Listen to audio version of this article
RANDOLPH – As voting began at Saturday’s Republican convention to select a new Morris County freeholder, candidate Tayfun Selen was working the room, talking to voters.
“We got this, man,” he said. “We got this.”
Selen was right. He did end up winning the right to replace Heather Darling, who is now county surrogate, on the freeholder board.
But things didn’t go as smoothly as planned. Selen had endorsements from a string of prominent county Republicans, including Sheriff James Gannon and former chair John Sette, but he still needed two rounds of voting to win.
The day began with five candidates, but one, Christian Barranco dropped out before the vote. After the first ballot, Selen had 192 votes, well ahead of Bruce Meringolo with 97, Melissa Florance-Lynch with 90 and Alison Deeb with 25.
But wait a minute. He needed a majority – 50 percent plus one – to win. Selen’s 192 votes represented precisely 50 percent of the total votes cast, 384. There was no plus one. So he failed to get a majority by one vote.
That necessitated another round of voting between the top two – Selen and Meringolo.
High drama indeed.
And Meringolo told the now antsy-convention crowd that the other candidates, Florance-Lynch and Deeb were endorsing him.
So county committee voters went to the polls again. Second votes are always tricky, because human nature being what it is, some people leave after the first vote.
Meringolo, in fact, had that in mind when he joked with voters lining up a second time that, “Everyone gets to go home after this.”
Turns out enough voters stayed around to give Selen the win by a vote of 198 to 171.
Selen’s life story sounds quintessential American. Before the vote, he talked of coming to the United States from Turkey in 1996; his first job was pumping gas. He became a citizen in 2008 and is now vice president of procurement and real estate for Lincoln Educational Services.
A former mayor of Chatham Township, Selen’s freeholder aspirations were jolted a few days before the convention when a “Watchdog Report” from fellow resident Bailey Brower attacked Selen for not being a genuine Republican, contending that he has been critical of President Trump.
In response, Michael Kelly, the current mayor, wrote a letter defending Selen and accusing Brower of working to undermine Chatham Township Republicans. It may have helped.
Selen will join a freeholder board that Republicans have controlled forever. There has been only one Democratic freeholder in the county’s recorded history.
Still, there are often philosophical and personal differences among freeholders.. One major issue on tap are plans to build a new county courthouse in Morristown.
“I’m ready to work hard for you,” Selen told the convention.
As is customary, Saturday’s gathering of Morris Republicans attracted a number of GOP candidates looking for statewide office.
They included 2021 gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli and 2020 congressional candidates Thomas H. Kean Jr (District 7) and Rosemary Becchi (District 11).