Morris Dems Fight Their Way to Sunday’s Convention in LD25

Morris Dems

An anonymous letter trashing the Morris County Democratic Women’s Caucus, a release by Black Lives Matter Morristown “un-endorsing” one of three candidates and a crazy video featuring Donald Trump are all part of an internal Democratic fight for the right to challenge Republican Senator Anthony M. Bucco this fall.

And here’s something even crazier than all that- this is an “election” in which there will be fewer than 300 people actually voting. We kid you not.

Let’s back up a bit.

This is not normally a Legislative election year. But after the death of state Sen. Anthony R. Bucco last September and the move of the younger Bucco from the Assembly to the Senate, there are special elections this fall in the mostly Morris County 25th Legislative District for Senate and one Assembly seat. Our concern here is the Senate where three Democrats are seeking the party’s endorsement to challenge Bucco. That decision will be made primarily by the district’s county committee members and Democratic elected officials at a convention this Sunday.

The candidates are Cliff Dawkins, a lawyer from Rockaway, Jeff Grayzel, a Morris Township Committeeman, and Rupande Mehta of Denville who ran unsuccessfully for freeholder in 2018.

Dawkins is the most visible – literally. He actually has a campaign office – a rare thing for a convention race – in Parsippany. All the candidates have websites; nothing unusual about that.

Mehta describes herself as an “analytical specialist” for a Fortune 100 company in New Jersey.

Grayzel calls himself an “experienced and effective leader”  and notes he’s been endorsed by five former county chairs.

Dawkins says he’s running “because this moment demands a leader who will work with every resident to build a future we can all be proud of.”

None of those comments are remarkable. It’s what you expect.

But now we come to the interesting stuff.

The county’s Democratic Women’s Caucus has endorsed Mehta. Their endorsement, which also included Assembly candidate Darcy Draeger, says both women are prepared and professional.

Not all in the universe of Morris County Democrats agree.

A release by dissidents questions not specifically the Mehta endorsement, but the process, saying the group has no bylaws regarding endorsements. Moreover, it suggested that some members of the executive board have ties to the Mehta campaign and that the whole endorsement process was “un-democratic.”  The writers of this missive have not identified themselves, which is probably more amusing than anything else. After all, they aren’t criticizing the Taliban. Why the need for secrecy?

But there’s more.

The Black Live Matters group in Morristown circulated a rather lengthy release urging its supporters “not” to support Grayzel. It did not support any of the other candidates

The release refers to a number of things, including an allegation that Morris Township Police are more likely to use force against people of color than they are against whites. This comes from a 2016 study by NJ.com. The release does not specifically blame Grayzel for this, but faults him for “lack of action” and “lack of outreach” to the black community in and around the township.

Asked about this, Grayzel said simply that the allegations against him are false.

Oliver Starnes, a vice president at Black Lives Matter Morristown, said the point of the release was not to criticize police, but to suggest that Grayzel has not been as attentive as he should to the minority community.

As for the video, it popped up a day or so ago and criticizes both Mehta and Grayzel. It shows footage from a demonstration, if not a riot, of unspecified origin and then shows a film clip of Trump calling people “scum.”

Given the fact the video – as disjointed as it is – goes after both Mehta and Grayzel, is it the work of the Dawkins camp?  A spokesperson said absolutely not, adding that the video appears to have been “taken down.”

On a more traditional note, the Dawkins campaign proudly announced that their headquarters were visited the other day by Gordon MacInnes, who has some status here.

MacInnes was the last – and one of the few – Democrats to get elected to the state Legislature from the 25th District. He won his seat in 1993.

Of course, things were a bit calmer back then – no off-the-wall Internet videos at least.

MacInnes served one term, losing reelection in 1997 to the late Anthony R. Bucco, who held the seat until his death.

So, as we see so often, politics has a way of going round and round.

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