Growing up in New Milford, Richard Pezzullo got a taste for activism as a 9-year-old, when he campaigned to get Bergen County to ban leg-hold traps after his cat was caught in one.
At Cornell University, he started a campus rescue squad. And when the trustees wanted to close the military high school he had attended, he joined the effort to raise money and replace the board.
Convinced that many New Jersey Republicans were too liberal, he ran six times in the 1990s as the Conservative Party nominee for state and federal offices.
A computer consultant, Pezzullo says he has seen first-hand the damage government regulations are having on his clients.
And as a self-described “full-throated, unapologetic conservative,” he wants to pull his party to the right. He criticizes Republicans willing to compromise almost as harshly as he rails against U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, the Democrat he is hoping to unseat.
“It doesn’t make sense to send Republicans to Washington if you send the wrong Republicans,” he said.
Here is Pezzullo in his own words, from an interview with The Record and a meeting with its editorial board:
On use of military force: I would project force without introducing troops or doing damage. I would have two carrier groups parked within striking distance of Western Europe right now and that would project force to let our allies know we have the commitment and the ability to provide support if needed. Using force to blow things up to make a point is an inappropriate use of force. We have a military to wage war, not to just deliver destruction to people we happen to not like right now.
On same-sex marriage: Marriage is clearly defined within my church as between one man and one woman. And as a Catholic I would stand up to protect the interests of my church and their ability to establish their rules and their laws and their customs and not be subject to any federal pressure to change or modify their rules and their traditions. The definition of marriage is not up to the federal government to decide.
I think it’s a travesty of justice that [astronaut] Sally Ride’s partner … received no survivor’s benefits. That represents an inequality and an injustice that needs to be addressed by the Legislature. What we need in this country is more committedness, more responsibility, more justice, not less.
On workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation: I don’t support any federal overreach into areas where people can make subjective decisions. I don’t think we should be defining certain classes of people and giving them certain levels of protection. That’s poorly crafted legislation and will end up with unanticipated consequences. That’s the same reason [the Equal Rights Amendment] never passed. Any time you try and set up rules to protect one group of people from another or protect one group of people in a given situation, you end up doing more harm than good.
On campaign finance limits: I’m a fan of unlimited financial support and immediate disclosure. If you allow full disclosure, you get rid of the need to have the shelter groups [that do not disclose donors]. … Supporting people should be your right and the more regulations you put on that, the more you empower government to stifle people’s right to speak and to peacefully assemble. Sometimes that happens virtually with your checkbook, but it is still a form of peaceful assembly. If people want to support candidates, they should be allowed to do so.
On abortion: All abortion is a brutal assault on an innocent person. In that sense, I can’t think of a single exception that would justify it, [except] perhaps to save the life of the mother. [Regarding rape or incest exceptions] the circumstances of your creation should not be your death sentence.
On gun rights: I think the term “shall not be infringed” to be pretty clear and I would remove infringements from law-abiding citizens from exercising their rights. [On background checks] I think we have enough federal laws and regulations in that area. I think every time the federal government interferes … it sends improper signals down to the state level and it ripples out of control.
On reducing gun violence: I would follow the example of … Chicago, where it became more prudent and acceptable for people to arm and defend themselves, we saw a reduction in crimes and homicides. I would increase individuals’ ability to defend themselves and that, as we’ve seen demonstrated, will reduce violence.
On congressional leadership: We need to reinforce the conservative efforts in the Senate and Congress to make sure that [House Speaker] John Boehner is replaced by a conservative who will apply conservative principles to solve the nation’s problems. … What we need to do is really cut spending. Boehner’s been afraid to do that. We could fix this nation’s spending problems if we could actually cut the budget by one dollar. Think about that. If we could actually deliver one dollar in savings, we would be more successful than generations of legislators.
On federal regulations: We need to reduce the regulatory impact of Dodd-Frank and HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act] on banking, which affects all small businesses trying to get loans, and banks and their survivability and the over-regulation of the medical profession. Basically, bankers are being turned into factory workers, doctors are being turned into factory workers, teachers, through Common Core [standards], are being turned into factory workers. That trend needs to be reversed. What we really need in America are more manufacturing jobs, to be sure, but we shouldn’t be trying to change all those other industries.
Family: Married, three children
Education: Bachelor’s degree in business administration and computer science, Cornell University, 1980
Military: U.S. Army Reserve, 1981-2001
Professional career: Co-owner (with wife) of Netcentric, a computer consulting company
Political experience: Monmouth County Republican Committee, 2004-present. Unsuccessful Conservative candidate for state Senate, 1993; U.S. Senate, 1994, 1996; state Assembly, 1995; governor, 1997; House, 1998. Unsuccessful Republican candidate for state Senate, 2003.