Morris County Republicans lost money on their winter fundraiser at Trump National Golf Club and have a paltry $13,956 in their warchest, according to a report filed with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.
The money-losing event and the low cash-on-hand heading into a potentially competitive general election is expected to be an issue in the June election for Morris County Republican Chairman. One of the candidates, Ronald DeFilippis, is the Finance Chairman for the county GOP. He faces Rob Zwigard in a race that has already turned nasty.
The county GOP organization raised $58,335 at an event that cost them more than $64,000. The spent $24,487 at Trump National and paid Fox News personality Greg Gutfeld $30,000 to speak. Republicans repaid a $10,000 loan from State Sen. from State Sen. Joseph Pennacchio (R-Montville), but still owe $10,000 to DeFilippis, who loaned the money to help make a down payment on Gutfeld’s appearance.
High cost fundraisers, like a party at Yankee Stadium last year where they spend nearly $5,700 on two ex-Yankee players to make brief appearances, have left Morris without the cash to defend what looks to be a serious challenge from Democrats at the county level this fall. Last year, Morris Republicans reported raising just $76,218 – a relatively small amount for a county organization that hasn’t lost a freeholder race in 45 years. According to ELEC reports, much of that was spent on fundraising costs and overhead and not on Republican campaigns.
State Sen. Anthony Bucco (R-Boonton) nearly lost his seat last year, winning just 52% against Democrat Lisa Bhimani. In 2018, two Morris County congressional seats are in danger of flipping Democratic: the 11th, where Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen is retiring, and the 7th, where Rep. Leonard Lance faces a tough re-election campaign.
Three freeholder seats are up this fall, as well as what is becoming an interesting race for county clerk. Democrats haven’t elected a county clerk since before the Civil War, but a judge’s ruling last week that Republican incumbent Ann Grossi distributed an illegal memorandum showing her failure to understand state election law has made Democrat Shala Gagliardi a real candidate for the seat.
At the February fundraiser, Republicans teased potential donors with the idea that President Trump would attend as a surprise guest – even asking for social security numbers in advance, something that would suggest a presidential appearance. Trump was at Mar-a-Lago and there was little possibility that he would be in New Jersey for President’s Day weekend.