Yesterday’s Blue Jersey “cereal” article pointed out that in the Bergen County race for County Executive Democrat James Tedesco brings change and strengths to the job with broad-based experience and support from key elected officials and unions. The incumbent Republican Kathleen Donovan, however, is no pushover. She is a fixture in Bergen politics and has heavy-hitter supporters. She has also created enemies and controversies which hound her. There are good reasons to vote for Tedesco as well as the two Democratic Freeholders running for re-election.
Kathe Donovan has served as County Clerk, Assemblywoman, Chair of the NJ Republican State Committee, and Chair of the Board of the NY/NJ Port Authority. She defeated Democrat incumbent Dennis McNerny in 2010 (124,168 votes to 110,117). In the 2014 primary she out-fundraised Tedesco $207,000 to $39,000.
While PA Board Chair, Donovan sanctioned the plan which allowed the PA Executive Director to be appointed by the NY governor and the Deputy E. D. to be appointed by the NJ governor. The result was dysfunction and strife in the PA which ultimately led to a Deputy Director (Bill Baroni) and his henchman (David Wildstein) to close Fort Lee lanes to the GW Bridge without even telling the Executive Director. Donovan’s Bergen County constituents were harried and frustrated by the closures, but during and after what became known as Bridgegate she refused to comment and buried her head in the sand.
Last year Donovan said she had distanced herself from Alan Marcus, her former Campaign Manager who now finds himself in the middle of two legal controversies. More recently she has opposed merging the county police and sheriff’s office, which Freeholder Chair David Ganz says could save $200 million over 25 years. A State Appellate Court ruled on Wednesday she “did not have the legal authority to fire seven commissioners of a public sewage utility.” It remains to be seen whether she will be implicated in conflicts of interest over the American Dream complex at the Meadowlands, which according to the Nation also includes a colorful cast of characters, such as David Samson, Michele Brown, Ralph Marra, Lori Grifa, and Jon Hanson.
Why James Tedesco? As seen in the above paragraph Donovan takes an authoritarian approach, often at odds with others, and has been busy suing numerous groups. Tedesco says he is one who “fights for what is right but is also willing to sit down with anyone to find solutions.” He supports the cost-saving merger of County Police and Sheriff Department. She does not. He and the other freeholders insisted on restoring many of her devastating cuts in education. Regarding Bridgegate he says, “Her silence has been deafening,” and he has launched an effort to form a coalition of host communities to leverage their collective clout.” In early march he called for the firing of PA Board Chair David Samson who later resigned.
In addition to his education priorities, he has already announced his position on jobs: “initiatives that encourage current Bergen County companies to stay or expand, attract more corporations to relocate to Bergen County, and ultimately create more jobs.” He has been endorsed by such groups as, IAFF, BCEA, SEIU 1199, Bergen County Central Trades & Labor Council, Professional Firefighters, LADA, Dominican American Orrganization of NJ, PBA Local 134 and HPAE.
Cereal is a $12 billion market in the U. S. and its purveyors spend a lot of time and money to sway consumers. More supporters will have to pitch in with time and money to sway voters away from Donovan, the cereal that’s been on the shelf forever, toward Tedesco, the cereal with all the good nutrition.
Two Freeholder seats are on the ballot this year with seasoned Democrats running for re-election – Chairman David Ganz and Vice Chair Joan Voss against Republican challengers Bob Avery and Bernadette Coghlan-Walsh. The Board currently has five Democrats (including Tedesco who would step down if elected) and two Republicans. Ganz has been on the Board since 2002 and Voss who previously was an Assemblywoman has been on the board since 2011.