Laura Ali is not dismayed at all.
On the surface, last week’s primary was a double defeat for the party Ali leads, Morris County Republicans.
Two of the candidates the GOP committee endorsed, Tayfun Selen in CD-11 and Sarah Neibart for county commissioner, lost key races.
The significance is that county endorsements are a new thing; they just began last year. Before that, Morris GOP primaries were “open,” meaning that party leaders made no endorsement.
Establishing a “county line” was a big intra-party battle, so a lot of attention is being paid to how it’s working. And when Selen and Neibart were beaten, some Republicans may be wondering if the “line”is worth it.
“Absolutely not,” she said when asked if she thought the county line suffered a defeat on June 7.
Ali noted that endorsed county Commission candidates Doug Cabana and Christine Myers won easily, drawing about 23,000 and 21,000 votes respectively.
Neibart, who was the third candidate endorsed, lost to Tom Mastrangelo by about 800 votes.
Ali said the problem wasn’t the weakness of the line, but Mastrangelo’s unrelenting attack on Neibart.
That unrelenting attack most infamously zeroed in on Neibart’s appearance at a LGBT event last year in Mendham Township, the ramifications of which are unlikely to end soon. Mastrangelo’s campaign seems to have ended any relationship at all between him and the county committee. There also is a looming court battle launched by Mastrangelo over a Neibart campaign ad.
As for Selen, he did win Morris County, but by only a thousand votes or so. That wasn’t enough to overcome winning candidate Paul DeGroot’s strong performance in Passaic and Essex counties.
Ali said the ballot layout in Morris was one of the problems.
The endorsed candidates were in the first column and some of the other candidates – like Mastrangelo – were right next to them in the second column. That challenges the conventional belief that candidatesrunning “off-line” are in Siberia.
Ali just won reelection as county chair this week; she was unopposed.
She plans a “unity event” on Monday in hopes of putting the divisive primary in the rearview mirror.
She is also looking ahead and the “line” is here to stay.
“It’s going to kick butt next year,” Ali predicted.