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PARSIPPANY – Republicans in Morris County’s most populous town have been battling a tough undertow of late. In 2017, Democrats won the mayoralty plus two council seats by a little less than 1,000 votes. They did better than that last year when the township gave Mikie Sherrill nearly a 4,000-vote win over Republican Jay Webber in the 11th District congressional race.
This year, Dems need to win only one of three available council seats to gain control of the council. Following last year’s Democratic takeover of Morris Township, this would be an additional bitter pill for county Republicans.
Lou Valori knows that, and he plans to work hard to keep it from happening, Valori, the chair of the township GOP committee, has just sent party faithful what he terms, “A Call to Arms in Parsippany.”
The headline neatly sums up the message. In seeking to rally his troops, Valori ticks off what he says are the many misdeeds of Mayor Michael Soriano. They include rising taxes, cronyism and the most politically inflammatory of them all, the goal of declaring the township a “sanctuary city,” Valori puts it this way.
“Residents are terrified as (the) Soriano administration actively works to have our township designated a sanctuary city. Soriano and his cohorts are waiting on the sidelines to declare this township a sanctuary city the very minute they gain enough Democrat council votes. We must stop them at all cost.”
Clearly, this is an emotional issue, and like many emotional issues, facts can be obscured.
A few months ago, the council, which Republicans control 3-2, said Parsippany never would become a sanctuary city. Democrats and the mayor called the move political pandering.
This issue looms as a big one this fall, but it does go back a ways.
Soon after becoming mayor in January, 2018, Soriano was asked at a town hall meeting about Parsippany becoming a sanctuary city. The questioner seemed favorable to the idea.
The mayor gave a fairly coy response, He said “sanctuary city” was a pejorative and that he disliked the term. But then he said township police should concentrate on enforcing state and local laws, contending they are too busy to enforce federal immigration law. A cynic would observe that the mayor was describing a sanctuary city without calling it as such.
Maybe. That’s because the definition of a sanctuary city is up to interpretation. Some on the left describe a locale where police do not routinely enforce immigration law. In practice, this means that a police officer would not check immigration status if a driver is pulled over for speeding. (Things are different for indictable offense). Defenders of this approach say to do otherwise would hurt the bonds police must develop with an immigrant community.
Yet, there are those on the right who suggest that a sanctuary city goes further than that. To them, it means a city that would welcome, and by extension, house, an influx of immigrants bused in from elsewhere. This can cause obvious problems for just about any town.
Nothing like that appears to be on tap for Parsippany, but you can see how the politics works. Fear of the unknown, or rather, fear of “outsiders,” can go a long way in a political campaign.
For the record, the Republican council candidates are incumbents Mike dePierro, Loretta Gragnani and Paul Carifi Jr. They ran as a team and won last week’s primary, defeating James Carifi, the brother of Paul. Hoping to sooth any hard feelings, township Republicans have scheduled a “unity dinner” for Wednesday night at a local Houlihan’s,
The Democratic candidates are Cori Herbig, Robert Kaminski and Judith Hernandez.
Valori’s evolving strategy is not complicated – grab the middle. He wants to portray Democrats as too far to the left and he obviously thinks the sanctuary city issue will help do that.
One of the Republican candidates, dePierro, has been on the council for more than three decades. Some Democrats think that’s a detriment.
To which, Valori says, dePierro has “a lot of knowledge, a lot of relationships with the residents of the town.”
In a sleepy election year – just look at last week’s abysmal turnout – the Parsippany race clearly is one to watch in Morris County.
- Cori Herbig
- James Carifi
- Jay Webber
- Judith Hernandez
- Loretta Gragnani
- Lou Valori
- Michael DePierro
- Michael Soriano
- Mikie Sherrill
- Morris County
- Morris County Democrats
- Morris County GOP
- Parsippany Democrats
- Parsippany GOP
- Paul Carifi
- Robert Kaminski
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