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Morris County Republican Chairman Ron DeFilippis

DeFilippis powerless to reign in GOP mayor who endorsed Democrats

County chairman on Puzio endorsement of Dem Sheriff candidate: ‘There’s not much we can do about it’

By Nikita Biryukov, September 30 2019 10:52 am

Morris County Republican Chairman Ron DeFilippis is concerned over the Rockaway Mayor Michael Puzio repeatedly backing Democrats.

“Of course we share your concern about Mayor Puzio’s Behavior,” DeFilippis said in an email to a member of the Morris County Republican Committee. “However, there is not much we can do about it. In Morris County, we do not have a party line, so we cannot prevent him from running as part of the organization”

Puzio, a Republican, endorsed Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair) over Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-Morris Plains)last year. Now he is supporting  William Schievella, a Democrat, against Morris County Sheriff James Gannon.

“If I endorsed a Democrat openly, I would be censured (it’s in the RT by-laws) by the RT Republican Committee,” Brian Wittig said in an email to DeFilippis. “But Puzio does it with impunity.”

Puzio is not a member of the Rockaway Township Republican Committee and is not subject to censures from the same.

DeFilippis said the county party did not financially aid Puzio after he backed the Democratic candidates, but added there was not much else the party could do.

“You can also groom a local candidate to challenge him,” DeFilippis said. “If there is something we can do, we will consider it. Right now, I cannot think of anything other than withholding funds.”

Wittig said DeFilippis hasn’t used the weight of his office to come down on Puzio’s repeated backing of Democratic candidates.

The Republican chairman said he put out only a single statement after Puzio backed Sherrill in last year’s race to replace Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen because Webber asked him not to out of a desire to not draw more attention to Puzio’s endorsement.

DeFilippis has not commented publicly on Puzio’s endorsement of Schievella.

“I understand about crossing party lines at times,” Wittig said. “But to brazenly back the opposing party frequently, publicly and with impunity just says something about the Republican party in Morris County and why Jay Webber lost so badly to Mikie Sherrill.”

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