Dover is one of the few Democratic strongholds in Morris County, but the local Democratic organization may face a fight over county committee seats in the June primary election.
The potential challenge to Democratic Municipal Chairman James Visioli may be a precursor to a move to oust longtime Mayor James Dodd when he seeks re-election in 2019. Visioli is an alderman and a Dodd ally.
Sources say that Dodd has upset party leaders by his lack of support for Democratic candidates at a time when the party is seeking to make Morris County politically competitive. Other sources point out local controversies: Dodd and Visioli took massive salary increases for their part time position in 2017: Dodd went from $31,000 to $49,500 – a 60% increase – and Visioli went up 55%, from $12,000 to $18,500.
Democrats are concerned that a potentially close race for Congress against Rep. Leonard Lance could be impacted by Dodd’s failure to maximize Dover’s impact in local elections.
To take control of the local party, Morris County Democrats will need to win thirteen of the 24 county committee seats in the June primary. Sources say that a group looking to wrestle control from Dodd and Visioli may have the support of the Morris County Democratic Committee, who would toss the incumbents off an organization line headed by U.S. Senator Bob Menendez.
Dover (pop. 18,157) is 48% Hispanic (with a large Colombian community) and 6% Black, but the county committee in Dover has a white majority. Dodd has been mayor since Javier Mar, a Republican, left office in early 2006.
In 2013, Dodd, Visioli and four other alderman endorsed Republican Gov. Chris Christie for re-election. Two years later, Dodd faced a primary challenge from former Police Chief Butch Valentine and won by 71 votes, 550 to 479.