Five months after Morris County Democrats dealt with the fallout of their inadvertent support of a pro-life activist for county commissioner, party leaders will need to decide if they will support a pro-life Democrat for alderman in Dover.
Marcos Tapia, Sr. lost his bid for re-election in the 2021 Democratic primary by six votes after Gov. Phil Murphy declined to endorse him because of his pro-life position. The other three incumbents backed by Murphy won.
Tapia announced today that he would seek a return to the Board of Aldermen seat he held for two years by challenging two-term incumbent Carlos Valencia in the Ward 4 Democratic primary. He’s running on a Dover Forward slate with Karol Ruiz, a CWA member who will take on Ward 3 Councilman Edward Correa, the Dover Democratic municipal chair.
Now Morris County Democratic Chairman Chip Robinson will have to decide whether to give the organization line to Tapia and Ruiz – or just one of them.
The primary also puts Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair) in a potentially tough spot now that the congressional redistricting moved heavily-Democratic Dover from the 7th district to the 11th. Like Murphy, Sherrill would need to decide if she’s willing to support Tapia.
Last October, key Morris County Democratic leaders and activists withdrew their support for county commissioner candidate A.J. Oliver after learning that he was an “anti-choice activist.” Facing a recall bid, Oliver later resigned his post as Morristown Democratic Municipal Chairman.
Oliver’s candidacy put Morris Democrats, who had been riding a wave of optimism after Joe Biden became the first Democrat in 56 years to carry the county, into chaos.
Now the party must deal with another primary.
“Marcos and I plan to focus on the issues and trust the voters to decide,” Ruiz said. “Our community is still healing from the division of the last mayoral election, and we have no plan to re-open those wounds.”
Ruiz is a CWA member. Tapia is a member of 32B SEIU.
Local politics has been in turmoil for years.
While Dover is 68.3% Hispanic, the town had a white mayor, a white majority on the Board of Aldermen, and a white majority on the Democratic County Committee until 2018 when Correa led an insurgent slate and, with Robinson’s support, ousted aldermen and county committee members allied with Mayor James P. Dodd.
One year later, Dodd ran for re-election as an independent and was defeated by Democrat Carolyn Blackman, who became the town’s first Black mayor. Dodd allies lost the rest of his aldermen seats.
But the new Hispanic majority quickly splintered, with some of the 2018 and 2019 coalition aligning themselves with the former Dodd contingent.