On By-Laws and Candidate Selection

By Art Gallagher

The boost in traffic visiting this site the last couple of days  and some of the comments in Fred Lehlbach’s post, Where are the By-Laws? ,  and Mike Halfacre’s By-Laws Don’t Matter, Yes They Do, seems to indicate that the topic has considerable interest.

Or maybe I should write less and turn the site over to guest writters more often.  Actually I started this piece in response to Fred’s and before Mayor Halfacre submitted his. Some of my points may duplicate Mike’s.

By-Laws and candidate selection

The 2009 State statute that Fred cited does not require that county committee members be empowered to vote on who the county organization’s endorsed candidates will be.  It requires that there be by-laws and that the by-laws be available to the county committee members.

The Ocean County GOP has by-laws.  There is nothing in them regarding candidate selection.

By-Laws and the law

I think the Monmouth GOP should have by-laws, if for no other reason than to make the controversy go away and to keep it from coming back every year or so.

But that we don’t have by-laws does not mean that the county GOP is operating outside of the law.  As Fred noted, the amendment to NJSA 19:5-3.2  has no effective date.  Even if it did, the law itself was probably unconstitutional the minute Governor Corzine signed it.

In 1989 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Eu v. San Francisco Democratic Central Committee  that the State of California could not regulate the endorsement of candidates or the way that political parties organize themselves.  The court ruled that the California law in question violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

If California can’t do it, New Jersey can’t do it.

The U.S. Supreme Court trumps the NJ Legislature and Corzine.

Oxley’s Candidate Selection Process and County Committee Members

The candidate selection process that Chairman Oxley has employed three times now is not designed to disempower county committee members.  It is designed to empower municipal chairs, who are elected by the county committee members.

The “Oxley method” is a screening committee comprised of all municipal chairs and all present and former elected officials above the municipal level, i.e., all present and former county level officials and state legislators.   The municipal chairs outnumber the “statesmen”  on paper.  Yet in both 2009 and 2010 many municipal chairs, too many, did not show up for the screening committee selection.   As Halfacre noted, the presence of present and former elected officials in the process does dilute the municipal chairs’ influence, and thereby the county committee members, but not nearly as much as voluntary non-participation on the part of the chairs and the committees dilutes their own influence.  There are 53 municipalities in Monmouth County.  If 53 municipal chairs showed up for the screenings, the chairs would have the power.

Oxley has made it clear that he expects the chairs to consult with their local committees. Most who participate in the process do consult with the local committees.

Oxley is not a “boss.” 

In 2009 his choice for Freeholder was not nominated by the screening committee. 

In 2010 everyone knew who Oxley’s choices for the congressional nominations were.  They, Diane Gooch, Scott Sipprelle and incumbent Congressman Chris Smith, won the party endorsements.  If there was any pressure being applied by Oxley for his choices, I, as a municipal chair and a vocal advocate for other candidates in CD 6 and 12, didn’t feel it.  I had no idea who Oxley’s choice for Freeholder was, even after asking him.

In the “Oxley method” those who want to influence the candidate selection process should contact their local county committee members, municipal chairs, elected officials on the county and state level and former elected officials on the county and state level.

Is the “Oxley method” the right way or the best way?  I don’t know.  It has been controversial, even among screening committee members.  However, it is hard to argue with the results. 

Joe Oxley inherited a Monmouth GOP that was on the verge of losing control of county government for the first time in two decades when he was first elected Chairman in June of 2008.  We lost a one seat on the Freeholder board in 2006, 2007 and 2008 each.   We won two of them back, one at a time in 2009 and 2010.  A victory this year brings Monmouth County’s government back into unanimous Republican representation.

Weather you agree with his methods or not, Oxley has stopped the bleeding.  He’s done much better than stop the bleeding.  He’s lead the party to two overwhelming victories in a row.

I love conventions and the campaigning that occurs leading up to them.   I think they bring more people into the process and force candidates to define who they really are.  I think competition is healthy and makes the party stronger.  There is often great political theatre.

Yet it is also true that these campaigns have caused lasting divisions that continue to hurt the party.  Oxley’s two predecessors held conventions.  The party became more and more divided and lost repeatedly.

We should keep examining what we are doing and look to improve it.  Even when it is working well.  We should keep looking for ways to welcome interested people into the process.  In an ideal world open conventions and full committee participation would be the way to go.  But the truth is getting full committee participation looks to be a pipe dream and the recent past of a more open process as proved to be destructive.

Posted: February 12th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Joe Oxley, Monmouth County Republican Committee | Tags: , , | 8 Comments »

8 Comments on “On By-Laws and Candidate Selection”

  1. Anonymous said at 10:11 am on February 12th, 2011:

    “Oxley has made it clear that he expects the chairs to consult with their local committees.Most who participate in the process do consult with the local committees.”‘

    This is NOT necessarily so Art. I know of more than a few Municipal Chairs that don’t even have meetings or conversations to discuss the candidates, LET ALONE vote the conscience of the county committee members.

    This is the problem.

  2. Anonymous said at 10:25 am on February 12th, 2011:

    The Muni Chair in my town can NEVER get more than 3 County Committee people in the same room at any one time UNLESS his position as Chair is being challenged. Then he gets them out for their support. Less than 10% of local CC’s are active, some have not been seen in years at events or meetings. The whole process from top down seems “broken”.

  3. ArtGallagher said at 10:29 am on February 12th, 2011:

    “Oxley has made it clear that he expects the chairs to consult with their local committees.Most who participate in the process do consult with the local committees.”‘

    This is NOT necessarily so Art. I know of more than a few Municipal Chairs that don’t even have meetings or conversations to discuss the candidates, LET ALONE vote the conscience of the county committee members.

    This is the problem.

    It is so that Oxley made it clear that he expects that chairmen are consulting their committees.

    If they are not doing it, it would seem the solution is to elect new chairmen.

  4. MLaffey said at 10:39 am on February 12th, 2011:

    Great analysis Art,
    One thing that is not mentioned is that State statute actually prohibits the County Committee from endorsing a candidate, Sorry I do not have the statutory cite at the tip of my fingers. The bylaws mandated for the committee therefore will in all probability not address the issue of candidate selection (that is who gets the line) and discretion will remain with the Chairman as to who has input into that decision.
    That does not however mean that the committee members could not be part of a larger group that engages in the candidate selection process.
    By law the Committee actually has a very limited purpose. 1. To elect a chairman. 2. Fill midterm vacancies in certain political offices. The committee is NOT the party and I think that is a distinction that is being missed.

    I would disagree that the the conventions caused lasting divisions in the party. The divisions where caused by years of the process being closed, a feeling of entitlement by certain powers in the party.

    While I support Chairman Oxley and believe he has done aa excellent job overall I am not sure that the current selection process is best for the long term health of the party. I personally believe broader participation would be better.

  5. Anonymous said at 11:49 am on February 12th, 2011:

    Art Wrote:

    “If they are not doing it, it would seem the solution is to elect new chairmen.”

    Art, great idea; however in many cases the Chair is insulated with his cronies. Not saying it shouldn’t or can’t be done, but may times it is difficult. And often, you get more of the same. Just take a look at Jim Hogan’s situation in Long Branch.

    The cream DOESN’T always rise to the top.

  6. Anonymous said at 11:52 am on February 12th, 2011:

    Forgot To Ad This Art…

    Yes, it may be so that Chairman Oxley has made it clear that Chairs are supposed to be communicating with the members.

    THAT is what is “not often so”

  7. James Hogan said at 12:29 pm on February 12th, 2011:

    Anon, Thank you for stopping by. I appreciate your concern for my well-being. Have a nice day! — Ferris. 🙂

    Truth is — it’s been VERY easy for me to be unhappy with my chairman and fellow committee members here in Long Branch, just as it’s easy for many people to be unhappy with their own chair/committee members.

    It’s also been VERY easy for me to just continue plowing ahead, supporting the candidates *I* believe in, knocking on the doors, mailing the letters, etc. Not being the chairman title holder hasn’t changed my ability to influence elections, yet, as far as I can tell, time will tell.

    So while I think it stinks that I don’t get a vote on the screening committee, and I don’t get to attend some chairman’s meetings to learn some new information, and my chairman didn’t share anything that Chairman Oxley might have shared to the chairs, in fact, my chairman didn’t even make mention that he attended the meeting but I know he was there, the real honest fact seems to be that if I do the work, and the other county committee people do their work, then the primary voters will decide who gets the nomination, not the screening committee, anyhow.

    Granted, overcoming the party line is a significant undertaking, but Little and the CC people who supported her, along with the Tea Party ground support crew, proved it is possible… by a *VERY* slim margin, I mean, my local district and a neighboring district swinging the other way would have changed the results the primary, seriously.

    So if you believe that the screening committee really has so much power, I say just look at the power of working the streets instead of working the keyboard. Again, as I keep saying, there SHOULD be by-laws that explain the processes (and term length apparently) but I think just complaining about the muni-chairs or Oxley is an excuse and taking the easy road.

    I, for one, will be working the streets of Long Branch this year as if I were the chairman and in the process, I’ll find the voters who care about the party and hopefully bring them on board. If we can’t get them on the committee, we’ll run a write-in campaign and do the work to overcome the line, easy.

  8. Anonymous said at 1:20 pm on February 12th, 2011:

    Dang it Art, I screwed up again…

    I did NOT mean to say that Oxley is not asking chairs to communicate with CC’s

    I DID mean to say that it WASN’T necessarily so that the Municipal Chairs are talking with CC’s. I sincerely doubt all of them are with regards to candidate selection

    “Who’s on first, anyone?”

    Mea Culpa for the wasted electrons. 🙂