Communication breakdown, it's always the same

It drives me nuts that local political activity completely shuts down from early November until practically April when petitions are due for the Primary ballots. (although I wouldn't say I'm having a nervous breakdown - drive me insane!) From what I have seen over the past several years, this is the modus operandi of the Passaic County Republican Party, and it remains so. In this regard at least, the ascension of Scott Rumana to the Chairmanship has amounted to more of the same.

Had the Party really had its act together and our leaders demonstrated imagination and energy, we would have begun recruiting candidates for Freeholder, State Assembly, and (hold your breath) Sheriff last year. The Assembly and State Senate candidates could have served as surrogates for Tom Kean, Jr. helping the ticket in 2006 and starting their name recognition building process for their own 2007 races. I guess that's a pipe dream.

But the way it looks right now, we don't even have Freeholder candidates, let alone State Assembly challengers in D35 and D34. That's poor. And we will probably continue to play defense in municipal races. So be it. I have also heard, with little shock value, that the preference among the Passaic County GOP municipal leaders is to allow the incumbent Sheriff Jerry Speziale to run unopposed. Once I confirm this, I will write in more detail about it.

From what I can sense (email still works in Africa, mind you), there is large-scale disappointment with the leadership that Rumana has provided. Of course no realistic person would blame him for the setbacks in last November's race – the local tickets suffered from a national backlash against Republicans and one newly elected Chairman, even with a convincing mandate as he had, could not have been expected to counteract a national trend.

But what came next? There has been a pitiful lack of communication from the top, and people are grumbling about it.

"Why is Rumana always using Buckley and Semeraro to do all the work of the chairman?" asks one such unhappy insider, referring to talented longtime operative Tom Buckley and Wayne attorney Mark Semeraro who played a key role in shepherding the legal maneuverings surrounding last year's circus of a Chairman's race. Rumana seems to have failed to cultivate relationships even with key elected figures in important towns for the GOP. Morale is low and at this point he seems to have squandered much of the goodwill he carried in with him.

This can be seen in several domains. First, more consistent communiqués from the Chairman right after the election and in early January would have kept the County Committee more engaged and at least pre-empted the usual critiques: "only cared about the County Committee when their votes were needed", etc. I understand that Rumana recently got married and thus has had plenty on his plate – fine, then delegate. Jennifer Scully, the young Vice-Chair from Hawthorne, is a great communicator with lots of energy. Rumana needs to rely more on her as a spokesperson, since she serves in an official capacity.

Secondly – the pending Presidential race. While Rumana's team showed an admirable grassroots style in 2005 by doing a straw poll on their County Committee members in Wayne for the 7-way GOP Gubernatorial primary, this has not yet been done for the far more important Presidential contest, and already municipal leaders are going their own ways and joining up with (so far) McCain or Giuliani. In my personal opinion, this should indeed fall to the individual level in terms of endorsements, but Rumana has missed a great opportunity to involve the newly-elected County Committee while stoking some excitement and issue-based discussion.

Thirdly, the excuse "we have no money" is pathetic. Even from Africa, I can see that the media in NJ is anti-Democrat at the moment – they don't like one-party rule – and there are key fiscal issues that the GOP can attack at any time during the year (not just October). Holding press conferences to draw attention to hot issues affecting property taxes costs nothing, generates positive media coverage, and excites the base. People will be more likely to give to the GOP if they see a concerted year-round effort, not a glorified begging operation in the fall.

No one is expecting miracles, but Rumana's radio silence has left a lot to be desired. It is not too late and I hold out hope that Rumana will institute a convention process for the nominations, as has been rumored. In any case, he needs to take a more hands-on role to reassure those who elected him and trusted him to lead the Passaic County Republican Party.

I will close on a humorous note with a quip from one outside observer: "They should bring [former Chairman Mike] Mecca back – at least he was entertaining!"


Yazan said...

Although, most of the time I lose track when u talk about local, or say, VERY local politics... but, It's still fun to read an insight about how the mechanism works, and wonder whether people back home will have their chance to go through that kind of bureaucracy...


George Ajjan said...

Yazan, you are young so maybe in your lifetime you will have the chance to see that even with the presence of a free press, a strong multi-party system, and TRULY secret ballots (all of which will take decades to develop in the Arab world), people still display the sheep-like tendencies that characterize political allegiances in the Middle East.

Democracy is hard! We're still not even getting it right here. (but that doesn't stop the neocons from wanting to "spread" it elsewhere...)

TheLucidLibertarian said...

George, I agree with what you posted on your blog 150%! It is extremely frustrating to see.

Here are some interesting statistics:

In 1987, just 20 years ago, the median spent on a NJ State Senate race was $236,000; the most expensive race that year spent $378,000. That same year in the Assembly, the most expensive race spent $166,000. In 1991, three State Senate candidates spent over $400,000, and 10 Assembly races spent over $100,000 each during thier campaigns.

Raising that type of money ($500,000 or more) in the atmosphere you describe on your post seems like a pipe dream indeed.

NJ is on a path to fiscal self destruction. The GOP should be bringing forth bold ideas for ways to completely overhaul the broken system of government we live under. Corzine and the Democrats are on a path to taxing working and middle class NJ residents right out of the state. The GOP should be firing up opposition to this mess every week, invoking the ghost of "Jim Florio" at every turn.

If you go on the NJ state website http://www.state.nj.us/nj/deptserv.html
you can see there are 18 official government departments and over 50 agencies, all of which have numerous sub-departments and sub-agencies. There is something seriously wrong with this type of bloated bureacracy. There needs to be a dramatic downsizing, if not out right elimination of much of this. Where are the Republicans who should be speaking out? We need these voices now more than ever!

HaledonHound said...

What seems to be going on here is a lack of mobilization. The fact is there are plenty of conservatives, liberatarians, moderates and disaffected Democrats to build a coalition that would end the careers of entrenched, irresponsive Democrats in 2007. Moreover, there are many active young Republicans and like-minded people in the Garden State who can be agents for change.
It isn't hard to have better ideas than the Democrat blob surrounding Trenton and Paterson, but one thing the right end of the sprectrum must stop doing is fracturing itself. Different ideas within a party are desperately needed, but at day's end there must a unifier who can bring the party together and really challenge the incumbent Democrat.

We see in NJ with Bill Baroni that a Republican in a deep-blue area talks to constituents and appeals to younger people, he can win, and not just once. Look even to Frank Catania, who won three times in one of the most hard-core Democratic districts in NJ. We need people who are inspired, not people who are sixth in line for a safe Republican Assembly seat (that's right Scott I mean you!). Plus we need to look to people of other backgrounds and styles, Jersey doesn't like self-righeous party poopers (cough:Kean:cough) as candidates.

If the GOP acted like normal people in NJ, they'd win.

Anonymous said...

HaledonHound is right, the mobilization just isn't there. I believe the GOP could win, or at least make serious inroads in a district like the 35th if they recruited solid candidates now and used the entire year to get thier message out to the voters. Rev. Al Steele (D-35) is a prime example of the kind of multiple-office holding politician people want to see eliminated (he serves both in the assembly and as an undersheriff in the Passaic County Sheriff's Department). Simply allowing these Democrats in districts like 34 & 35 to run unopposed is the wrong approach.

George Ajjan said...


good sources say that 2 candidates for Freeholder who have expressed interest will be unveiled by the first week of March, and later presented to the County Committee for an up or down vote.

This is a good sign. I am holding out hope that Chairman Rumana can get back on course.

jayme Alfano said...

Rumana was never on track george. He is making things worse instead of making them better and the people he has chose to surround himself with are just as bad as he is. let's just hope you are as hard on his group as you were to Mecca.

Anonymous said...

Jayme Alfano is right. Rumana was overwhelmingly chosen to lead the party in a positive, new direction. Since his selection, nothing has changed. Members of the county committee need to hold Rumana accountable. And like George said, if Rumana is too busy (which is understandable) then he must be made to realize that he needs to delegate party tasks and party work to others who have the time to put into it. The Passaic County GOP should be working to raise money and communicate the party's message the entire year around, not just periodically during primary and general election season. Without that, the GOP will never stand a chance against the Democratic Party machine in Passaic County.

George Ajjan said...

I spoke to Chairman Rumana directly on Friday and gave him an earful about lack of communication and empty spaces on the ballot.

I still am disappointed with the lack of energy for the 2007 races when turnout will be low. However, I must admit I did jump the gun on some of my criticisms. In fact, I am encouraged by some of the initiatives Rumana described to me, particularly pertaining to endorsements for the Presidential contest.

I will write more in the near future to describe these positive developments.

Anonymous said...

Will people stop complaining about the "lack of communication" and simply work at the grassroots level to infuse new blood and energy into the party?! One of the speakers at tonight's GOP candidates screening said it best, "we need new young people in our party".

And personally I think with Republicans like Arthur Soto and Jay Webber, two bright, young and articulate young men with a clear sense of leadership and vision, it truly is "morning time for Passaic County". C'mon GOP, let's get up and GO!!