Tuesday, March 15, 2005

DiGaetano Wins Bergen County

Steve Kornacki at PolitcsNJ.com reports that Paul DiGaetano has won the party line in Bergen County. It was a heavily split vote, with the winner taking only 23% of the 835 ballots cast. Earlier today in a preview article, Steve cast this as a do-or-die day for DiGaetano:

"Listen," said Guy Talarico, Bergen's GOP's chairman, "(Bret) Schundler and (Doug) Forrester have the name ID and probably the money to win off line, but I think it's awful tough for the other guys. So I think Tuesday night is life or death for the (second tier) candidates."

The second-tier candidates vying for Bergen's support are DiGaetano, Schroeder and Murphy. All three could use a victory badly -- probably as much as they could use a loss by Forrester, the co-front-runner who is undefeated to date in county conventions. Schundler, the other front-runner, won the gubernatorial nomination without significant organizational support in 2001, so his credibility as a candidate is not at stake in the conventions. But that doesn't mean he isn't seeking a Bergen win and the momentum-building headlines that would come with it.
Those second tier candidates each wanted Bergen County pretty badly, as did the front-runners:
"Murphy has been working it for the last two years," said Guy Talarico, the county's GOP chairman. "No one has courted the rank-and-file as zealously as (John) Murphy, but that's not to say that the others haven't paid attention. When you consider the number of times Forrester and Schundler have been in Bergen County over the last few years, that counts. Then over the last few weeks, they've done personal visits and phone calls."

Talarico and all of the campaigns expect the contest to be close. Talarico estimated that about 1,050 voters will show up. Calling the event a convention is something of a misnomer. It's more of an election, with voting machines open at the party's Hackensack headquarters from 4:30 to 8:30. Unlike other counties, there will only be one ballot.

"I think all five are coming in with 100 votes," Talarico said. "So then it's a question of how much over 100 each one of them gets."
Looks like Talarico was right about the close margins, since DiGaetano won with 188 votes, followed by Forrester (161), Schundler (157), Murphy (150), and Schroeder (147). Given that it was so close, I'm surprised he was so far off on the turnout prediction.

I think this means DiGaetano stays in until the primary. It's probably too early to say for Murphy and Schroeder -- they can choose to take a graceful exit based on the loss, or continue to fight on with the closeness of the race as a rallying point.