MORRISTOWN – Chip Robinson, the Morris Democratic chair, is aware voters don’t know the names of the party’s three county commission candidates.
But he’s not worried.
He says most have no idea who the three Republican incumbents are either.
“We start on equal footing,” Robinson said at a Tuesday evening party fundraiser at the Morristown Club, a historic location that dates back to the 1880’s and the Gilded Age. Some things don’t change. The record tells us there were no Democrats in Morris County government in that
But Robinson is thinking about 2021.
“It’s pretty obvious, we’re going to be the next county to go blue,” he said with a good bit of presumption.
The reference was to Bergen and Somerset counties, long-time Republican bastions where Democrats now run county government.
We now call them “commissioners” as opposed to “freeholders.” Whatever the name, county government – stuck between the more visible municipal and state governments – tends to be obscure.
That’s Robinson’s point about most voters not knowing his candidates – or the Republicans.
For the record, the GOP incumbents seeking reelection are John Krickus, Stephen Shaw and Deborah Smith.
The Democrats are T.C. McCourt, A.J. Oliver and Dina Mikulka.
This is likely to be a party election, meaning voters go with the party they like more than the individuals.
So Democrats need Phil Murphy to do well in Morris to have any chance of scoring an upset. In winning statewide in 2017, Murphy lost the county by about 12,000 votes to Kim Guadagno.
Since then, however, Dems have cut the GOP’s registration advantage to about 19,000; it was 36,000 four years ago.
In short speeches, the candidates faulted what was then the freeholder board for opposing some state pandemic regulations meant to save lives. Expect this to be a theme.
They also agreed that Morris is a great place to live, but said it could be even better with a more politically-balanced board.
The guest of honor was Leroy Jones, the state Democratic chair. Just last week, his Republican counterpart, Bob Hugin, attended a party fundraiser in Parsippany. So, I guess Morris is important.
Jones was thinking about Parsippany too, calling it the “bedrock” of the county. And he pledged to work hard to help Parsippany Mayor Michael Soriano, who was in attendance, win reelection.
Like Robinson, Jones also talked optimistically about continued Democratic progress in Morris, where the party now holds two House seats.
Calling his home county of Essex, the “bedrock” of the state Democratic committee, Jones promised to bring that same spirit and energy to Morris.
And when things settle down after election day, Jones said he expects politicians around the state to “Wake up and look at what we’ve done in Morris County.”