Judge blocks Morris GOP convention on party line

A Morris County Superior Court Judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking Republicans there from holding a Saturday convention where they planned a vote to adopt an organizational line after two former GOP freeholder filed a suit early Friday morning.

Judge Maritza Berdote Byrne approved a proposed order to enjoin the Morris County Republican Committee from holding a convention until Jan. 19, when the parties will appear before the judge for a digital hearing.

The order explicitly blocks the planned Jan. 16 convention.

“Unfortunately, those of us who want positive change had no voice in court today to counter the lies and misinformation set forth in this fraudulent and frivolous claim by those opposed to the creation of a Republican Party line in Morris County.” Morris County Republican Chairwoman Laura Ali said. “The judge was misled and we were not offered an opportunity to appear before her. It’s amazing to me the depths to which some people will go to in order to muddy the waters when they know don’t have the votes to get their way and when they know they do not represent the opinion of the majority.”

Shortly after midnight Friday, former GOP Freeholders David Scapicchio and John Sette, who chaired the county Republican organization for 17 years, filed a suit seeking to block the convention, claiming it wasn’t properly noticed and violated the committee’s bylaws.

The order is the latest incident in a growing intra-party feud in Morris, where some Republican leaderswant to adopt an organizational line to recruit stronger candidates as Democrats become more competitive there.

“Creation of a party line will allow our valued county committee members to play a significant role in determining the candidates that will represent our party – bring more democracy to our party than we have now,” Ali said. “For selfish reasons, the opponents of the party line system want to continue to marginalize the county committee — and in the process — disenfranchise them and devalue their work.”

Opponents of an organizational line charge the system would centralize powers with party leaders and prevent new blood — young blood especially — from entering the political field, further claiming it would weaken the party and open its coffers up to abuses.

Their suit charged the convention was never properly noticed. While the Morris County Republican Committee sent out an email publicizing the event, that message provided no exact date, saying only that it would take place in the second week of January.

Democrats haven’t made gains in Morris on a county level, though President-elect Joe Biden carried it in November.

“The Democratic Party has gotten stronger in Morris County and the Republicans are losing ground because of obstructionists like this who spend their time trying to derail positive forward momentum, instead of spending time getting candidates elected,” Ali said. “If objectors such as David Scapicchio and John Sette and their group worked half this hard during the election, Rosemary Becchi and Tom Kean would be in Washington DC as members of the United States Congress.”

Note: The law replacing freeholders with county commissioners was not retroactive.  Accordingly, the New Jersey Globe will refer to anyone who previously held the post of freeholder prior to the effective date of the law as former freeholders since they never held the post of county commissioner.

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