By-Laws Don’t Matter, Yes They Do

By Mayor Mike Halfacre, Fair Haven

I am following with interest the piece posted yesterday and its comments on the lack of By-laws for the Monmouth County Republican Committee. First, let’s clear up some nomenclature. Most think “by-laws” and think “candidate selection”.  It is clear, however, that the by-laws don’t have to cover candidate selection. The statute contains nothing about what the by-laws should contain, only that there should be by-laws.

However, as someone who spent a considerable amount of time looking at County Party by-laws and their candidate selection procedures last Spring, I can tell you unequivocally two things:

  • 1) By-laws don’t matter in candidate selection.

I spent the better part of four months familiarizing myself with the by-laws of the Mercer and Middlesex County Republican Parties, where there are, in the case of Mercer, relatively minimalist by-laws, and in the case of Middlesex, relatively byzantine by-laws.  I also spent time trying to divine what the selection process would be in Monmouth County, where there is nothing in writing. Suffice it to say, the ultimate decision on what candidate would get the “party line” in the race I was interested in, the 12th Congressional District, was the same in all three of those counties.   

In Mercer County, the Chair came out early and often for their hometown candidate, (look where that got him) and regardless of by-laws, that “nominating convention” was a home game for the candidate. (As it should have been, by the way.)  But “rules” had nothing to do with the outcome.  Mercer County is not under Republican Control, and hasn’t been for years.

In Middlesex County, the candidate selection process is complicated, multi-part and ultimately, wide-open. If you pay your entry fee, or if someone else pays your entry fee, you get a vote on whom the candidate will be. Middlesex County has not had Republican county control in twenty years. 

In Monmouth County, the “Screening Committee”, is a loosely defined body of past and present County and higher elected officials, past and present County leaders and current Municipal Chairs. No actual list of the Screening Committee was made available. (At least, not to me) We had to make one up. But these people made the decision.  Sometimes it is a secret ballot, sometimes it is not. Historically, Monmouth County is dominated by the GOP.

In the 12th  Congressional District, in each of these three counties, the candidate selection outcome was the same. (But so was the election result)

By-laws don’t matter in candidate selection. 

  • 2) By-laws matter a great deal.

From a purely public perception stand-point, by-laws matter. To not have by-laws sends a message to the interested public that you don’t care about process, that the same group of Old Boys/Elitists/career politicians/whatever are making the decisions about who will run for office.  To people with a Tea Party-type background, not having written rules to follow is anathema.

For example, in the past 18 months, there has been a resurgence of interest in politics thanks to the Tea Party.  It should be a priority of leadership to welcome and encourage participation on the Republican team. The first question often heard is “How can I get involved?” the answer usually is, “Get in touch with your local County Committee. Run for a Committee seat. Then you get to help pick candidates and steer the party.” 

Except often, that is not the right answer at all. In Monmouth County, the County Committee may have no voice. In the case of Congressional or Legislative Districts, the Past and Present elected and past and present County Party leaders often outnumber the Municipal Chairs. Where the Municipal Chair vote is thus diluted, the County Committee vote is even further diluted.  And this assumes the Municipal Chair accurately reflects the feelings of the County Committee people he or she represents.

Why would we want to send this message?  If we only welcome their votes in November, and not their participation all year long, we will soon lose their votes in November.

We should write it down, so everyone knows the process.

By-laws matter.

Posted: February 10th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Mike Halfacre, Monmouth County Republican Committee | Tags: , , | 15 Comments »

15 Comments on “By-Laws Don’t Matter, Yes They Do”

  1. Jim Sage, Marlboro said at 1:28 pm on February 10th, 2011:


    Thanks for the sharing. It contains informative information.

  2. Freespeaker1976 said at 3:22 pm on February 10th, 2011:

    Well put Mike…

  3. James Hogan said at 3:45 pm on February 10th, 2011:

    Mike, thanks for chiming in. Out of curiosity, would you comment on the D’s “by-laws”:

    Section 1. Chairperson. The Chairperson shall:
    I. Determine which candidates in any primary election held in Monmouth
    County shall be authorized to run with the
    designation of the Monmouth County Democratic Committee on their line;

    Thats like Oxley just picking who gets the line, not even forming a committee of any sort, right?

    I think we agree that by-laws and the candidate selection process are two different things, but would anyone be happy with that line in our R by-laws?

    Also, if every county committee member gets a vote, doesn’t Howell/Wall/Middletown get more votes than say Sea Bright or Highlands? Wouldn’t candidates/”cronies” from those towns seem to control the party? Would elected folks make an effort to appear in the smaller towns?

    Again thanks for taking the discussion seriously and providing reasonable and rational input. I really wish there were more (or I knew of) in person meetings between interested people in the people to discuss these sorts of topics.

  4. mike halfacre said at 3:55 pm on February 10th, 2011:


    Based upon what I recall of your experiences running in 2008, I thought you would welcome a written guide to assist candidates in running for office as Republicans.

    I did not state a position on WHAT the by-laws should say, I only believe that there SHOULD be by-laws. By-laws at least pretend to level the playing the field.

    Any proposed by-laws could certainly contain the provision you cite, or could contain the current process of the Screening Committee. Is there a Screening Committee this year? The filing deadline is 8 weeks away, we have interested candidates for an open seat, and does anyone know what process they should be engaging in?

    Let’s have drinks sometime and invite some other GOPers to share ideas. Wait, that might be against the by-laws.

  5. James Hogan said at 4:17 pm on February 10th, 2011:

    Mike, again not to be confused, I’m in agreement that there SHOULD/MUST be by-laws that explain the processes/purposes, so that all potential candidates get a fair and honest shake, and I say fair and honest in the sense that you or I should be able to present our positions/platform/background to someones and expect those someones to actually listen and think about what we are saying rather than us making a presentation knowing that no one is listening because their votes are determined before they hear a single word.

    So where I seem to disagree with the majority here/agree with Oxley (which might make me a rino, or a hack, or the devil, who knows) is that giving the whole CC a vote doesn’t seem any more reasonable, practical or “fair” over the chairman forming a committee for the reasons I cited. Namely, I don’t think the CC in Wall/Howell/Middletown are going to listen to a word some dope like me from Long Branch is saying because their chairman’s pal is running and they are “cronies’ of their chair.

    I just think as the group of intelligent people that we are, we should be able to realistically discuss what seems to be the most fair and reasonable process and then write it into the by-laws. Right now, it seems like there are only two options, worlds apart from each other, being discussed and really I’m not convinced either one is what is best for the party, candidates or voters.

    As for drinks… not only is it maybe against the by-laws, but it also sounds like some secret meeting of men in dark suits… we better pay for a public notice in the paper to be in the clear. 🙂

  6. mike halfacre said at 4:23 pm on February 10th, 2011:

    I don’t think we disagree much at all.

  7. Chris said at 10:54 pm on February 10th, 2011:

    Since Middletown has 67,000 people and Sea Bright has 2,000, I don’t think they should have an equal say in the candidate selection. Should be more like the House than like the Senate.

    As for meeting for drinks, if you’re elected that might be against the Sunshine Law. Better keep talking by blog / email since they are not covered by those laws

  8. Russ said at 11:55 pm on February 10th, 2011:

    “The first question often heard is ‘How can I get involved?” the answer usually is, “Get in touch with your local County Committee. Run for a Committee seat. Then you get to help pick candidates and steer the party’”

    Except often, that is not the right answer at all.”

    You’re absolutely right Mike, that is most certainly not the right answer.

    The right answer is to tell your intrepid young inquirer to point their tom-tom to 275 Rt. 35N, Red Bank, NJ (between Chapel Hill Rd. and Pine St.) and their browser to http://www.bayshoreteaparty.org/join-us.

    That, sirs, is the right answer.

  9. Truth said at 1:09 am on February 12th, 2011:

    How many public jobs has Mike Halfacre– a MMM sponsor, by the way — had over the last 15 years? 10? 15? Halfacre has been feeding at the public trough for most of his adult life.

    Halfacre is certainly is no conservative. When he began his recent & unsuccessful campaign for Congress, he claimed to support legalized abortion. (He claimed to be “restrictive choice.”) By the end of his doomed campaign, he was claiming to believe that life began at conception and that unborn life was worthy of government protection. Who, in his 40s, flip-flops on such an issue (abortion) that speaks to such basic, fundamental, core moral values?


    Mike Halfacre is a phony that will say whatever he thinks others want him to hear. He is a political whore. I have no respect for him.

  10. Truth said at 9:58 am on February 12th, 2011:

    Sorry, I forgot to put on my usual disclaimer that I am a coward and would never put my real name on a blog post. As much as I love to criticize those who actually do things, I am much more comfortable hiding in my bedroom and posting anonymously against people who put their name on their opinions.

    I am sorry I am such a pussy.

  11. The Truth is... said at 10:20 am on February 12th, 2011:

    an ass.

    Who cares where he started on abortion, I care where he ended up. By the way, he also has a proven record of standing up for his beliefs and of lowering taxes.

    How many elected officials are putting their names up on this blog and criticizing the status quo

  12. The truth is... said at 10:23 am on February 12th, 2011:

    Sorry, hit enter too soon. Truth is, Halfacre is out there trying to do what is right, not toeing the party line and/or trying to take others down anonymously.

  13. mike halfacre said at 10:49 am on February 12th, 2011:

    Hey Truth,

    See you at Lincoln Day! Right?

    Yeah, I thought so.

  14. It seems said at 2:04 pm on February 13th, 2011:

    this discussion goes round and round, every year, on and on about rules and process, whether it’s “fair,” etc…. while we talk about whether, when, or how to do by-laws and choose candidates, it seems to me that, instead of being so parochial as to what town they are from, who their friends/supporters are, etc., we need to first, put a lot of the responsibility on the CANDIDATES who wanna “be somebody!”..and let’s recall, there are only so many slots/offices, but lots more wannabees, than slots!..history shows, those who have met certain criteria first, have fared better with actually getting enough votes on election day..some of those are: the ability to have either worked hard in other campaigns, better yet, managed successful races, even better: gotten elected or re-elected from where they are, have a reasonable amount of: education, work experience, and SERVICE to their community and party, where they are from,as a starting point!.. they each already ought to know a lot about the political process, from the get-go: how to find out who the current leaders are, who the chairs are, who the elected committee people are, and how to do up a letter and flier that professionally and meaningfully states their case, and get it out, and follow up with personal phone calls, appearances at events, and general networking, to begin to show they can create a comfort-level people can get behind!.. observe tonight, and stay involved, this will be another great GOP year, if we get past personalities and nit-picking, and stay focused on more WINS, for better government, at all levels!!

  15. Jim McMahon said at 8:00 pm on February 19th, 2011:

    “Ironman” my ass!

    Mike Halfacre surrendered rather than fight Scott Sipprelle. During their recent contract negotiations, Halfacre caved-in immediately rather than fight the 12-member Fair Haven PBA. (He gave them a 2.9% raise. He received nothing in the way of concessions, something other towns have done easily in these tough economic times.) That is not suprising when you consider that Mike Halfacre has been feeding at the public (taxpayer’s) trough for decades now.

    Whenever Mike Halfacre is face to face with a man, you can rest assured that Halfacre will blink. He has been giving up & surrendering his whole life.