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'People Over Politics,' Bergen Sheriff Saudino Says Of Party Switch

Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino
Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino Photo Credit: COURTESY: Bergen County Sheriff

HACKENSACK, N.J. -- Declaring that "people still come before politics," Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino on Friday formally confirmed a Daily Voice report the night before that he's switched parties to run for re-election this fall on the Democratic ticket.

“I am proud to have you as part of our team,” Democratic County Executive James Tedesco told Saudino during a news conference on the steps of the county courthouse in Hackensack.

When he reviewed some of his accomplishments in his first two terms -- the county's most successful gun buyback program, protocols for police body cameras and attacking the heroin epidemic -- Saudino said he "realized that each and every one of these was supported by the Democratic freeholder board."

“That is why I will run for re-election as a Democrat” in a presidential election year, the former Republican lawman said.

Saudino, a former Emerson police chief, had public battles with one-term Republican County Executive Kathleen Donovan that came to a head when he called Tedesco "the right man for the job" in her failed 2014 re-election bid. Since then, both men have had a strong working relationship.

Representatives of the Bergen County Conference of the Policemen’s Benevolent Association attended the news conference, along with Undersheriffs Brian Smith, Joe Hornyak, George Buono, members of sheriff's PBA Local 134 and several other law enforcement officers.

Also up front were prominent county Democrats, including state party Chairman John Curry of Ringwood, Freeholder Chairman Steve Tanelli of North Arlington, Freeholders Tracy Silna-Zur of Franklin Lakes, Joan Voss of Fort Lee and Tom Sullivan of Montvale, former Freeholder David Ganz of Fair Lawn, and County Clerk John Hogan of Northvale

The news also comes a little over a week after one of the presidential candidates, GOP Gov. Chris Christie, installed former Assistant U.S. Attorney Gurbir Grewal to replace outgoing Democrat Prosecutor John L. Molinelli. As an agent of the Attorney General's Office, the prosecutor is considered the county's top lawman.

Saudino runs the county jail, courthouse security and a variety of specialized squads and divisions that include patrol services, a bomb squad, a K-9 unit and the Bureau of Criminal Identification, which collects evidence in a majority of crimes countywide.

“Good government trumps politics," Saudino said Friday. "I won’t sacrifice my principles in law enforcement for partisan politics. It’s an honor to serve the people of Bergen County."

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