Insider NJ Election Day in Morris County Analysis

Insider NJ's Fred Snowflack looks at Morris County's various elections and candidates.

Republican John Pecoraro has no trouble understanding why a three-person primary fight to replace him as Morris County Surrogate has been at times so bitter.

The prize is a pretty good one, Pecoraro said this morning, relaxing in his Morristown office secure in the knowledge he no longer needs to worry about county politics.

“It’s the best job in Morris County,” Pecoraro said of the surrogate’s post he will leave at the end of the year. He’s been there since the 1990’s.

He said it all comes down to the duties of the job – helping people who have lost a loved one or who are dealing with a disabled relative.

“You are helping people in time of their greatest need,” Pecoraro said, emphasizing the satisfaction he gets from doing that.

All that high-mindedness – as genuine as it is – aside, the race to replace Pecoraro has been fairly low-brow.

And as Primary Day unfolded in what still is a Republican-dominated county, many GOP sources are giving the edge to Freeholder Heather Darling. This has to do not with philosophy, but hard work. As loyal Republicans saw two years ago when she ran for freeholder, Darling is a fierce campaigner, much more so than opponent Mike Carroll, who perhaps unwisely, is giving up his Assembly seat to run for surrogate.

The wild card is the third candidate, Isabella Alfano, whose countywide profile is not high, although she does come from the county’s most populous town, Parsippany.
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Aura Dunn’s primary day began at 5 a,m,, an hour before the polls opened. That’s when she fired off an email that “humbly” asked District 25 voters to back her bid for a state Assembly nomination.

Later, as she voted at a firehouse in Mendham, Dunn talked of knocking on about 1,700 doors. There’s nothing random about this; candidates visit those who have a history of voting just about every year.

That might suggest these are voters who know what’s going on.

Don’t count on that. Candidates say they often encounter even regular voters uninformed about who is running. That’s a pretty discouraging, but understandable, comment in an era when local newspapers have been so decimated by layoffs there is scant election coverage.

Nonetheless, Dunn said she found regular voters are well-versed on state issues, even if they need to learn more about the actual candidates.
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One municipal race that may be under the radar a bit is Rockaway Township, where Republicans will choose between Council President Tucker Kelley and Michael Puzio for the party’s mayoral nomination.

There are a lot subplots here.

Puzio was elected to the job last fall after the death of former Mayor Michael Dachisen. Both Republicans and Democrats supported him. Puzio also raised some eyebrows in political circles by endorsing Democrat Mikie Sherrill for Congress over Morris County Republican Jay Webber.
So, you have to ask if Puzio’s dalliance with Democrats is going to turn off any steadfast Republican primary voters.

Then there’s Kelley, who has spent years as a “gadfly,” filing suits against the town, challenging the status quo and generally making himself a pain in the butt to those in authority. These are not necessarily bad things, but the question is simple – will Kelley’s history hurt him or help him?

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