Selen v. DeGroot: The Rematch

Morris County Republican politics is never dull and this year brings us party fights for commissioner plus Assembly and Senate nominations in LD-26.

More about the Legislature later; today we look at the commission.

For starters, this is a rematch of last year’s front and center battle between Tayfun Selen and Paul DeGroot.

Recall that Selen won the county GOP endorsement for the CD-11 nod, but DeGroot won the primary, helped by a big win in Passaic County where he grew up (Clifton) and worked as an assistant prosecutor.



Now that he’s running for county commissioner, DeGroot has not forgotten about last year.

“I have already shown that Commissioner Selen can be beat and that he lacks commitment to core Republican values,” DeGroot said in a release.

Selen, for his part, formally kicked off his campaign a week or so ago, pledging to work harder than anyone else in the race.

But this is not a two-person race.

Anthony Somma, who labels himself “a conservative businessman” from Randolph also is in the race.

He remembers last year’s CD-11 race as well, but he has a different take.

Somma notes that DeGroot did indeed run for Congress last year, but that he lost “by a whopping 19 points” to Mikie Sherrill last fall.

Not that he thinks Selen is any better.

“Selen and DeGroot have a history of demonstrated weakness on the ballot and a lack of loyalty to their constituents,” he said in a release.

Somma’s tactics are understandable and somewhat common for a man making his first run for county office – portray himself as a fresh face with new ideas as opposed to more established pols.

Along those lines, Somma said he would term limit himself to a maximum of three, 3-year terms. Not only that, he says he will not “turn around and run for another office as his opponents tend to do.”

While Selen holds one job and tried running for another – Congress last year –  DeGroot has not. He is running for his second office; he has not held one yet.

The downside of Somma’s pledges on term limits and not seeking another office is that those commitments can become problematic if he wins.

As for winning, an obvious challenge for anyone running against an incumbent county commissioner is that there is nothing terribly wrong with Morris County. That makes it hard to find a campaign issue.

As a result, primaries often involve – as we are already seeing – broad attacks on someone’s dedication to conservative Republican principles.

Which is why in their initial statements, both DeGroot and Somma criticized Selen and the board for spending too much money. Rising crime and poor road conditions were also mentioned.

Crime, of course, tends to be cyclical and a lot about “lousy roads” depends on perception.

During his campaign kickoff, supporters described Selen as a good-natured fellow who seldom gets angry with people, political opponents presumably included.

This campaign may put that to the test.

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