Stepped-up Morris GOP Fundraising Points to Competitive Countywide General Election


Summer is usually a slow time for political fundraising, but not this year.

The three Republicans running for three Morris County freeholder seats have scheduled a $500 per person fundraiser for Aug. 14 at the Park Savoy restaurant in Florham Park. Elected officials, GOP club members and county committee members can go for $250 each.

Dubbed the “Keep Morris Strong Team,”  the candidates are incumbent Deborah Smith, former freeholder John Krickus and newcomer Stephen Shaw.

“We need to keep Morris County as strong as ever,” the candidates say in their invitation. “We need to hold the line on property taxes, retain the AAA bond rating we have worked so hard to maintain,and preserve our county’s open space for all generations to come.”

None of this is earth shattering stuff.

Just about all candidates want to hold the line on property taxes.

A Triple A bond rating is very important, but the county has had that coveted rating for generations. It’s hard to see it going away no matter who is running the show in Morristown.

Preserving open space is always a sure winner, but there’s no new ground here. Morris County long has had the most active and extensive county park system in the state.

Still, Republicans in Morris County are operating under the premise that the general election, which long has been seen as a mere formality, will be competitive this year.

That was a point former governor Chris Christie made last week when he spoke at the party’s “unity breakfast.”

So it clearly makes sense for Republicans to stress what long has been positive about Morris County government.

GOP leaders know that Democrats are more active – or even angry – this year,. which normally is a recipe for a higher than average turnout for a mid-term election.

But winning a race for freeholder is still a tall order, given the fact it’s hard to campaign for an office many average people know little about. There is a push by state Sen. Joseph Pennacchio, R-Dist. 26, a onetime freeholder himself, to change the name of county officials from the archaic “freeholder” to the more contemporary-sounding “county commissioner.”  No matter what happens with that idea, it’s not going to affect this year’s election.

Some observers have pointed to a rising Democratic vote in eastern Morris County. That is precisely why Democratic congressional candidate Mikie Sherrill is seen as having a good chance of winning that seat.
The western reaches of the county are a bit different. Large margins of victory in such places as Roxbury and Washington Township last fall saved the three District 25 GOP state legislators from a shocking defeat.

That is what Democratic freeholder candidates Mary Dougherty, Richard Corcoran and Rupande Mehta are up against. Dougherty is the wife of Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty. Corcoran has run for the state Assembly. Mehta is a newcomer to county politics.

The Dems have labeled themselves as “Team Morris.”

Those with long memories will remember that onetime Republican Freeholder Director Ed Tamm came up with the “Team Morris” moniker about 25 years ago in an attempt to bring about board unity and teamwork.

If nothing else, that ancient anecdote proves little in politics is really new.

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