On Thursday night I drove down to New Brunswick, where the Republican State Committee held a meeting at the Hyatt hotel, open to the public, during which several items of business were conducted.
  1. election of State Chairman for a 2-year term
  2. selection of rules governing the allocation of delegates to the Republican National Convention in 2008
  3. approval of a resolution concerning divisive race-oriented campaign tactics
To begin, the floor was open for nominations for Chairman. Skip McMahon, the Morris County Committeeman, got the first word in with a nomination of Peter Mancuso, a retired Wall Street executive, Former Morris Township Mayor and Republican State Committee Finance Chairman who has spent the past several months touting his interest in the post. He ascended to the podium and made about 10 minutes worth of remarks which focused almost exclusively on fundraising. (continued...)

Mancuso emphasized the committee he planned to assemble of business leaders from throughout the state, which he said were not Wall Street people. He mentioned 31 individuals signed on who had pledged $200,000 thus far, and another 20 potential donors still waiting for approval from their employers to accept an official political fundraising role.

The strength of his presentation was a logical and convincing rebuttal to the criticism put forth by a number of Republicans, of which Ocean County Chairman George Gilmore was the most prominent: namely that his contribution to the Democrat Senatorial Campaign Committee helped Robert Menendez defeat Tom Kean, Jr. Mancuso explained unabashedly that at the time his organization (the New York Stock Exchange) chose to sell its shares in the public domain, a number of United States Senators from both parties were instrumental in shepherding the process through the compliance jungle. Therefore, said Mancuso, a decision was made to contribute a sum (something like $50,000) and split it evenly between the 2 parties - it was handled at the corporate level and he never even saw the check (the FEC record shows that the contribution was made by Peter Mancuso, c/o Performance Specialist Group). However, there is also a $250 contribution to Jon Corzine listed under Mancuso's name.

He went on to say to the audience yesterday that if that was the only negative thing anyone could say about him after 48 years on Wall Street, "then God bless me". Well, I'm not sure donations to Democrats here or there would be that big of a sin in the eyes of at least some of the State Committee. For the record, this is the text in the By-Laws of the Passaic County Republican Party, which ought to be enforced statewide:
"A member of the County Committee may be removed, and the seat held by such member declared vacant, should such member...openly and notoriously support the election of a candidate for public office in a general election other than the duly designated candidate of the Republican Party."
Following Mancuso's speech, Somerset County Committeeman Bill Crosby nominated Tom Wilson for a 2nd term. Wilson ascended to the podium and made a speech that was chock full of lingo related to political activities, and much less about the money used to fund those activities. In other words, Mancuso told the audience, "here's how I'm going to raise money" and Wilson told them, "here's what we do with the money that is raised."

Well, as expected, Paul DiGaetano didn't show up, so it was a 2-way race. A secret vote was conducted, after which it was suggested that Wilson won by a count of 28-10, which closely mirrors the victory he scored over Dick Kamin 2 years ago.

The second phase of the proceedings concerned the rule change for the allocation of Presidential delegates, which Rudy Giuliani supporters wished to make "winner-take-all". I, in coordination with Michael Illions, have been arguing against this for months, penning op-eds in the Asbury Park Press and the Star Ledger (see also an excellent op-ed by State Senator Joseph Kyrillos, who is supporting Mitt Romney).

The energetic Christina Ramirez from Morris County introduced a motion to adopt the "winner-take-all" rules, which caused some confusion because earlier in the night, Middlesex County Commiteeman Don Katz put forth a resolution that this vote be by secret ballot (Ramirez was the lone dissenter on that), and thus ballots were prepared for each member to check "winner-take-all" or "congressional" (meaning that the delegates would assigned by the winner of each of the 13 congressional districts). Thus her resolution was withdrawn (because procedurally it conflicted with the design of the ballots), and a new one was introduced allowing the use of the ballots.

I don't remember whether this procedural stuff came first, or the pitches for or against the "winner-take-all" approach. But there were some excellent points made. Mike DuHaime, a Passaic County native and longtime GOP operative who is currently Rudy Giuliani's campaign manager, gave a strong and convincing presentation (even though I disagree with it). He approached the rule change with "2 hats": one, being affiliated with Rudy Giuliani and believing that his candidate, essentially a "favorite son", would do wonders for NJ Republicans, and two, having advocated for a long time, even during his tenure as NJGOP Executive Director, that "winner-take-all" would put NJ on the map in presidential primaries and force the candidates to come here. DuHaime's remarks were seconded by George Gilmore, the "Chairmen of the County Chairmen", who discussed how and why the small committee recommended the "winner-take-all" rule change.

National Committeeman David Norcross offered the official rebuttal (he is backing Mitt Romney), and Don Katz followed up. Both echoed many of the points that Michael and I raised in our op-ed pieces.

But there is another issue here - the changing of the rules intending to coronate Giuliani is just another example of how NJ Republicans always look for easy answers, and never seem willing to roll up their sleeves and do the necessary party-building (e.g. nominate Kean, his name will have coattails that will carry us to victory statewide). Thus, I question DuHaime's suggestion that "nothing will be better for New Jersey Republicans than to have Rudy Giuliani in the White House". No one doubts the Mayor's personal appeal, but the idea that Garden State Republicans can win elections ongoing by including "Giuliani Democrats" in their voter coalitions is far-fetched.

We simple cannot allow the Republican Party to be based more upon personalities than principles (hence the reason for my REDchoice project, a presidential primary poll based upon issues). True, Ronald Reagan was a tremendous personality, but "Reagan Democrats" supported Republicans because of the conservative principles so embodied by the late 40th President appealed to their values. Reagan's vision of smaller, less intrusive government won over these blue-collar suburbanites and linked directly with tax-cutting Republicans at the bottom of the ballot even when Reagan was not on the ticket. I fail to see where Giuliani has articulated any overriding principles that will compel voters to vote for local Republicans.

Anyway, after Giuliani's Oil of Rheims was safely in the vial (24-14 vote), the attendees were fairly exhausted. The last portion of the meeting was the quick and unanimous voice-vote approval of 2 resolutions, the second of which concerned the race-baiting tactics in the District 40 GOP primary, used in Todd Caliguire's campaign against Kevin O'Toole. I don't recall everything that was said, but naturally the tactic of using race, ethnicity, gender, etc. in a campaign was condemned. There was also a statement about discouraging the hiring of any campaign consultant associated with the mailer that was produced - meaning, Kevin Collins. (Interestingly, I ran into former Clifton Councilman and GOP Freeholder candidate Frank Gaccione at the Clifton Municipal Building earlier in the day and he had a very cynical attitude about the whole affair, having had his personal finances and tax records brought into question during his campaigns.)

Collins, for his part, maintains that he did not design the piece as it was mailed and he sticks by Talarico's claim that the BCRO did not in fact pay for the piece, saying that it was paid for by the Caliguire campaign and that an ELEC filing would correct this outage. However, Collins would have more credibility in trying to clear his name had he mentioned all of these things before his candidate lost in disgrace.

Also interesting to note: Tom Wilson beat Giuliani by 10 points on Thursday night.