The Dunn Run


The first thing to understand about Aura Dunn’s possible entry into the CD-11 race is that some influential Republicans are not happy with the current field.

That may seem odd on the surface considering there are at least six other candidates, all of whom appeared before a Passaic County Republican screening committee last Saturday.  But to some party leaders – apparently above the Morris County level – quantity doesn’t necessarily mean quality.

So Dunn, an assemblywoman from Mendham and LD-25, is being urged to get into the race, which she is considering. Of course, her appearance before the Passaic committee two days ago suggests she may be more “in” than “out.”

Of those already in, the two main candidates would appear to be Larry Casha, a state committeeman from Morris and Tayfun Selen, a Morris County Commissioner. They are the only ones currently holding at least some type of public office. Others who screened in Passaic are Paul DeGroot, a retired Passaic County assistant prosecutor, Robert Kovic of Sussex County, which is now out of the district, Toby Anderson, an Iraq War veteran and businessman Larry Friscia.

All six are men.

Many Republicans dislike so-called identity politics, but it seems logical that the GOP would do well to run a woman against Democrat Mikie Sherrill. I know, they ran a woman – Rosemary Becchi – last time and lost by about 30,000 votes, but every election is different.

Dunn has an obvious connection to the district and also to the groundswell of activism that in 2018 turned around what had been a dependable Republican seat.

As an aide to then-Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, Dunn had a box seat for weekly protests outside the congressman’s Morristown office spearheaded by a group called NJ11th for Change. The original impetus for the protests, which became known as Fridays with Frelinghuysen, was the congressman’s refusal to hold town hall meetings with constituents.

After a while, they morphed into a more general condemnation of Frelinghuysen and Republican rule in the era of Donald Trump – sentiment that clearly propelled Sherrill’s eventual victory. So a Dunn run and victory in 2022 would be sweet revenge for the GOP.

But that’s more than nine months away.

All Republicans looking to run in CD-11 must take note of the changing terrain. The new congressional map takes a district that was fairly close and tilts it Democratic.

Let’s look at just four towns to make the point. For that, we go back to the last midterm election in 2018. That’s a better comparison than the 2020 presidential election when turnout was exceedingly high.

The four towns are Dover, Millburn, Maplewood and South Orange. All are Democratic strongholds that were outside CD-11 in 2018. Dover and Millburn were in CD-7; Maplewood and South Orange in CD-10.
In 2018, the Democratic margin of victory in those four towns combined was a bit more than 20,000.

Now, those towns are all in CD-11. That’s a lot of Democratic votes to bring into a district. And to help make that happen, CD-11 is losing five mostly-Republican towns in Sussex County.

There are other nuances involved in redistricting, but it seems prudent for any Republican looking to run in CD-11 to be mindful of the new math.

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