That Nettlesome CD-11 Demarcation Called the County Party Line

PARSIPPANY – When the ongoing Republican scrum in CD-11 soon reaches its inevitable turning point, Larry Casha knows what the next step should be.

“Not beating the hell out of each other. …. Beating the hell out of Mikie Sherrill.”

That blunt assessment, presented by Casha at a Republican candidates’ night here on Thursday, makes the point. This is not about the Morris convention next week or the June primary. It’s about November and “reclaiming” what once was a reliable GOP seat.

All well and good, but does everyone agree?

Casha is one of six men seeking the Republican nod to take on Sherrill this fall in a district that actually has become more Democratic. Among other things, it has gained terrain in Essex County and shed GOP ground in Sussex County.

Others in the race in alphabetical order are Toby Anderson, Paul DeGroot, Larry Friscia, Robert Kovic and Tayfun Selen. They have spent the last few weeks travelling Morris seeking support. All this is in advance of a March 4 convention in which the Republican county committee will endorse one of the six. This is still sort of fresh ground for the county party, which made no primary endorsement and had no “county line” until last year.

One of the reasons for the new set-up is to avoid nasty – and costly – primaries, which had been common in Morris. That only works if those who don’t get the endorsement “fall in line” and support the party’s choice.

Which brings us to a question that was posed by Deborah Smith, a county commissioner. She asked the candidates if they would do precisely that – support the convention choice?

The first four responses were negative, sort of, at least.

“It depends,” said Anderson. This presumably meant it depends who the winner is.

“Of course it depends,” said Friscia. He raised the possibility of opposition research quickly unearthing negative information about the convention winner. In other words, why support a tainted candidate?

Kovic was dismissive, saying, “I haven’t even thought about it.”

DeGroot said the question may seem simple, but it’s not. He also mentioned that he has gotten the endorsement of the Passaic County Republican organization. Fair point, but redistricting has reduced the Passaic part of CD-11 to only Little Falls, Totowa, Woodland Park and part of Wayne. The Essex County endorsement is still to come.

Then the answers changed.

“I will support the winner of the line,” Selen said. He said there is no reason for Republicans to kill each other in primaries. The real challenge is beating the Democrats.

Casha then made his aforementioned comments and added some history. He recalled that he announced a run for Congress two years ago, but backed out in favor of Rosemary Becchi, who was perceived to have a better chance of winning.

The lesson here was straightforward – it’s about the Republican party and not personal glory.

Casha ended by saying he would pledge to back the convention winner if everyone else does the same.

Judging from the mood this night, that seems doubtful.

Sherrill by the way held an event in Roseland on Thursday morning about post office improvements.  Asked about the GOP contestants, she, not surprisingly, said she was not paying close attention.

She added, a bit tongue in cheek, that she’s pretty sure she’s going to have an opponent.

But will we see if that opponent emerges as a consensus choice or from a hard-fought primary. Democrats have to be rooting for the latter.

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