It has turned into another hurt-filled and ugly scene, the predictable Bergen aftermath of another politician's meltdown, with allegations of broken promises and the expectation, on Valentine's Day no less, of broken hearts.
Those people most intent on trying to stay out of the brawl just got dragged into it - and are trying to throw punches that show a willingness to mix it up, while doing the least damage to friends.
So it goes for Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi (R-39), who in the midst of a tough intraparty contest publicly threw her support behind LD 39 Assembly candidate Bob Auth last night at the Portabello Restaurant in Oakland at a meet and greet for Auth, according to Bergen sources.
Schepisi joined her running mate, state Sen. Gerald Cardinale (R-39), who to date has served as Auth’s most visible and powerful backer.
Chairman of the Old Tappan Municipal Committee, Auth wants to succeed indicted Assemblyman Bob Schroeder (R-39) as the third legislator from the Republican district in Bergen County.
To date, Schepisi has stayed away from making a public declaration of support, but as the contest for two Assembly seats intensified, with former Bergen County Freeholder Rob Hermansen, former Bergen Freeholder Clerk Karen Mastriano and Old Tappan Mayor Victor Polce all jockeying, the incumbent assemblywoman aligned with Auth.
It hurts, sources say, because she and Mastriano are friends.
Schepisi also likes Polce.
But Cardinale is the district's power player, and he wants a huddled-up team. Sources say the senator was happy to be able to lift the arms of both Auth and Schepisi on the same stage last night.
“Both of them are great teammates of mine and having them on the team will allow us to do as much for the district as possible,” a source said Cardinale said of his teammates.
Sources say Hermansen and Mastriano are running aggressive individual campaigns.
The knock on Auth is that he was Cardinale’s driver, and never worked his way up through the channels of elected office. But the senator has repeatedly sold him at events as the man who behind the scenes has helped everyone else get elected, a 20-year GOP organizer whose work as a Cardinale aide simply gives him a big leg up on Trenton.
"We all did that," Hermansen said to the argument that Auth worked harder than others. "For the last 25 years I was helping organizations going back to when I returned from college. Karen Mastriano has helped too, with the goverrnor's race and working for Kyrillos. We've all done this. None of us are not qualified - but there's a difference between qualified and most qualified."
Cardinale's forces are confident that as long as Hermansen maintains a frenetic work rate, he will defeat himself at this point with excitable over-exposure.
"If that's what they believe, that by me working my rear end off, that a strong work ethic should be the cause of failure, that says everything you need to know about those making those comments," said Hermansen, who last year bucked Cardinale's and Bergen County Republican Organization Chairman Bob Yudin's opposition to get the GOP line before losing in the general election.
This year, the former freeholder's bid for an Assembly seat is also complicated by the presence of both Mastriano and Polce trying to solidfy their own support.
"We have good qualified candidates," said Hermansen. "Four out of five of us have elected experience, and that is extremely important. Any of us would be better than the Democrats."
He said he was disappointed by Schepisi's endorsement of Auth.
"Holly promised me if I endorsed her that the next time I ran she would endorse me," he said, referring to a conversation he said he had with Schepisi upon the 2011 retirement of Assemblywoman Charlotte Vandervalk. "She told me that's what she was going to do."
Schepisi opted for Auth over Hermansen and the others - and denied she ever agreed to support Hermansen for the Assembly.
“I had promised to support him in his bid for freeholder – and I did,” Schepisi said.
Ahead of two conventions, the first on Feb. 28 and the second on March 2, the candidates will appear tonight in Woodcliff Lake to deliver speeches on behalf of their candidacies.
Mastriano formally kicked off her campaign last night. "We are confident that Karen will win the party line," said Mastriano spokesman Tim White. "However, if that doesn't happen, we will consider running in the primary."
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