If you are lucky enough to be a Morris County Republican, you are lucky enough, because this is a “fun and exciting time” for the party.
That was the very upbeat ending to the latest message from County Chair Laura Ali about the continuing saga of creating a “county line.”
It’s not entirely apparent what all the fun is about, although as someone who has followed Morris County politics for 30 years or so, I am certainly enjoying myself. But I’m not the target audience.
Neither is Joe Biden, but Ali had him in mind as well.
“Candidate Joe Biden won Morris County this past November,” Ali wrote. “Faced with these realities, I believe that the time has come for us to respectfully modify the way in which we operate our endorsement practice.”
That would be creating a “county line” and allowing the county committee to endorse candidates in primaries. She put it this way:
“We can no longer afford to have nasty and expensive primaries which pit Republicans against other Republicans. We need to both raise money and preserve it as best as we can.”
This is the oft-repeated justification for doing away with “open primaries,” a long time tradition for Morris Republicans.
Opposition, though, has been intense and litigation stopped a planned county committee vote on the change last Saturday. Plaintiffs John Sette, a former county chair himself, and David Scapicchio argued that the meeting notification didn’t give at least two weeks notice as party bylaws require. Sette and Scapicchio are both former freeholders who probably would not have gotten “the line” when they first ran.
A hearing Tuesday in state Superior Court, Morristown, was inconclusive, but the county organization seems to have solved the problem by scheduling a vote for Feb. 6, which satisfies the two week notice requirement.
The meeting date may be settled, but not the debate.
Ali reiterated that county committee members have the insight and knowledge to select the best Republican candidates in a more politically competitive environment, which is demonstrated by Biden’s victory.
A group calling itself Concerned Morris Republicans has been formed to oppose the county line proposal. A few days ago, it distributed a lengthy letter from Bill Eames, a one-time GOP candidate for the state Legislature.
Among other things, Eames says a county line would essentially disenfranchise thousands of primary voters and that those pushing it are acting like “bullies.” Eames also makes a point of saying that controlling who wins primaries through a county a line is great news for lawyers. bond counsels and others seeking to make money from their friends in government.
As you see, the fun may be just beginning.