Morris County Republicans will return, possibly next week, for a runoff election to award the organization line for Congress in the 7th and 11th districts; party officials chose shortly after midnight to end a convention that had begun about six hours earlier.
Former Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr. and 28-year-old businessman John Henry Isemann will face off for the Morris GOP endorsement to take on Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Ringoes) in the 7th.
In the 11th, where six Republicans are vying for the chance to run against Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair), Morris County Commissioner Tayfun Selen and former Kinnelon Council President Larry Casha will battle for the nomination.
Kean led Isemann on the first ballot 48-36, with 23 votes for Assemblyman Erik Peterson (R-Franklin) and 20 for Phil Rizzo, the former pastor, real estate developer and gubernatorial candidate.
Selen finished first with 169 votes, but his 34.8% fell far short of the 50% he needed for a first ballot win. Casha, the Republican state committeeman from Morris County, secured a second-ballot berth by just five votes, 118 to 113, against Toby Anderson, a U.S. Army veteran and late entrant into the race. Former Assistant Passaic County Prosecutor Paul DeGroot, who had been viewed as a possible contender for the runoff, received 65 votes in his fourth place finish. Two other candidates trailed: attorney Larry Friscia (14) and former Ridgefield Park Councilman Robert Kovic (6).
Problems with voting machines – and the subsequent departure of county committee members who didn’t stay past the first ballot – led to issues with tonight’s voting.
“It’s a shame the process took so long. The machines weren’t built for this kind of capacity,” said Harrison Neely, Kean’s campaign consultant. “Hopefully extending the runoff process gives more people an opportunity to vote.”
An attorney representing Rizzo, John Coyle, complained that there were ballot irregularities.
“I can’t tell you who’s responsible or what the actual cause of this is, but the bottom line is for a party that talks about election integrity – that is one of the fundamentals of the Republican Party from a local, state and national level – what’s going on right now is an absolute embarrassment,” Coyle said.
Coyle said that in the 7th district, 93 people signed but 105 votes were cast. He said out of 10 absentee ballots, just two were counted.
The race for Morris County Commissioner resulted in an upset defeat for four-term incumbent Tom Mastrangelo. He finished fourth in the race for three seats, behind nine-term incumbent Doug Cabana, former Freeholder Christine Myers, and Mendham Township Committeewoman Sarah Neibart.
This story was updated on March 7 with corrected totals in the NJ-7 race.