July 10, 2018

State PBA endorses Gottheimer over McCann in NJ 5th District race

Rep. Josh Gottheimer picked up another key endorsement on Monday, as the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association threw its support behind the Democratic incumbent in the 5th Congressional District.

State PBA President Patrick Colligan appeared with Gottheimer, Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino and Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco in front of Paramus police headquarters on Monday morning to announce the endorsement. Colligan said that in his first two years in Congress, Gottheimer has established himself as a strong backer of law enforcement.

“To be honest with you, just about every politician wants the endorsement from the police union,” Colligan said. “They all ask, and quite frankly, not everybody gets that endorsement. We knew when it was ‘candidate’ Gottheimer that we had a winner, and, boy, in just a short amount of time, he’s really proven to be a fierce, loyal advocate for law enforcement, and fire, for all first responders.”

The state PBA has nearly 33,000 members, which makes it a formidable force in politics. More importantly, it’s the union that represents police officers in just about every one of the 79 municipalities in the 5th District, which covers portions of Bergen, Passaic, Sussex and Warren counties.

Monday’s announcement was not exactly a surprise, given that the state PBA endorsed Gottheimer when he ran against Republican Scott Garrett in 2016. Gottheimer thanked the state PBA and touted his law enforcement credentials, including helping Paramus win a $1.8 million grant to hire five cops and supporting the federal Thin Blue Line bill that toughens penalties for cop killers.

“I am honored to have your support today, just as I was honored to have your support two years ago,” Gottheimer said. “Few things make me prouder.”

The state PBA nod is also the second major endorsement that Gottheimer has received from law enforcement in his race against John McCann, a Republican attorney from Oakland and former legal counsel to Saudino.

A former Republican, Saudino switched parties in 2016 to run for reelection. Last month, he endorsed Gottheimer — a blow to McCann, a key player in the merger of the Sheriff’s Office with the Bergen County Police Department.

McCann is running behind the merger, claiming it will ultimately save taxpayers $40 million. He claims Gottheimer came out against the merger in a Facebook post, but the congressman denied ever taking a position on what is a county issue.

McCann says the state PBA endorsement is political payback for the merger. The police union didn’t like the merger because it cost jobs, he said.

“The PBA leadership is out of touch with its membership,” McCann said Monday.

Through a spokesman, Gottheimer said the state PBA endorsement was based on his record.

“The New Jersey PBA made it clear that Josh Gottheimer earned their support because of the work he has done in Congress helping fight crime and terror — a record that has earned Josh a perfect rating from the National Association of Police Organizations,” said Andrew Edelson, the spokesman. “It’s bizarre that John McCann keeps referencing a county issue that took place in 2015, before Josh Gottheimer was even a candidate for office.”

Gottheimer, of Wyckoff, has been using his power of incumbency in a district that historically leans Republican in what is expected to be a close race. He’s been holding an event in the district nearly every day of the week; McCann, by contrast, has kept a low profile since beating Steve Lonegan in the GOP primary on June 5.

Both candidates were out pressing the flesh on July 4. Of his low profile, McCann said he was “regrouping” after the primary.

“I was doing what I was supposed to be doing,” McCann said. “Uniting the party and organizing.”

Gottheimer, who has positioned himself as a moderate during his first term in Congress, has worked hard to gain the support of Republican leaders in the 5th District. He has won over Harry Shortway, the Vernon mayor, and Joe Kennedy, the Belvidere mayor, both Republicans whose influence stretches through the more conservative western side of the district.

Gottheimer also has $3.8 million in his campaign war chest. McCann, by comparison, has about $6,000, according to his own estimate.

Gottheimer narrowly beat Garrett in 2016 in a costly race. The two candidates spent a combined $9 million.