Monmouth GOP Chairman John O. Bennett has announced that a convention of the County Committee will be held on Saturday September 29 at Colts Neck High School for the purpose of adopting party by laws and to”rally for our candidates.” Previously, a new State Committeeman was to be elected at the convention to replace Bennett, but he has decided not to resign from that office.
Bennett has distributed his proposed by-laws for the county party to members of the county committee. A copy can be found here.
To Bennett’s credit, this “final draft” has been adjusted substantially to address the reactions that incumbent office holders had to his original proposed rules for nominating candidates that he unveiled last week at meetings with county elected officials and legislators, the as yet unofficial board of directors and the municipal chairs.
The original proposal for candidate selection would have given no consideration to incumbents. Anyone who submitted a letter of intent and appeared before a steering committee could have challenged an incumbent at nominating convention. This proposal, combined with the chairman’s instructions, not in the by-laws, that incumbents restrict and adjust their fundraising activities, left most county elected officers and some legislators feeling angry and vulnerable. This “final draft” has addressed the incumbents concerns, to a degree. Good thing too. Bennett was in danger of being as relevant to incumbent office holders as Chairman Bill Dowd was to Bennett when he was a senator. Not very.
This “final draft” provides that challengers to incumbents gather signatures from county committee members. Challengers for county offices; freeholder, sheriff, clerk and surrogate, will have to gather 40 signatures. No more than one third of the signatures can come from one town. Challengers to incumbent legislators will have to gather endorsments from 25 county committee members, no more than half from one town. Letters of intent and the accompanying endorsements must be submitted 14 days prior to the nominating convention. Challengers may have to appear before a steering committee that may be established by the chairman.
Incumbents are not required to appear before a steering committee, if there is one established, in order to seek renomination from the convention. But they must gather endorsements to submit with their letters of intent. County office incumbents must gather 25 endorsments, no more than half from one town. Incumbent legislators must gather 10 endorsements, no more than half from one town.
Candidates for “open seats” will be required to gather 10 endorsements, no more than half from one town.
All candidates for statewide and congressional offices will have to follow the procedure for county offices.
Even though these rules are labeled “final draft” MMM respectfully proposes the following changes:
1) The rules should clearly state that vacancies in elected office shall be filled in accordance with Title 19. That has to happen according law. Including such a provision in the by-laws will address the inevitable confusion that will result among some county committee members who might not know the difference between a convention to nominate a candidate and a convention to elect an office holder.
2) “Open seat” needs to be defined. Will a future seat held by a Democrat seeking reelection be considered open? Will a vacancy be considered an “open seat?”
3) Why set the bar to seek an open seat so low as only 10 endorsements from voting eligible county committee members. Set the standard for seeking an “open seat” at the same level as challenging an incumbent. Separate the wheat from the chaff early.
3) Scrap requiring incumbents from gathering endorsements. That is busy work for people who are already busy. A letter of intent should do. Inevitably some future incumbent, a good office holder and popular candidate, will fall short of this requirment. What will happen then?
4) Rethink the requirements for statewide and congressional candidates. Will Governor Christie have to gather endorsements next year to appear before the Monmouth GOP nominating convention? What will happen if he doesn’t? What if Bob Gordon, Barbara Gonzalez or Mark Falzon get 40 signatures to challenge Christie at the 2013 convention? Will Congressman Chris Smith have to gather endorsments in 2014? What happens if he doesn’t? Are 10 endorsements enough for a candidate for an open statewide or congressional office? There could be 20 or more candidates for governor appearing at the 2017 convention.
5) Clarify the endorsements. Can a county committee member endorse more than one candidate for the same office?
The other provision of the “final draft” that needs adjusting is Section 6, the establishment of a Board of Directors to serve as an Advisory Board “in part and policy” should the chairman call a meeting of the Board.
This is an idea that has been proposed and kicked around since the days of GOP for Change and the revolt against Dowd.
As proposed, the number of directors and regions represented is undefined. The directors appointed by municipal chairs can only serve for one consecutive year. That defeats any substantive purpose of having a board of directors. As proposed, the board has no real power. If the purpose of this proposal is to appease those who have been pushing for it for years, why bother? They won’t be appeased by a ceremonial board with no real purpose.