GOP Strong-Arm Tactics
The Bergen Record has finally exposed a phony GOP Organization in Passaic County. Their tactic is to gain control of the GOP County Committee by infiltrating the primary with party-switching Democrats as challengers to the real and official Republican Party organization members.
The Bergen Record ran an article last Thursday outlining how dissident GOP candidates – who aren’t really Republicans at all - are waging primary election challenges to seize at least some control of the Passaic County Republican organization just weeks after party leaders publicly announced they had united.
“More than 150 challengers are on Tuesday's primary ballot in Clifton, Wayne, Paterson, Prospect Park, and West Milford, seeking to unseat regular party committee members. That represents 41 percent of all the candidates in those towns.
The committee consists of 546 members elected by voters neighborhood-by-neighborhood on primary day Its job is to set GOP policy and nominates candidates to local, county, state and federal elected office.
The Bergen Record reports that “Party leaders worry that the rival candidates for committee seats could undo a fragile truce between warring Republican Party camps forged only two months ago.” A truce? “Challengers include party-switching Democrats and adversaries of the GOP leadership. In certain towns many of the new candidates seem to coalesce around a Republican splinter group headed by former party head Peter Murphy, a fierce rival of GOP Chairman Scott Rumana.”
“Murphy's group, GOP Strong, agreed to unite with Rumana's regular Republicans in March under the condition that Rumana step down as chairman and make way for former Ringwood Mayor Scott Heck in June. For the first time in recent years, the party had a unified ticket for freeholder and congressional races.”
Well, gollee, that’s some deal. Why on earth the regular GOP committee should have agreed to any unification with committee members whose signatures on their party affiliation cards, designating them newly-minted Republicans, are barely dry defies any sort of logic or common sense.
Then, on April 11, a slew of challengers for party committee seats surfaced on the primary registry.
“I don't think anyone saw this coming,” said Thom Ammirato, a consultant to the county GOP. “Suddenly, the deal was off the table.”
Rumana still plans to step down. Uh – why?! He called the committee challengers “disgruntled, hostile public employees and Democrats” who he said are bent on undermining "Gov. Christie’s and the Republican Party agenda.” And apparently Rumana just plans to step out of their way.
According to Heck, the dissident challengers, “should stand down” and that he wanted “to move past feuds.” He also wants to move past legitimate elections, evidently.
The Bergen Record reports that, “In Prospect Park, regular Republicans in all four committee districts face primary challenges from candidates who were Democrats until last month when, all at once, they filed with the county to switch party affiliations to Republican a week before the April 11 registration deadline, according to election records.
“Muinder Matari, one of the challengers running under the banner Prospect Park Republicans,had been a registered Democrat since 1998. On April 2, Matari, Anilda Santiago, Carmen R. Cruz, and Nelson Perez III — who had been a Democrat since 2004 — registered as Republicans to run for GOP committee seats.
“Carlos Alejo, who notarized the four challengers' petitions, is running this year for a committee seat in Paterson under the slogan Republicans for a Better Passaic County — the same banner Murphy used to run candidates in the June 2009 primary.
“Ellen DeLosh, a longtime regular Republican committee member, thinks most of the dissidents who make up 41 percent of the candidates in Clifton are organized by GOP Strong. “There was supposed to be nobody running against anybody in the primary,” she said referring to the unity agreement. “The Democrats are laughing at us.”
“Even in Wayne, Rumana's stronghold as a former mayor, one in four committee candidates is a primary challenger. One of them, challenger Rosa A. Filomeno, once a Democrat, crossed over to become Republican on April 2, and Edward Casper swapped affiliation in March.
“We're treating this like a partisan election,” said Carner Washburn, a regular Republican committee candidate and the township party treasurer.
“Joseph Bubba Jr., a candidate under Wayne Republican Party for the People, said he formed the faction against regular Republicans with “friends of mine” in order "to give the public a choice."
“Bubba is the son of former state Sen. Joseph Bubba, who in the 1980s helped lead a coup against GOP chairman Rocco Motta that ushered Murphy's father, Anthony "Red" Murphy, to the helm. The younger Bubba denied that Peter Murphy is involved in the current splintering in Wayne, saying he is running the challenge himself.
“The years-long power struggle between Rumana and Murphy, who stepped down as county GOP chairman after his 2001 federal conviction for mail fraud, has led to previous challenges to the party establishment.
“GOP Strong strong-armed its way into county politics in 2009 promoting a slate of candidates to challenge Rumana's regular party line. The organization pulled off an upset with Kristin Corrado's primary win, and she went on to be elected county clerk. But the slate faltered with defeats of three GOP Strong freeholder candidates. That year, at the height of discord in the party, 202 candidates challenged regular Republicans for committee seats.
“This year, about half the candidates seeking committee seats in West Milford aim to dislodge GOP Strong, which is seen as the established party.
“I just want to break up some of GOP Strong and get people who are interested in working for the township and not for favors for friends,” said Marilyn Lichtenberg, a former councilwoman who started the opposition group dubbed Golden Rule Republicans.
Someone should inform Bubba that Passaic County already has a choice – Republican or Democrat. Voters have a right to know if Democrats are masquerading as Republicans in the primary on Tuesday. Voting for a Republican who’s actually a Democrat is no choice at all. It’s fraud.