June 18, 2018

Bergen sheriff snubs former attorney John McCann to back Democrat for Congress

Michael Saudino, the Bergen County sheriff, has chosen to throw his support behind a fellow Democrat in the 5th Congressional District rather than break ranks and back his former legal counsel and right-hand man, Republican John McCann.

Saudino, a former Republican who switched parties before launching his reelection campaign in 2016, said Monday that Rep. Josh Gottheimer, a Democrat from Wyckoff, is a bipartisan voice who during his first 18 months representing the 5th Congressional District has been a strong backer of law enforcement and combating terrorism in Bergen County.

“No one fights harder than Josh to bring back the grants and resources we need for equipment and training and for towns, like Paramus, to hire more officers,” Saudino said. “And no one is tougher on terror than Josh; he’s fighting to make sure all of us in law enforcement have the tools we need to combat ISIS-inspired lone-wolf terrorists and prevent attacks before they occur.”

Although the party-line endorsement was no surprise, it still came off as snub to McCann, who for years served as Saudino’s legal counsel. McCann was an architect of one of Saudino’s signature accomplishments: the merger of Bergen County police with the Sheriff’s Office that led to layoffs, demotions and lawsuits but is supposed to save taxpayers millions.

Asked to explain his choice, Saudino said he remains close to McCann, but said Gottheimer has proved to be an effective congressional representative.

“John McCann is a friend,” Saudino said. “But anybody who knows Michael Saudino knows that I would support the best person. And Josh has proven that he can do the job.”

McCann, who beat Steve Lonegan, an ex-mayor of Bogota, in the June 5 primary, said Saudino was protecting his own political hide by endorsing Gottheimer. McCann pointed out that he was endorsed by eight other sheriffs in New Jersey during the primary.

“Unfortunately, he is doing what he has to do to survive, placing partisan politics above friendship,” McCann said, adding that he and members of the sheriff’s staff spent “thousands of hours” on the merger. “By endorsing a Democrat in this national election, Saudino wants to put the gavel back in the hands of Nancy Pelosi and the liberal Democrats.”

Gottheimer, of Wyckoff, narrowly beat ultra-conservative Scott Garrett in the 2016 election and has worked to position himself as a centrist during his initial term in office. He is co-chairman of the Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan gathering of 24 Democrats and 24 Republicans that works to find common political ground.

Gottheimer has also raised more than $4 million for his reelection in a district that historically has leaned Republican. McCann, by contrast, had trouble raising money and collected less than $100,000 in private donations during the primary.

“Sheriff, it is a true honor to have your support,” Gottheimer said in accepting the endorsement. “I know that you take great pride in putting protecting your community over partisanship.”

During his comments, Saudino referred to a $1.3 million grant that Paramus received through the federal COPS program to hire five police officers. He also credited Gottheimer for introducing legislation after last month’s deadly Paramus school bus crash that would require full harness safety belts.

“This is the type of work that will save lives,” Saudino said. Joining Saudino at the podium were Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco and Paramus Mayor Richard LaBarbiera.