Bucking the national trend in Passaic County

promoted by Rosi

Full disclosure: I was a paid consultant for Freeholders Terry Duffy and Pat Lepore during their 2010 re-election campaign

In a year where Republicans nationally and here in New Jersey were swept into office, Passaic County Democrats were able to buck the trend – electing Richard Berdnik as our next Sheriff and re-electing Freeholders Terry Duffy and Pat Lepore to maintain control of the Freeholder Board.  I thought I’d give a few reasons why I thought we were successful during an unfavorable political climate in a tough year for Democrats.    

Localizing a countywide race

We crafted a message based off local issues and the tough decisions being made to get the county’s fiscal house in order.  For me, the most important accomplishment was the two credit upgrades from Moody’s Financial Services in the last two years.  This wasn’t campaign rhetoric, it was an objective third-party rating agency saying we were doing a good job in passing responsible budgets. Moreover, it meant saving hundreds of thousands of dollars right now.  

GOTV and more, below the fold.

The other big accomplishment was consolidating the Passaic County juvenile detention center with Essex County – a shared services agreement that will save $128 million over the next ten years.  Now, for some history, this consolidation may be reason number one why we lost three freeholder seats and the county clerk’s race in 2009. It was not popular with our base in urban areas.  But the agreement just made too much sense fiscally for the county.  The fact that the Democrats were able to stand up and do what was right, in the face of internal opposition, resonated in these challenging economic times.  As much as the Republicans tried to brand the Democrats as “raising our taxes $150 million over the last ten years,” the message didn’t work because people saw through the misleading nature of the accusation.  

Congressman Bill Pascrell

Following the abrupt announcement by former Sheriff Jerry Speziale that he was dropping out of the race to work at the Port Authority, the party was in disarray. We were worried enough following what had happened in 2009, and now we were losing a popular official with huge cross-party appeal from the top of our ticket.  To be frank, it was an uneasy time for all involved with the Democratic Party in Passaic County.  The Congressman really stepped up to the plate campaigning 24-7 for the entire ticket.  People see year-after-year the margins he wins by, and as Chairman Currie stated on election night, he could vacation in Aruba during September and October and still be re-elected.  But he didn’t.  He was everywhere stumping for the entire ticket, kicking into a gear the best GOTV operation I’ve ever seen, and talking about why he needed these partners in county government.  

Strong down ballot candidates

Although they all weren’t successful, we had strong local candidates up-and-down the county this year, something we did not have in 2009.  Bloomingdale elected a Democratic Mayor in a hard fought election, and we had strong candidates in Haledon, Hawthorne, Little Falls, Pompton Lakes, Prospect Park, Wanaque, Wayne, West Milford, and Woodland Park.  Now, we weren’t successful everywhere, but it makes a huge difference when your down ballot candidates are working hard and knocking on doors.


You can’t win any race without a real investment in your field operation, and the ground game in Passaic County was top notch.  The organization and execution of the GOTV was exciting to watch, and as one Republican operative commented to me on November 3rd, they didn’t see it coming at all. Additionally, the Republican ticket campaigned heavily in Passaic and Paterson, betting on their ability to cut into our base with two Latino candidates.  This strategy did not work whatsoever. If anything, they woke up Paterson and allowed us to run up bigger numbers than we anticipated.  Moral of the story: don’t neglect your ground game, usually it’s the difference between winning and losing.      


Comments (8)

  1. TeenDem

    not forget that the Democrats actually had a campaign. We organized, campaigned, canvassed, phone banked, and volunteered countless hours of our time for victory. What did the republicans do? They put up thousands of signs throughout the county (even on state, municipal, and school property) and hoped that people would see these signs and vote for them. Pathetic and insulting if you ask me.  

  2. johnleesandiego

    I tossed my name into the pool of wanna be volunteers at both the Clifton and Montclair Pascrell office and never got a return call; I did show up once in Clifton unannounced to pick up signs, but that was it. If the party wants to remain viable ignoring people who are ready, willing, and able to help in the trenches is not the way to go.  


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