Tradition is over – at least for Morris County Republicans.
The county committee today strongly voted in favor of adopting a “county line,” allowing the party to endorse candidates in primaries. The vote, according to an email message by the committee at around 5 p.m. was 305 in favor and 143 opposed.
This was a big win for party chair Laura Ali, who championed the idea in the face of heavy and sustained criticism from some, including John Sette, a former chair himself.
The arguments were simple.
Supporters said the party had to change to ensure it runs “the best” candidates against Democrats in a more competitive environment.
Opponents claimed a “line” would favor incumbents and hurt relatively unknown candidates. And they pointed out that GOP parties in such nearby counties as Bergen and Somerset have seen their fortunes decline despite having a “line.”
The bylaw change will empower the county committee to endorse candidates and thereby award them a coveted spot on the ballot. Supporters say this still preserves “democracy,” because candidates will be selected by the committee, not the chair or a small screening panel.
A cynic may suggest that the vote today was not surprising. After all, county committee members were voting to give themselves more influence. Who wouldn’t want that?
Up until now, primary candidates raised their own money and ran without support from the county organization. Going forward, there are many questions in a county that often has seen nasty, albeit entertaining, Republican primaries.
Will incumbents automatically end up getting the party endorsement?
Will so-called up and comers be shut out?
And will a candidate with the means to do so wage a strong primary battle against the party’s choice?
And will this change truly help Republicans in the fall?
That remains to be seen; this afternoon was a time for the winners to rejoice.
One of those delighted was state Sen. Joe Pennacchio, who noted that creating a line was backed by more than a 2-1 margin.