Morris County Republicans will vote during the second week of January to decide whether to create an organization line for the first time, a move that will likely impact next year’s gubernatorial primary between Jack Ciattarelli and Doug Steinhardt in a race for votes in one of New Jersey’s most Republican counties.
Under a plan unveiled by GOP County Chair Laura Marie Ali, Republican county committee members would hold an open convention to determine which candidates would run on the line, bracketed together in the June primary election.
In an email to county committee members, Ali acknowledged that Morris is becoming more politically competitive. Joe Biden became the first Democratic presidential candidate since 1964 to carry Morris. U.S. Senator Cory Booker and Rep. Mikie Sherrill also won the county.
“We can no longer assume that the winners of our Republican primary elections in June will not face competitive races in the fall,” said Ali. “The Democrats have their eyes — and their resources — on Morris County, added to which is the COVID-19 pandemic causing more and more NYC Democrats to move to our County and the better quality-of-life offered by our neighborhood municipalities.”
There are still 21,012 more Republicans than Democrats in Morris County, but the registration edge has narrowed. Ten years ago, the GOP registration edge was 43,318.
“Faced with these realities, I believe that the time has come for us to respectfully modify the way in which we operate our endorsement practice,” Ali said. “Campaigns are run no differently than any other business enterprise and in order for our future campaigns to better allocate their limited financial resources, we can no longer afford to have nasty and expensive primaries which pit Republicans against other Republicans.”
Democrats have not won a countywide election in Morris since 1973, and Republicans occupy all seven freeholder seats and the three constitutional row offices. But Democrats have made gains at the local level in Morris, and the county is now represented by two Democrats in Congress.
“We need to both raise money and preserve it as best as we can, thus allowing Republican candidates from the top of the ticket on down to focus on the ultimate goal — prevailing in general elections, Ali said. “The Democrats should be our only opponents.”
The establishment of an organization line faces some opposition.
“The battle of ideas has been at the ballot box, not in smoke-filled back rooms,” said Erica Jedynak, a conservative activist from Morris County in an Op-Ed on Save Jersey. “While the party can stand to be more inclusive, Morris County has had a track record of being generally well-run with strong leaders. In counties where a line has been implemented, by both parties, the power of thousands of voters has been concentrated down to a few hundred, or even just one.”
MCRC Bylaws change