The story of tonight’s Republican CD-11 debate was about who wasn’t there.
Tayfun Selen, who would appear to be the frontrunner for the party’s nomination after securing the endorsement of the Morris County Republican Committee, was absent.
As was Paul DeGroot, who has the Passaic County endorsement in his pocket.
Toby Anderson, who just missed making the runoff for the coveted Morris endorsement, was there.
And he wasn’t happy that his “friends” didn’t come along.
“It’s unconscionable to think that any candidate for office would refuse to face voters in an open and public debate, and simply begs the question – what are you hiding,” Anderson said in a statement a few days ago. He specifically mentioned DeGroot and Selen.
The debate was a virtual affair sponsored by the Morristown Area League of Women Voters.
One issue here is the League itself, which some Republicans criticize for leaning left.
However, neither Selen nor DeGroot brought that up in explaining their absence.
Selen said he’s preparing to go to Florida where his daughter is about to graduate from the University of Miami. In a statement, he mentioned his support from both the Morris and Essex county Republican organizations and claimed he is the best Republican in the district to take on Mikie Sherrill and what he called the “woke, socialist Democrats that are ripping apart the American dream.”
DeGroot said he’s spending his time “meeting voters and taking my conservative message right to them.”
Both DeGroot and Selen mentioned that the candidates engaged in many debates and forums in the run-up to the Morris GOP’s March convention.
That’s true, but these were GOP-sponsored events, as opposed to a more non-partisan forum.
The candidates on hand were the aforementioned Anderson and two candidates who didn’t seek the county organizations’ endorsement – Alexander Halter of Denville and Ruth McAndrew of Mendham.
The debate ensued with the candidates on hand espousing hard right wing positions.
Anderson complained about “mute Mikie Sherrill” and people living under pandemic “martial law.”
Halter called himself an “ultra-MAGA” candidate. To that end, he railed against not only Democrats, but what he called enabling Republicans.
If there was a general theme, it was that we need more border control, more support for veterans and the notion that government involvement in anything is just about always wrong and unneeded, especially when it comes to all aspects of education.
On Roe v. Wade, Halter said he was unapologetically “pro-life.”
Anderson agreed, saying, “I’m pro-life unabashedly.”
McAndrew differed slightly. She said she was “pro-life,” but that, “I can’t tell a person what to do with their bodies.”
It was an enlightening evening, but one could not overlook a central premise – of the three candidates present, only Anderson (maybe) has any chance of winning the Republican nomination.