MORRIS TOWNSHIP – We’ve been told many times “all politics is local,” but sometimes it isn’t.
For years Republicans ran this suburban locale, which literally surrounds Morristown. Things began changing a decade or so ago when one and then two Democrats were elected to the township committee, but they still were in the minority.
No longer. Democrats gained control of the five-member committee a few years ago and today, only one Republican, Peter Mancuso, a venerable local figure, remains.
Joe Calvanelli and Sandra Garcia ran last year for the committee and lost by more than a thousand votes.
That was then – a year when Joe Biden thrashed Donald Trump in the township by about 3,700 votes.
Republicans think things will be very different this year, So Calvanelli and Garcia are running again. If they win, Republicans will regain control of municipal government by a margin of 3-2.
The Democrats are incumbent Mark Gyorfy and Tara Olivo-Moore. Incumbent Jeff Grayzel is giving up his seat to run for the state Senate in LD-25.
In an interview at a GOP fundraiser Monday night, Calvanelli talked as much about what’s happening outside of the township than what’s happening inside of it.
“Some of the stuff going on in Trenton is crazy,” he said.
He mentioned the state borrowing money it apparently doesn’t need. He said complete Democratic control of state government has produced what?
“What are we, dead last in business?”
But how does that relate to Morris Township?
“I don’t want that mindset here,” Calvanelli said.
It’s an interesting strategy – run a campaign from the top down.
Still, as the candidates said in remarks to the crowd, it’s an uphill battle. Surely, they had recent voter trends in mind.
There was to be a debate among the candidates last week, but the Republicans missed it for health reasons.
A moderator read a statement from Garcia in which she worried about increased traffic and said there should be more “push back” by the township against large-scale development.
Development is always an issue.
Gyorfy said at the debate that the township has been very transparent in that regard. He also said the current committee has made significant strides on a variety of environmental issues, including preserving open space and electric car charging stations.
Morris Township is not a place with glaring problems or needs. So this race probably comes down to partisan politics and how the gubernatorial candidates do in the township. For the record, Phil Murphy won here by about 600 votes in 2017.
Morris County has been trending Democratic of late – at least for major offices. Both Biden and Cory Booker carried Morris last year. Go back 20 years and the notion of Morris County backing Democrats for president and senator would have been unfathomable.
Then again, Republicans are optimistic for a number of reasons. They like Jack Ciattarelli’s campaign and Biden’s numbers of late have not been good.
A few miles from the township event, Republican commission candidates gathered for a Monday night fundraiser of their own in Rockaway Township.
Commissioner John Krickus. who seeks reelection this fall, was particularly upbeat about this being a Republican year.
He said he’s been getting a great response and a good feeling when going door-to-door.