Only the professionals truly seem to care about a party’s state committee. Talk about a game for insiders.
Yet, that isn’t stopping an intriguing primary battle in Morris County for the county’s two seats – a man and a woman – on the Republican state committee.
Long time committee members Larry Casha and Christina Ramirez are being challenged by a husband and wife team from Long Valley – Ali and Anna Aydin, who say they’ve been energized by Donald Trump.
“I was upset after the election,” says Anna Aydin. “We can complain, but we also have to do something.”
That something is seeking seats on the 42-member state committee, the steering arm, if you will, of the New Jersey Republican party. Each of the 21 counties has two seats on the committee.
The challengers know what they’re up against. Their first chore – quite obviously – is to explain to voters what the state committee does and why it’s important.
Beyond that, however, the Aydins seem to encapsulate a group of mostly young conservative-leaning people across the nation brought into politics by Trump. Like the former president, the Aydins have roots in Queens and have lived in Long Valley for about three years. Ali, 41, is an aeronautical mechanic; Anna, 43, is a business consultant primarily in the cosmetics field.
They acknowledged in an interview today in their backyard that they don’t know all that much about Casha and Ramirez.
Casha, in a phone conversation today, completed that picture by saying he doesn’t know all that much about his challengers.
Both Casha of Kinnelon and Ramirez of Morristown have long been involved in Morris County political life as activists and candidates for office. In perhaps a concession to the challenge, they have created a Facebook page to promote their reelection to the state committee.
“Vote the endorsed and vetted candidates that have kept Morris County red,” is the message.
It’s a message that can cut two ways.
Casha and Ramirez clearly want to stress their extensive background working for – and with – Morris Republicans.
But to some, being part of the political establishment is the problem.
Ali Aydin said he doesn’t think the state committees of either party like the idea of newcomers entering the inner sanctum. But as far as Republicans are concerned, the Aydins think the party has to become more aggressive.
“Our party needs a lot of repair,” Anna Aydin said.
Ali Aydin pointedly says he thinks some Republicans are too polite and that they need to challenge Democrats more strenuously in “blue” areas. Confining his thoughts to Morris County, he brought up Dover, a very Democratic bastion with a large Hispanic population. He said he thinks the GOP can make inroads with Hispanics, many of whom, he said, have conservative social and religious values.
It is true, of course, that Trump did better with Hispanics nationwide last year than he did in 2016.
The challengers’ advocacy of a stronger message coincides with their support for gubernatorial candidate Hirsh Singh over Jack Ciattarelli, who is backed by most of the GOP establishment.
Anna Aydin says she considers Singh a fighter and likes his conservative views.
And, “He’s the only (gubernatorial) candidate who voted for Trump twice.”
Of course, it’s a bit hard to actually know who Ciattarelli voted for in 2016 and 2020; secret ballots are like that.
But the overall point here is one Singh is making. And that is that Ciattarelli, who has not always been a Trump devotee, is too much of a RINO – a derisive term GOP conservatives like to throw at more moderate party members.
Trump’s performance in New Jersey has not been sparkling, but consistent. He got almost 42 percent of the vote both times he ran.
As far as the primary is concerned, however, that’s not something the Aydins need to worry about.
As they noted, Trump remains very popular with most Republicans.
So, you don’t have to scratch your head to figure out why the Aydins’ ballot slogan is “Make New Jersey Great Again.”