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PARSIPPANY – Political unity is easy to talk about, but not always easy to bring about.
Morris County Republicans tried to do just that Saturday morning with a post-primary “unity breakfast” at the Knoll Country Club.
It was a good turnout with a few hundred people attending, including a slew of state legislators. Senators Joseph Pennacchio and Anthony R. Bucco, who represent the bulk of the county, were there. But so were Tom Kean Jr. and Kristin Corrado, whose districts cover small slivers of the county.
Radio and TV personality Bill Spadea was to be the featured speaker, but he pulled out because of a back ailment. Kean took his place, but in truth, there really wasn’t a keynote speaker.
Instead, a series of office holders and candidates on the fall ticket took turns urging brotherhood, sisterhood and togetherness.
It was noted that the GOP lost much “real estate” last year when Democrats won congressional seats in Districts 7 and 11. There were vows to win those seats back.
Kean, in fact, is among those seeking the Republican nod to challenge Democrat Tom Malinowski in the 7th. As of yet, Republicans have no visible candidate to run against Mikie Sherrill in the 11th.
But Congress is the 2020 battleground.
This year’s main task is holding onto Republican Assembly seats.
Anthony M. Bucco, the senator’s son and a District 25 incumbent, said he knows Democrats are targeting his district and that he expects to be outspent.
“We are going to fight awfully hard, awfully hard,” Bucco said. “We can outwork them.”
Freeholder Doug Cabana, who survived a rather nasty primary, said the Democrats’ presence in the county is increasing. He referred to “radical leftists” showing up at freeholder meetings to record the action and to sometimes verbally attack the board. Radical leftists at freeholder meetings? It’s a little hard to wrap your arms around that one, but anything is possible.
Ron DeFilippis, the party chair, urged the crowd to put the primary in the past. That still can be a challenge.
Assemblyman Bucco expressed gratitude that his primary was contested, but not nearly as acrimonious as those for freeholder and surrogate.
Heather Darling, who won the surrogate primary, thanked one of her competitors, Michael Patrick Carroll, for his service to the state as a veteran assemblyman, She didn’t mention opponent Isabella Alfano, who had made a number of personal attacks against Darling during the campaign.
Freeholder Tom Mastrangelo, who was the incumbent most persistently criticized by the three-person opposition slate, didn’t attend. His primary opponents were there, but didn’t speak.
Just about a year ago, Chris Christie headlined the 2018 unity breakfast. The former governor talked about the spats, arguments and even lawsuits that marked his turbulent time in Morris County politics more than 20 years ago. His point was that in those days, people tended eventually to get together.
Christie’s speech was a good one, but the outcome was not what he sought – hence the lost “real estate.”
It will take a few months to see how far this year’s show of unity takes Morris Republicans.