Democrats have not won a countywide race in Morris County since 1973, when Doug Romaine defeated Republican Freeholder James Plante by just 596 votes in the first of two election cycles dominated by the Watergate scandal. But many Morris County Democrats think 2018 can be their breakthrough year, if the cycle emerges as the kind of wave election some – but not all – pundits are predicting.
Morris County Democrats announced their Freeholder slate last night: Mary Dougherty, a planning board member and the wife of Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty; Richard Corcoran, who mounted a strong challenge to Assemblyman Anthony Bucco in 2017; and Rupande Mehta, who lost a bid for Denville Ward 4 council last year by a 2-1 margin.
The 7-0 Republican majority on the Morris County Board of Freeholders is expected to meet tonight to propose their “fiscal package” – which is sometimes code for tax increase. The freeholders have raised taxes and spending in their last two budgets; Assemblywoman Betty Lou DeCroce (R-Parsippany) whacked two freeholders who challenged her in last year’s primary, Hank Lyon and John Cesaro, for voting yes. Even if the freeholders don’t seek a third tax increase, the party could still be criticized in the general by Democrats who have no ownership of county issues and can easily invoke “Betty Lou’s Precedent.”
Freeholder Deborah Smith, who voted for two tax hike budgets, is up for re-election this year. So is Cesaro. In typical Morris County fashion, where freeholders often get along worse than Assembly running mates, the word is the two will be running on separate slates. Freeholder Christine Myers took a Trump administration job at the Small Business Administration last year. She is allowed to finish her term, but barred from seeking re-election.