The New-Look Democratic Party in Morris Township

For a number of years, it may have seemed as if the only two Democrats in Morris Township were Jeff Grayzel and Ron Goldberg. Going back more than a decade, Grayzel and Goldberg sought township committee seats more than once; sometimes they even won.

But as was quickly seen, Democrats didn’t have much of a bench. Success for Democrats in general proved elusive.

Things changed last fall when two Democrats other than Grayzel and Goldberg were elected to the township committee. They were Cathy Wilson and John Arvanites who each won by about 300 votes, a pretty significant margin for Democrats in Morris Township and an obvious sign that 2017 was a bad year for the GOP.

This year, Democrats are apparently so enthused there are four candidates seeking two party nominations in the June primary. 

Those running are the aforementioned Grayzel, Tara Olivo-Moore, Daniel Falkner and Mark Gyorfy. But here’s the twist, the Morris County Democratic organization is not supporting Grayzel, who for many years was one of the few visible township Democrats.

The county Democratic Committee is backing Falkner and Gyorfy, both of whom appear on the committee’s website with glowing write-ups.

Falkner is described as a U.S. Naval Academy graduate who spent almost 10 years  “on active duty amassing 1,800 flight hours while supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom and the Global War on Terrorism.” 

Gyorfy, a former staffer with Rep. Albio Sires, D-12th District, is credited with advising the congressman “on homeland security, veterans affairs and financial services.”

Falkner and Gyorfy will run under the Morris County Democratic Committee banner. Grayzel and Moore will appear under the more homemade-sounding, “Democrats for Morris Township” slogan. 

Party leaders may not like primaries because they generally mean more work. But they’re great for party voters who have more of a choice. And it seems indisputable that heightened interest among Democrats in the township is good for the party.

It also has to be a bit worrisome for Republicans, who now control the township committee by a 3-2 margin. But if they lose one seat this fall, they lose control.

The GOP candidates, who are running unopposed in the primary, are incumbent Bruce Sisler and Joseph Calvanelli Jr., who is seeking to replace Matheu Nunn, who is not running for reelection.

Some observers may recall that about 10 years ago when Democrats once before had a chance to take control of the township’s municipal government, no less a personage than Rep. Rodney P. Frelinghuysen urged an all-out effort to prevent that from happening. Frelinghuysen lives in Harding Township, but the arboretum that bears his family name is in Morris Township. Back then, the congressman got his wish.

Frelinghuysen is now a few months away from retirement. Still, it will be interesting to see if he issues another passionate plea to keep Democrats away from the levers of power in Morris Township. 

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