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Morris County Democratic Chairman Chip Robinson. (Photo by Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe).

Morris Democrats in disarray over county commissioner candidate

Leaders want to know how pro-life activist wound up on their ticket

By David Wildstein, October 28 2021 6:48 am

Morris County Democratic Chairman Chip Robinson is facing criticism from multiple municipal chairs and activists over the selection of a pro-life activist as their candidate county commissioner without being fully vetted.

Aaron “A.J.” Oliver has lost the support of multiple Democratic leaders who believe he was not candid about his beliefs on the issue of abortions and once a video surfaced of him speaking at a Democrats for Life of America event last year.

Now Democrats – the New Jersey Globe spoke with over a dozen Morris County Democratic leaders – want to know how the party wound up with Oliver on the ticket.

“We did not ask him about his positions on abortion during the screening process as he was running for county commissioner not state or federal office,” Robinson said. “The videos of him at the rally and statements by him were brought to our attention in recent weeks.”

But Robinson acknowledged conversations about abortion with Oliver, the Morristown Democratic Municipal Chairman and a longtime friend, prior to his candidacy for county commissioner.

“We had spoken about it in the past,” Robinson said.  “He had me convinced that his views were more akin to Joe Biden’s – that he was personally and morally against it in his role as a priest – but wouldn’t regulate it.”

Morris County Democratic Women’s Caucus chair Meghan Lynch said he group will not support a candidate who opposes a woman’s right to choose.

“For decades, women have been forced to fight tooth and nail for the same civil rights already afforded to men, very specifically body autonomy,” Lynch said. “We cannot support a candidate who is working to undo our progress. It’s disappointing that this was not discovered by MCDC in the vetting process.”

Instead, the caucus – and NJ 11th for Change, which pulled their endorsement of Oliver on Sunday – are urging votes for only two of the three candidates, TC McCourt and Dina Mikulka.

Democrats have not won a countywide office in Morris County since 1973, and while Morris is becoming more politically competitive, there’s no real expectation among Democrats that Oliver was going to win anyway.

Instead, what bothers party leaders is how Oliver made his way through the process at all.

“Following the election, we will take a serious look at our procedures for vetting candidates and the selection of our candidates going forward,” Robinson said.

Robin Gurin, the Morris County Democratic vice chair, said that “a whole new system is going to be implemented.”

“We will absolutely mend the fence,” said Gurin, who declined to say when she first learned where Oliver stood on what is a litmus test issue for Democrats. “Everyone’s doing their best as volunteers with limited time.

Beyond that, Gurin declined to discuss specifics.

“We don’t want a story,” she said.

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