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Former Morris County Republican Chairman John Sette. (Photo: Morris County.)

Three former county chairs urge against organizational lines in Morris

Morris Republicans to vote on establishing party line Saturday

By Nikita Biryukov, January 14 2021 9:58 am

Three former Morris County Republican chairs urged members of the GOP County Committee there to oppose an upcoming vote on whether the party should adopt an organizational line.

Former GOP chairs John Sette, Lois Johnson and Marilyn Cioffi in a letter warned Morris Republicans that adopting a party line there would weaken the party and open its coffers up to abuses.

“Open primaries give us a chance to bring fresh faces into our party. Does anyone really believe that eager, talented candidates, especially younger people, would stand a chance in a party convention against a long-term sitting county Commissioner?” the three chairs said. “We say the answer is absolutely no, and that would be a shame.”

Republicans in Morris will meet on Saturday to decide whether they should adopt organizational lines that would allow the county committee to play a greater role in selecting candidates as the county becomes more competitive.

The move is backed by some prominent county Republicans, including State Sen. Joe Pennacchio (R-Montville) and Republican Chairwoman Laura Ali, who argue a line is needed to keep Republicans in control in Morris.

They want to curb Republican vs. Republican primary civil wars and devote their resources — financial and organizational — into general elections.

Once a solid red county that would provide Republican statewide candidates with pluralities of 50,000 votes or more, Morris  has become increasingly competitive in general elections.

Joe Biden, Cory Booker and Mikie Sherrill won Morris in 2020, and Democrats have made significant gains on the municipal level.   While Democrats have not won a countywide office since 1973, Republicans had a fright last year when their freeholder candidate, Tayfun Selen, trailed Democrat Cary Amaro for several days after the general election before the tide finally turned his way.

Another former Morris County GOP chairman, former Assemblyman C. Richard Kamin (R-Flanders), is supporting the creation of an organization line.

The former chairs don’t agree, and they warned county committee members that adopting a line could tempt some county officials into corruption.

“Look how many county and state officials have ended up in jail for pressuring vendors for donations. Why further enable the temptation with a line?” the former chairs said. “Morris County is and should remain above that way of doing business.”

They also said Morris should continue to hold open primaries as a matter of fairness to rank-and-file voters.

“The power to elect people to office is a basic right of citizens across our country,” the former chairs said. “Here at home, the power to choose who represents our party on the ballot is with the citizens, and that’s where the power should remain.”

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