LIVINGSTON – Adam Kraemer has no trouble remembering his won-loss record as a candidate.
“I’m 0 and 11,” he says without regret as we chatted recently at the local mall.
Kraemer is a Republican in Essex County, so his losing streak is really not all that surprising.
But what is surprising – and even a bit refreshing – is Kraemer’s perseverance.
After losing races over the years for school board, county clerk and freeholder, Kraemer, 55, is on the ballot again – this time he’s challenging no less a political power than Joe DiVincenzo Jr. for county executive.
To understand the task confronting Kraemer, who says he has Libertarian leanings, one needs only to look at the voter registration rolls in Essex where Dems outnumber Republicans by about 295,000 to 58,000.
Kraemer’s campaign – such as it is – (he admits to not planning to spend a lot of money) rests on a premise familiar to many candidates who challenge the status quo. Here it is:
One party government is bad for voters, because it leads to cronyism, inefficiency and bloated budgets. In the case of Essex, Kraemer says, “There’s this coziness with the vendors, this coziness with the unions.” He says he wants a government that runs differently – a “meritocracy.”
The political reality in New Jersey is that few counties are truly competitive. That can mean spirited primaries, but generally speaking, lackluster general elections.
Still, it always looks bad for political parties to leave countywide races unfilled, so we normally have Democrats running in very red Sussex County and Republicans in very blue Essex.
Kraemer, a credit manager from West Orange, seems to accept his underdog status. He acknowledges that the Essex Republican organization is stretched very thin and is unable to give him much financial help. So, for him, it is a campaign on a “shoestring budget.”
That doesn’t mean Kraemer is without ideas.
In a state where extreme home rule and high property taxes are certainly related, Kraemer says the county should do more to encourage shared services to cut costs. He’s comfortable wherever that leads.
“What we thought of as government entities for generations may need to disappear,” he said.
Specifically, Kraemer wants to explore a single 911 system for the entire county and also merging municipal utility authorities, which normally oversee trash disposal and water needs.
He also thinks the county may realize savings by selling some of its public golf courses and returning the land to the property tax rolls.
In short, Kraemer said he’s running “for a vision of government that is different.”
The GOP candidate is no newcomer to Essex. His family has been in the county since the 1800s. His father was once president of the Essex County bar. Now living in Sarasota, Fla., his father is also a Democrat.
And Kraemer said dad gave him some advice.
“What the heck are you doing?” was what his father said to him, adding that the man people like to call “Joey D” will have no trouble winning re-election.
To which, son Adam turned the question around. He says he asked his father:
“What are you doing a thousand miles away avoiding your Essex County tax bill?”
The point was clear:
Lower taxes are worth fighting for.