It started like so much else in politics: with hearty laughs and bear hugs and stages draped with finery – and ended just as predictably: in agony, as Senate candidate John Driscoll went to a microphone to concede defeat in the LD 38 general as his running mates Fernando Alonso and Richard Goldberg lost with him.
Now two years later, opting for one former running mate instead of the other, Hawthorne Mayor Goldberg plans to endorse Alonso over Driscoll in the developing LD 38 scrum for Senate, sources tell PolitickerNJ.com.
Goldberg was not available for comment.
At least one GOP power player tried to recruit the mayor to run himself, but he didn’t want to do it, a decision that evidently won’t keep him clear of taking a stand in this increasingly unfriendly contest, sources said.
The wounded Driscoll sat out a freeholder re-election bid last year, opting instead to take aim once again at incumbent state Sen. Robert Gordon, (D-38), the man who beat him last time 53% to 47%.
There was at least enough dissatisfaction with what happened in 2011 to prompt GOP leaders to attempt to recruit the services of former Assemblyman Guy Talarico, who, if he entered the race, probably would have had the support of the Sen. Gerald Cardinale wing of the party.
Driscoll braced for that showdown, even as he received an unexpected phone call from an unlikely competitor: former running mate Alonso of Oradell.
“John I like personally but he doesn’t bring to the table what we need to fight Bob Gordon, a formidable candidate,” Alonso told PolitickerNJ.com.
“He never hit on the middle class, jobs and the economy,” added the Senate hopeful, a director at Fairleigh Dickinson University. “When we went to the Bergen Record editorial board they were frustrated – and so was I. So it was his lack of a clear message on the economy, jobs and taxes; and second, John did not attract people to the party. He had no ground troops. I brought a lot of students, women, Hispanics, everyone. He didn’t. That’s not how you build a party. I don’t see any discussions of the future. He’s a good guy. He knocks on doors. But what are we doing to bring people back to New Jersey?”
In their phone conversation, Alonso told Driscoll he would be running again, only this time not for the Assembly on a ticket with Driscoll. Alonso acknowledged he craved the top spot and the face-off with Gordon.
Talarico dropped out, briefly leaving the field Alonso versus Driscoll before party leaders approached Assembly candidate Joe Scarpa to reconsider his chosen contest. Would he want to run instead for Senate? No, Scarpa said.
So the Passaic GOP went to Goldberg – the only candidate from the ill-fated 2011 LD 38 ticket who hadn’t yet spoken – and asked him if he wanted to take a shot at that Senate seat. He’d think about it, was the reply, delivered via cellphone as Goldberg boarded a cruise ship.
But Goldberg’s wife confirmed the mayor’s view that he should run again for mayor, not Senate, and sometime between now and March 7 Goldberg will issue a letter in support of Alonso, sources say.
Bergen sources say the contest has begun in earnest now, with emails and letters from both Driscoll and Alonso targeting county committee members.
“They both feel they can win,” Bergen County Republican County Chairman Bob Yudin told PolitickerNJ.com, and refused to speculate on who has the edge.