A group of Republicans who helped put Ron DeFilippis over the top in his four-vote win for Morris County GOP chairman three weeks ago are now preparing to endorse Democrat Mike Sherrill for Congress in New Jersey’s 11th district. DeFilippis made his support of Assemblyman Jay Webber a cornerstone of his campaign, saying that the election of a Republican congressman from Morris County was his top priority.
Look for Webber to go into overdrive in a bid to stop the endorsements from happening.
If the Republicans wind up defecting to Sherrill, it will likely cause GOP leaders to question DeFilippis’ ability to unite the party after a divisive primary and party leadership battle. DeFilippis is holding a unity breakfast in two weeks, headlined by unifier-in-chief Chris Christie.
Rockaway Township Republicans have been split in recent years, and the faction of the party allied with councilmen Michael Puzio and Jack Quinn had supported DeFilippis, while the other side backed rival Rob Zwigard. Rockaway Township was the site of several contested county committee races and was where a court battle that has badly tarnished County Clerk Ann Grossi originated.
Democratic Municipal Chairman Douglas Romaine confirmed today that Puzio and Quinn requested a meeting with Sherrill, the former Navy helicopter pilot and federal prosecutor who is in a statistical dead-heat with Webber for the seat of retiring Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen.
There is also speculation that Puzio, Quinn and others might switch parties, especially as the DeFilippis-aligned faction looks to avoid a tough primary next year. A combination of Democrats and the GOP faction might be enough to swing a general election victory in typically Republican Rockaway Township.
Romaine, now 74, is the last Democrat to win a countywide election in Morris County. He did it 45 years ago when he won a race for freeholder – the year before Frelinghuysen was elected freeholder. Another veteran of local politics is John Wojtaszek, a former Democrat who is now the deputy county clerk under Grossi and one of the decisionmakers whose actions were ruled illegal by a Superior Court Judge in April. Wojtaszek was elected mayor in 1983 and was recalled in 1986 after overspending his budget by more than $1 million.