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Joseph Ferriero’s tenure as Bergen County Democratic chairman may depend on the outcome of a low-visibility county committee race on Tuesday.

In Uncategorized on June 1, 2008 at 5:23 pm

Democratic chairman’s job may be in jeopardySunday,
June 1, 2008
BY KAREN SUDOLSTAFF WRITER

Joseph Ferriero’s tenure as Bergen County Democratic chairman may depend on the outcome of a low-visibility county committee race on Tuesday.

Democratic voters in Bergen will go to the polls to choose members of the county committee, an 1,100-member body that essentially decides which Democrats get to run for public office in the county. Committee members also are responsible for electing the leader of the Bergen County Democratic Organization, and they are scheduled to do so on June 10, one week after the primary election.

The primary election comes a week after Ferriero surrendered documents subpoenaed by federal authorities involving a consulting firm in which he and Dennis J. Oury, the attorney for the Bergen County Democratic Organization, shared an interest. Over the last two weeks, U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie has issued 14 subpoenas requesting information about Oury or the consulting firm, Governmental Grants Consulting, sometimes called Government Grants Consulting.

In most Bergen municipalities, there is no contest for county committee. But in Englewood, Bergenfield and Teaneck, among other towns, candidates affiliated with Ferriero, running under the banner of the BCDO, are squaring off against members of a slate called the Real Bergen Democrats, which is affiliated with state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, a Ferriero rival.

And some Real Bergen Democrats are suggesting that if enough of them secure seats on the county committee, they will work to remove Ferriero as chairman.

“The point is to elect enough Real Bergen Democrats and enough organization people who are sick and tired of Ferriero,” said Robert Gulack, a Fair Lawn county committee member running for reelection.

But Bill Maer, a spokesman for the Bergen County Democrats, said the primary isn’t about Ferriero and his reelection.

“It’s about Bergen County Democrats having a successful primary and putting into place individuals who will share the organization’s beliefs,” he said. “It’s about getting good Democrats in position so we can win elections and better serve the citizens of Bergen County.”

Maer said he doesn’t anticipate the document subpoena will have any effect on Tuesday’s vote.

“Voters are going to look at the records of the individual candidates running throughout the county and decide to elect them based on those facts,” he said.

Weinberg, D-Teaneck, said, “My hope is, we elect enough county committee people who want to run a fair, open, inclusive party with the proper leadership and who, in fact, are tired of seeing the kinds of people leading us that we’ve been reading about in the newspaper the last several days.”

Gulack said he can’t predict whether the subpoena will have any effect on choosing a chairman — a post Ferriero has held since 1998. Gulack wants to challenge Ferriero again for the position.

Elaine Rabbitt, chairwoman of the Bergenfield Democratic Municipal Committee and a Ferriero supporter, said she found the timing of the subpoena suspect, given its proximity to the primary.

“Why should we [Bergenfield county committee members] let this interfere with what we’re planning on doing if we really don’t know if this is legitimate?” she said of the subpoena.

She said she supports Ferriero because “he took the Democrats and put them on the map in Bergen County.”

But Carol Hoernlein, a Tenafly councilwoman running in the Democratic primary for a Bergen County freeholder seat, said Ferriero’s link to the subpoenas may affect the county committee race and his reelection chances.

“For a long time, a lot of people from the county committee were afraid of Joe,” Hoernlein said.

“Now, I think maybe they’re realizing that … now is the time where they can make a difference.”

She is encouraging write-ins in districts where Real Bergen Democrats are not on the ballot.

Ferriero has been credited with reviving the county Democratic Organization through aggressive fund raising and rigid party discipline. But he has been criticized for encouraging a system under which political contributors are rewarded with lucrative county and municipal contracts.

E-mail: sudol@northjersey.com

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  1. There are too many people on Joe’s dole to effect any type of democratic change in this county. They will be the ones voting and won’t be jumping ship this early in the investigation.

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