The Ocean County Democratic Mini-convention is on for this Saturday, March 19th at the Clarion Hotel on Route 37 West in Toms River.
At the convention, elected county committee members representing voting districts from each municipality, in addition to party insider “superdelegates” will converge on Toms River to vote on the candidates that will receive the endorsement of the county Democratic organization which can often be seen as an advantage in a contested primary.
County Democratic Leadership Under Fire For Questionable Bylaws – Again!
Not unlike their national counterpart, Ocean County’s Democratic organization is not without controversies surrounding parliamentary trickery at conventions, and this year’s is no exception.
County Democratic Vice Chairwoman, Marta Harrison promulgated the convention’s new bylaws this week, and some have raised questions about their content.
This wouldn’t be the first time the legality of the county organization’s bylaws are being called into question. In 2011, a group called “Democrats for Change” filed a lawsuit in Superior Court against the committee, resulting from actions taken by Chairman Wyatt Earp and Ms. Harrison. The group took issue with a recent vote to extend the terms of county committee members, among other accusations.
Here are some of the provisions of the bylaws for 2016’s convention that have generated controversy (grab a copy here):
“3(e) The Ocean County Democratic Committee chair may appoint, with the advice of the Executive Board, up to 12 additional at-large delegates who must be Democrats in good standing.”
You read that correctly. The party chair gets to unilaterally appoint 12 additional delegates that are eligible to vote on endorsements. Who needs elections?
“4. Individuals who serve in more than one capacity shall vote in each and every of these capacities for each ballot position; provided, however, Regular Delegates may only vote for those candidates for whom they are eligible to vote for in the primary and general election.”
This convention won’t be “one person, one vote” – some Democratic delegates get more votes than others.
Furthermore, “at large” delegate will be able to vote on all congressional and legislative district endorsements, even if they don’t live in that legislative or congressional district.
“In the case of legislative and congressional candidates, ballots will be cast by regular delegates within the boundaries of the district, and by all at large delegates.“
At large delegates, for the purpose of the convention, will also include:
Executive Board Members of the Ocean County Democratic Committee
Federal, State, and County Elected Officials who represent all or part of Ocean County
Members of the Screening and Recruitment Commitee
Democratic State Committee members
This convention chicanery is not unlike the “super delegate” controversy that the DNC has found itself in on a national scale.
On the bright side, candidates are at least allowed to have a representative present when the ballots are counted.
Here are some of the races to watch for Saturday:
SECOND DISTRICT: Can anybody beat Frank LoBiondo?
Two Democratic challengers think they have what it takes to unseat LoBo.
But whoever gets the nomination is going to have an uphill battle. The district just isn’t competitive. Still, two Democratic contenders have entered the race for the nomination. While some on the GOP side might call him a RINO, LoBo’s toned down rhetoric and political acumen has seen him become firmly glued to CD2’s seat in Congress, having quickly dispatched previous Democratic challengers, including Bill Hughes Jr.
THIRD DISTRICT: Christie protester Jim Keady jumps into the race, Cooke out.
The hottest race to watch on the Democratic side will without question be in New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District, which covers a large portion of Ocean and Burlington counties.
In CD3, Frederick LaVergne formally opened his Ocean County regional campaign headquarters, in Lacey Township’s BACORP building. The LaVergne campaign is touting the fact that the building features green energy as major component of its design, with the building adorned with solar panels and state of the art geothermal heating designed by a prominent local developer.
LaVergne also secured the endorsement of well-known Democrat Timothy E. Ryan, who ran in a contentious race against incumbent Ocean County Freeholder Joe Vicari. Sources say that while Mr. Ryan is not going to be able to be at the convention in person, he has asked Chairman Wyatt Earp to read a statement on his behalf to Mini-convention attendees.
Toms River attorney Michael Cooke has bowed out of the race for the congressional nomination, on the eve of the convention.
Despite a gleaming endorsement from CD4’s presumptive nominee Lorna Phillipson, Cooke received a shellacking in Burlington County – getting just four votes from the Burlco county committee. Mr. Cooke is now exploring a run for freeholder.
In a surprise twist, perennial candidate Jim Keady, who does not actually live in the third congressional district, has entered the race. Mr. Keady gained notoriety by becoming known as the heckler who was told by Governor Christie to “sit down and shut up” at a press conference in Belmar. Keady ran with Lorna Phillipson in an unsuccessful bid for seats in the State Assembly for Monmouth County’s 30th Legislative District.
Keady is the owner of the Lighthouse Tavern in Waretown, his family’s business. Despite not living in the district (he lives in Monmouth County), Keady’s campaign mailers are using the bar’s Waretown address on mailers sent to Democrat county committee members.
FOURTH DISTRICT: After gaining the “party line” and securing the endorsement of the Monmouth County Democrats, Spring Lake Heights’ Lorna Phillipson is the presumptive nominee for CD4. Phillipson, a former investment banker, will likely face entrenched CD4 Congressman Chris Smith. CD4 is another district that just isn’t looking competitive.
Ms. Phillipson’s campaign will likely result in another loss for the Democrats in CD4, as Rep. Chris Smith, an establishment figurehead, remains fully entrenched – having won recent campaigns by safe margins.
Manchester resident Scott Neuman withdrew from the congressional race and will instead seek the nomination for freeholder.
There are now three people seeking the party’s county freeholder nomination(s) that will be up for grabs – Brick Township’s Tracy Caprioni, Mr. Neuman, and as of the Friday night Michael Cooke.
Voting will get underway at 10:30 AM. Who do you think will come out on top? Follow Ocean County Politics for the results.