Webber World: The Morris County GOP Chairman’s Fight

It’s now been about 30 years since a, relatively speaking, epic political battle for Morris County Republican chair between incumbent Dick Kamin and Frank B. Priore, the then brash mayor of Parsippany.

Priore was far more colorful than Kamin. Apparently not totally satisfied with running the county’s largest town, Priore enjoyed playing cop and pulling over motorists for traffic violations.

It was this cockiness that certainly turned some people off and helped Kamin win.

That was probably the most interesting race for GOP chair in recent memory up until tonight.

After weeks, if not months, of acrimony, Ronald DeFilippis of Roxbury and Robert Zwigard of East Hanover will face off for the right to lead the Morris County Republican Committee. Each candidate has a full slate of officers running with him – starting with vice chair on down to sergeant-at-arms.

There is much distrust on both sides here.

Months ago, supporters of each candidate already were using expletives to describe their opponent. Both candidates realize Democrats have made some recent inroads into
mostly Republican Morris and say that the party must rejuvenate itself to remain dominant.

In a release sent out just today, Zwigard talks about the following:

“Modernizing and professionalizing our county and local campaigns to compete with the Democrats.

“Increasing transparency with county committee on all party matters

“Giving Morris County Republicans the tools and knowledge to win.

“Honoring Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment and focusing our resources on defeating Democrats in November.”

DeFilippis’ most recent missive sets forth his ideas:

“Work aggressively with municipalities to engage, energize and grow the party at the local level, including attending local parades, demonstrations and GOTV.

“Develop a marketing and messaging campaign with the help of the county committee to demonstrate that we are the party of the future – not the past.

“Aggressively embrace technology – from campaign software tools, voter information, digital marketing and messaging – and teach our local candidates how to use these tools to win.

“Respect everyone and promote opportunities for all Republican candidates.

“Out-raise Democrats in fundraising through extensive grassroots engagement and enrollment efforts as well as targeted high donor opportunities and events.”

A county committee convention is a strange animal. There are 792 GOP county committee seats, but that number is more theoretical than real, because not all seats are filled.

County committee members eligible to vote tonight were elected in last week’s primary.
There is also a matter of who shows up to vote. Not everyone does. A practical problem is that unlike a normal election where your polling place is a few blocks away, voting in a convention for some can require a trip of 20 miles or more.

So, the challenge for both camps this afternoon is to make sure their voters show up at the Parsippany Sheraton.

Those who make it will at least have a chance to get some refreshments. Both candidates have scheduled “meet and greet” receptions before the convention begins at 8 p.m.

Make no mistake, this is a game for insiders. Given the fact far too many people don’t know who their member of Congress is, few “real” people know anything at all about a county committee convention.

Still, what happens tonight is important.

The chair of the Morris Republican Party will influence who runs for office and how much money they will have to do so.

In question is how effectively will the losing and winning sides make peace.

One man who needs a united Republican party in Morris County is Jay Webber, the party’s newly-crowned congressional candidate.

One imagines he’ll be paying close attention tonight.

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