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Morris County Republican Chairwoman Laura Marie Ali. (Photo: Laura Marie Ali).

Morris GOP schedules Feb. 6 convention on adopting party line

Judge ordered earlier vote scrapped after former freeholders sued, claiming it wasn’t properly noticed

By Nikita Biryukov, January 20 2021 3:41 pm

Morris County Republicans will meet at 10 a.m. on Feb. 6 for a convention that will decide whether the county does away with open primaries and adopts a party line.

The hearing was originally set for Jan. 16, but two former Morris GOP Freeholders, David Scapicchio and John Sette, who chaired the county Republican organization for 17 years, sued to block it, claiming the meeting wasn’t noticed in accordance with the Republican organization’s bylaws.

Morris County Superior Court Judge Maritza Berdote Byrne agreed and issued a temporary restraining order blocking the original convention.

The move toward a party line is backed by Morris County Republican Chairwoman Laura Ali, State Sen. Joe Pennacchio (R-Montville) and others concerned about growing Democratic strength in the once solidly red county.

“Today is Inauguration Day and President Joe Biden has taken the oath of office. Candidate Joe Biden won Morris County this past November,” Ali told Morris Republicans in an email Wednesday. “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.”

Sette and Scapicchio, among others, charge the move toward a line is a bid to centralize power. They worry adopting a line could thin out the Morris GOP’s candidate base.

Supporters, conversely, argue the line is needed to ensure the strongest candidates clear their primaries.

After she issued her restraint, Berdote Byrne scheduled a hearing on the matter for this past Monday, which was later delayed until Friday.

Correction: A previous version of this article said Pennacchio opposed the adoption of a Republican line in Morris. That’s incorrect. The New Jersey Globe regrets the error.

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