GOP County Conventions

Anyone who follows this blog knows that I supported both Scott Rumana and Rob Ortiz in their respective quests for the Chairmanship of the Passaic and Bergen County GOP organizations, because I felt each of those candidates was most likely to advance the principles that I consider important for building a successful Republican Party in New Jersey, not the least of which is a more democratic and transparent organization. The election results were to my liking, but that does not mean that my commitment to those principles will relax - hence the following op-ed that appear in The Record today.
Breathing new life into North Jersey GOP
by GEORGE AJJAN - Tuesday, August 14, 2007

WITH THE ELECTION of Rob Ortiz as chairman of the Republican Party in Bergen County, the trend of electing young, reform-oriented leaders in North Jersey continues. Of course, the ascension to the corresponding post in Passaic County of Scott Rumana, who has rightly pledged to resign as mayor of Wayne if elected to the Assembly this November as is expected, was another milestone.

Each of these leaders won convincing victories as GOP party chairman with the confidence of the Republican county committee by communicating a plan to break clean from the bumbling ineptitude of the previous administration. Without rehashing the less-than-glorious recent past, suffice it to say that both Passaic and Bergen have seen a nearly complete reversal of their fortunes over the past decade, having gone from just about 100 percent control of the county to almost zero.

While it would be hard to sink much lower, reversing the trend will not happen overnight. Raising enough money to compete with the Democrats in either county is a tall order when Republicans have lately been outspent by more than 10-1 in recent county races. Nevertheless, there are some key activities and administrative changes that should be instituted promptly, which will cost pennies by comparison.

First and foremost, as I continue to advocate, is the embrace of technology. While Democrats at the national level have been more effective than Republicans at attracting new voters and channeling the efforts of supporters both for activities and fund raising, Democrats at the local level still win elections by a combination of dumb luck and the brute force best symbolized by Bergen County Democratic Chariman Joe Ferriero's operation.

With a few small exceptions, Democrats are just as new to the technology game as are local Republicans. Thus the GOP has a golden opportunity to take advantage of high Internet penetration rates in the suburbs to get out its "cut spending/downsize government" message in innovative ways to crucial areas where its margins have slipped.

While emerging tools like YouTube, Facebook and MySpace remain largely intimidating concepts, the Passaic County GOP at least managed to launch a Web site last year (, much like the recently re-launched Bergen County GOP site ( One of the highlights of the Passaic site, which Bergen certainly ought to duplicate, was the publication of the official organization bylaws that explicitly delineate how the county chairman was elected, what powers he did or did not have, and most importantly how candidates were selected.

This is an important aspect of transparency that deserves mention in detail, because many loyal supporters remain in the dark about how the party organization operates. In every voting precinct, one man and one woman are chosen as the party's county committee members. Their names appear on the ballot every two or three years (depending upon the specific bylaws) in the Republican primary – thus all Republicans who vote in the primary vote for their local party representative, or what was called "precinct captain" in the old days.

In Bergen, these county committee members take part in a convention each spring at which they alone vote to award "the line" to particular candidates for each office – although this vote is not comprehensively mandated according to the Bergen GOP bylaws and, worse yet, this convention doesn't even exist in Passaic County.

While Passaic County has taken a positive step by creating a convention for the 2008 presidential nomination, taking place on Sept. 15 and open to any Republican in the county, both Ortiz and Rumana should advocate amending the bylaws to create binding conventions for each and every nomination the county GOP makes, so that grassroots Republicans have fair say in whom they wish to nominate. After all, it is they who will do the heavy lifting come election time.

Enthusiastic supporters of Ortiz and Rumana share the belief that the Republican Party in North Jersey cannot be rebuilt without harnessing the energy and respecting the wishes of the activists who live and work in the towns of Passaic and Bergen counties.

That is why they need to continue their efforts to increase transparency and democracy of the Republican organizations they oversee. It is the best hope of breathing new life into the GOP.

George Ajjan of Clifton is a Republican activist. Visit his blog at

O --- This article first appeared in The Record on August 14, 2007.