Though they don’t share much else, the Republican and Democratic Morris County Organizations do share a bathroom.
The rival organizations are both headquartered in a building just off of Route 10 in Morris Plains, their offices on opposite ends of a small lobby that is scarcely 20 ft. wide.
There was little activity in either office there Tuesday afternoon, a little more than four hours before Jay Webber and Mikie Sherrill are set to joust at a candidates’ forum a stone’s throw from the offices and about seven before they meet for a debate in Sussex County.
No one answered the door at the Republican office. The Democratic office was open, occupied only by Morris County Democratic Committee Political Director Ore Obiwumi and one other staffer.
For decades, Morris was the #1 Republican county in New Jersey, producing huge pluralities for their statewide candidates. Ronald Reagan carried Morris in 1980 by 56,295 votes, and Tom Kean won it by 45,522 in his 1981 campaign for governor.
But GOP margins in Morris have increasingly diminished. Donald Trump’s 2016 margin was just 10,822, and Kim Guadagno beat Phil Murphy by only 11,696.
This year, Morris County is ground zero in two of the state’s most hotly contested congressional races. Democrat Sherrill is looking to grab the open 11th district House seat of Republican Rodney Frelinghuysen against Webber, a five-term GOP assemblyman from Morris Plains. In western Morris County, 7th district Republican Rep. Leonard Lance faces a challenge by Democrat Tom Malinowski, a former Obama state department official. Independent polls in both races are within the margin of error.
Democrats are also making a serious play to unseat County Clerk Ann Grossi for a post they haven’t held since before the Civil War, and for freeholder seats they haven’t won in 45 years.