Jersey’s Record wrote, ‘Veteran officer compared to Chuck Norris;’ while the Herald News read, ‘Action hero calling it quits,’ when announcing his retirement in 2008. Join Ciser as he recalls mastering karate, kicking in doors, and dodging bullets and blades. ‘The only difference between the stories in Budo and the Badge, and the ones on the big screen, are that these stories are real.’ “

"He’s obviously working very, very hard at it. I mean he’s traveling all over the country as chairman of the [Republican Governors Association] and I think at this point he has as good a chance or better than anybody else. His name is household word all across the country, and I think he would make a great president."
—former U.S. Rep. Jim Saxton (R-3), on Gov. Chris Christie