The dark, insidious side of party-line politics has infected the Morris County Republican Party in ways not thought of a few short years ago. Insider GOP politicians are brandishing strongarm tactics to secure more power and influence over the party and blowing massive holes in party unity and effectiveness.
With the June 6 Primary Election barely concluded a new battle erupted over control of the Republican organization in Parsippany. State Sen. Joe Pennacchio (District 26) and his team are plotting their spiteful revenge against Parsippany Mayor Jamie Barberio. They are endorsing a Republican flunky of theirs for the Republican municipal chair position — instead of Barberio. The mayor’s unpardonable sins are 1. He ran off the MCRC line in 2021 and won election, and; 2. He endorsed the Pennacchio Team challengers in the June 6 Primary. It’s time to take him down, they say.
Pennacchio — along with Assemblyman Brian Bergen — are twisting the arms of the loyal county committee members and so they elect a more pliable municipal chair — Suzy Golderer, who formerly served as legislative aide.
Pennacchio is claiming he and Golderer will unite the fractured Parsippany County Committee. The senator says Golderer “will bring hard work and determination in putting together a fragmented party…”
Fractured? Fragmented? Just because the Parsippany GOP did not pledge fealty to the Pennacchio Team doesn’t mean the committee is fractured. Aren’t elected members of the party allowed to exercise their right to choose which Republicans they want to back? What is the purpose of having a county committee if the members are pressured into supporting whoever the local or county chair tells them to.
In the pre-party-line days, Parsippany Republican leaders –—such as Congressman Dean Gallo and Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce — would never let Jersey Joe and the Bergen Brigade disrespect our local GOP leaders and vie for control of a town that they don’t live in. Bergen has not spent one day representing Parsippany, but he is arrogantly proclaiming that local Republicans must “earn his respect.” That’s insulting.
The fight in Parsippany has nothing to do with improving the Republican Party in the town, the legislative district, or the county. This is about power and money for insiders. Parsippany is the largest town in Morris County and carries the most Republican County Committee votes – 78. Pennacchio may not be a very effective lawmaker, but he can count. He knows that putting a person he controls in charge of the Parsippany GOP will deliver the votes he needs when he needs them – such as in the next Republican county convention.
MCRC Chair Laura Ali can count too, which is why she has been twisting arms and filed a lawsuit against the Parsippany GOP Chair Dee DePierro. Ali wants to take out the county committee members DePierro appointed this year and replace them with people who will do her bidding. Ali needs as many of the 78 county committee votes she can get when it comes time for her to run for re-election next year as chair. She is vulnerable and she knows it.
It was Ali who introduced the party line to Morris County, promising it would unite the organization and help the MCRC raise money. The party has never been more divided nor the MCRC coffers so bare. She wants to humble Barberio for defeating her mayoral candidate in 2021 and endorsing the off-the-line slate in LD 26 this year.
Ali’s party line gambit has given us: Angry politicians meddling where they do not belong, vengeance politics, bitterness and an insular party leadership that is at war with its members.
There are153,000 registered Republicans in Morris County (only 11,000 more than registered Democrats). Most never hear from the MCRC or have any idea how Republican candidates are chosen. They are not invited to participate in a Primary Election because it would be risky to the insiders’ objectives to have people vote who they cannot control.
The incestuous, self-serving nature of the MCRC insiders is detrimental to the growth of the party and voter interest in its activities – as is evident by the embarrassingly small voter turnout in the recent Primary Election – just 12 percent.
A political organization that should be recruiting more people has turned into a closed-door club that operates for the benefit of the few who are loyal to leaders who assure them influence and jobs.
Morris County’s Republican registrations are dropping and so is Republican power. In the 2022 gubernatorial election, Morris trailed nearly every other red county in the state in the percentage of vote it gave to GOP candidate Jack Ciattarelli. Sussex, Warren, Hunterdon, Monmouth, Ocean, Salem, Atlantic, Cumberland and Cape May counties all gave a bigger percentage of their vote to Ciattarelli than Morris did.
Yet, Pennacchio, Ali, and their allies live in the myth that Morris is a key Republican stronghold. Don’t look now, but the MCRC fortress is beginning to crumble under the weight of its self-dealing politicians engaged in a civil war.