Which brings me to Passaic County, and the turmoil in the Republican Party, with the 3 original candidates chosen by the previous regime (before Scott Rumana was elected Chairman this June) having dropped out. Jonathan Soto was the latest to leave, announcing it last Friday, ostensibly because of his duties on the Passaic Redevelopment Agency. The background story is that Jonathan began to feel the heat from some of those who foolishly thought they could buy and sell him (to their dismay he got wise and backed Rumana publicly), and decided to back out of the race.
Enter Arturo (Arthur) Soto, Jonathan's brother, to save the day. He has expressed interest in filling his brother's vacancy on the ticket. Art is a technology specialist at Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, is married with 2 young sons, and makes an excellent appearance. He plays preppy overtones over Jonathan's urban backbeat. He is articulate and intelligent, and by virtue of his parents' church, offers community support in Passaic City, strengthened by his brother's ongoing role as Municipal Chair.
If the Soto boys get Sammy Rivera behind them, and join forces with congressional candidate Jose Sandoval's Dominican-American machine, they can put on a good show in Passaic and give the Democrats a considerable headache.
Next is Ken del Vecchio, the aspiring film producer and novelist who was referred to by a recent Letter to the Editor as "one of the greatest legal minds in this country" (Roberts and Alito, look out!). Del Vecchio cited his film career and demands in LA as the reason for his decision to withdraw his candidacy. Word on the street is that del Vecchio, who says he was "promised" top billing on the ticket, and was actually listed first in the Primary, got upset when others planned to place Soto's name first. This issue was ultimately settled by a coin toss after a lengthy discussion.
However, I spoke with Ken today and he said, "my ego is far too big to be affected" by something as trivial and inconsequential as ballot placement. He maintains that even had he remained on the top of the ticket, he would still have chosen to withdraw on account of his professional obligations.
Del Vecchio is considered by many to be a proxy for the defeated faction that used to run the Passaic County GOP. According to this line of logic, some suggest that he did not drop out of the race after Rumana's substantial victory because of this proxy status. However, in my discussion with him today, Ken had nothing negative to say about anyone involved and seemed supportive of Rumana's leadership.
A replacement for Del Vecchio is still needed (assuming that Arthur Soto will succeed in filling his brother's slot). There are rumors of an up-county female interested, but I don't have specifics yet.
The bigger question is: how will this all reflect upon Scott Rumana? My guess is that it's ultimately a positive for him. The Democrats have considerably more money and resources than the GOP, and are favored to win all 3 Freeholder seats in November, so the expectations for victory are already low, unfortunately. However, if Kean runs well in Passaic County and sweeps in a GOP Freeholder or 2, Rumana comes out like a knight in shining armor. If all 3 lose, he can easily attribute it to the fact that he was not able to assemble a ticket until late August under uncontrolable circumstances, leaving just over 2 months to run a campaign start to finish.
Another plus is that all of these changes, while ridiculous in appearance, do stoke activity in the newly-elected County Committee. The nomination meetings give them something to do, and make them realize that the position actually has a purpose.
However, Scott needs to assert stronger leadership. A number of elected officials have voiced concern. One said:
"I know he has a difficult job, maybe now he will get a taste of what Mike had to go through, it is a crappy job and no one is ever happy. Now Scott is on the other side. And I supported Scott, but he needs to stop bellyaching and be the leader people think he is and pull it all together. For all of our sakes."Another elected official who is no lightweight was concerned that there has been no clearly articulated short-term or long-term plan in detail for key Republicans to get behind.
Again, all of these criticisms are healthy. I heard them in the context of positive discussions aimed at improvement. There is a consensus that Rumana can deliver and most importantly, is willing to accept feedback to strengthen the Party. If people didn't have faith that we can really turn things around for the Passaic County GOP, they wouldn't bother to voice their concerns.