HACKENSACK, NJ -- Former Hackensack Mayor and Bergen County Republican Party Chairman Jack Zisa is receiving significant public criticism for his recent decision to publicly welcome former Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino back into the county party.
Saudino resigned his position as Sheriff last year after recordings of him making racist remarks about African Americans and Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, among others, were released to the public. As was first reported by the New Jersey Globe, Zisa introduced Saudino at a party function earlier this week and later told the website, “He’s been welcomed back to the Republicans."
The decision to align with Saudino drew swift rebukes from across the political spectrum, with former Bergen County Republican Chairman Bob Yudin saying he was "appalled" and State Senator Michael Doherty (R-Sussex) saying "it’s absurd that [Saudino] was given a platform to address the Bergen GOP. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot.”
Assemblyman Robert Auth (R-Bergen), Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi (R-Bergen), Assemblyman Christopher DePhillips (R-Bergen) and Assemblyman Kevin Rooney (R-Bergen), in conjunction with Republican Assembly candidates Michael Kazmir and Christopher DiPiazza, and Republican Freeholder candidates Corrado Belgiovine, Alyssa Dawson and Kathleen Cericola, issued a statement saying that Saudino "has no place as an active participant in our party."
"We are united in condemnation of his hateful speech and pledge to refuse financial support of any kind from Mr. Saudino. As legislators and candidates we will continue to move our party forward in a positive and inclusive manner. Let us be clear, unlike our Democratic counterparts who remained silent against their fellow Democrat last September when this first came to light, we have and will continue to denounce all hatred, racism, sexism, bigotry and homophobia regardless of party affiliation," they said.
They were joined by Democratic Assembly candidate Westwood Mayor John Birkner, who asked "what does this say about the extreme direction of the Bergen County Republican Party that they are enthusiastically embracing someone so widely condemned for expressing racist and homophobic views?"
Originally elected as a Republican, Saudino switched parties and joined the Bergen County Democrats as he ran for re-election in 2016.
State Senator Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen), who wanted Saudino forced from the Democratic party, criticized the GOP for welcoming him back.
"His racist, misogynistic, sexist comments, along with the former Sheriff himself, seem to have found a home with the Bergen Republicans," she said. "That says something about him and about them."