There was a time when it appeared as if the only two Democrats in Morris Township were Jeff Grayzel and Ron Goldberg.
That’s an exaggeration to be sure, but Grayzel and Goldberg seemed like the only Dems in what has been a solidly Republican town for generations to run for the township committee, sometimes with success.
But without a “bench” the Democrats never were able to break the GOP’s hold on the township that surrounds Morristown.
Goldberg is now living in Florida, but Grayzel is still around.
Not only is he running again, his fortunes may be on the rise.
Democrats (other than Grayzel and Goldberg) won two committee seats last year by about 300 votes each. A win this year by either Grayzel or his runningmate Mark Gyorfy will give Democrats a 3-2 majority on the governing body. If both win, the party will control the committee 4-1.
This is heady stuff and explains why all were upbeat at a Sunday night campaign kickoff for Grayzel and Gyorfy at a private home in the township.
Chris Gargano, who hosted the event, said of Grayzel, “He’s a bulldog.”
He added, “You want someone like Jeff Grayzel campaigning in Morris Township.”
Republicans know what they’re up against. The Democrats’ success last year, changing demographics and the perceived unpopularity of Donald Trump almost has Republicans playing defense.
But they have what they hope will be an effective strategy.
And that is, Morris Township is a fine place to live with little crime, good services and many attractive neighborhoods.
So after Republicans have successfully overseen municipal government for years, why should voters switch parties?
Grayzel acknowledged some of that, but also had a theory of his own – the past is not that important to voters.
“People are looking to the future,” he insisted, arguing that especially younger voters will feel more comfortable with Democrats minding the store in the years ahead.
Grayzel used a personal story to bolster his point.
Democrats had a four-person primary for two committee nominations. Grayzel and Gyorfy actually ran on two different slates. While Grayzel survived the primary (just barely), he said many voters were not all that impressed with the fact he had previously served six years on the committee. They are not, he said, looking to the past.
Gyorfy agreed the township generally is governed well, but said there are still problems. He said some neighborhood parks have been neglected and that the municipality has to move into contemporary times and communicate better with residents via social media.
Lack of transparency is a common political gripe by just about all parties out of power and this race is no exception.
“You go to the meetings and you feel as if the decisions are still made in the backroom,” Grayzel said.
Crossing town lines to boost Grayzel and Gyorfy was Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty.
Dougherty said communication between the Republican township and Democratic Morristown often leaves something to be desired. The mayor said he has “a lot of friends” in Morris Township and he plans to do what he can to encourage them to vote Democratic.
It was raining as the 75 or so Democrats arrived for the kickoff, but it soon stopped, allowing Grayzel and Gyorfy to give their speeches outside in the backyard.
Democrats have to hope that proves to be a good omen.