Kuhl faces challenge for Hunterdon GOP post

One of the races to watch in June is the contest for Hunterdon County Republican Chairman, where longtime incumbent Henry Kuhl faces a fierce challenge from Bloomsbury Mayor Mark Peck, who says that the local GOP needs to be stronger so they can produce a bigger plurality for congressional candidate Leonard Lance in November.

Read Peck’s announcement letter and platform:

Dear Republican Leader:

I am confident that you and I share the same Republican principles – limited honest government, low taxes, strong national defense, and individual liberty. We support worthy Republican candidates who work to advance our shared Republican beliefs. Unfortunately, New Jersey Democrats have been the successful party in the last several Statewide elections, and have won control, or are seriously encroaching, on many counties that were previously safe Republican bastions.

Hunterdon County is not immune from the political trends. The demographics are shifting; our victory margins are not as secure; the Democrats control or are a threat in several Hunterdon municipalities. To stop the Democrats, and to start rolling them back, the Hunterdon County Republican Committee must be unified, energized, and adapted to campaigning in the 21st century. Unfortunately, more often than not, it appears that we are insular, out of touch and irrelevant. That we are consumed with petty personal agendas and distracted by factionalism; that Republicans win in Hunterdon despite the HCRC, not because of it.

In the next two years we have elections for President, Governor, and the Congress, along with the usual slate of legislative and local races. All are crucial, and all are winnable. John McCain and Leonard Lance will require large majorities from Hunterdon County, which we must and will deliver, if Republicans are to compete Statewide.

I believe it is time for a fresh start, for a renewed sense of purpose to preserve Hunterdon and take back our State. That is why I am offering myself as a candidate for Chairman. I aim to reinvigorate the Party, to wage effective and successful campaigns, to bring in new members and to spread our shared Republican beliefs. I believe that HCRC operations must be transparent to members; that HCRC members must select endorsed candidates through fair contests using a secret ballot; that HCRC members must be empowered to shape the direction and course of the Republican Party; and that the HCRC must aggressively pursue votes and voters and drive the Democrats out of Hunterdon County.

The only agenda I have, other than the one enclosed with this letter, is the advancement of Republican ideals and candidates. I have no plans to seek higher office and no scores to settle. The only faction I belong to is the Republican Party.

Although I am known for being conservative – which I suppose is shorthand for my belief in our limited Constitutional government as created by our Founders – I aim to forge a unifying coalition, representing all corners of the County, predicated only on willingness to serve the HCRC in an honorable manner and adherence to our shared Republican beliefs.

As Chairman I will be an honest broker and an effective leader. I will be a strong advocate on your behalf. I fear no battle and shirk no debate. I will work effectively with Republican leaders from around the State, many of whom I have worked with for a decade or more. I have worked in the Assembly and served as a Planning Board member, Sewer Authority Commissioner, Councilman, Council President, Mayor and Chair of a 28 member municipal Republican Committee. I am in tune with the Party grass roots and understand the challenges facing our local officials and our families. I have run many successful campaigns, often on a shoestring and a prayer. I will be able to hit the ground running so we can deliver the necessary margins for John McCain and Leonard Lance.

I hope you will review the enclosed agenda. If you think that the Party is ready for a new beginning, please consider me for Chairman. I enter this arena with full appreciation for our present Chairman’s contributions and years of service; his continued presence, as Chairman Emeritus, and counsel will be necessary and appreciated, as will yours. I believe that it is time for the HCRC, and the Republican Party, to use the wisdom and experience of the past while adapting our tactics and strategies to today’s conditions. I believe New Jersey voters are ready for a principled Republican Party to effectively oppose the Democrats, preserve Hunterdon County, and save our State. Please join with me and together we can spark this resurgence.

I look forward to meeting with you to discuss our Party’s future. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any questions or wish to discuss my Platform further.

Thank you for your courteous attention to this announcement.


Very truly yours,

Mark Peck

A NEW BEGINNING FOR THE

HUNTERDON COUNTY REPUBLICAN COMMITTEE

By: Mark Peck

Mayor, Bloomsbury Borough

Member, Hunterdon County Republican Committee

The goal is to reinvigorate and reform the Hunterdon County Republican Committee by empowering members through respectful debate, open processes, and unified purpose.

The Hunterdon County Republican Committee exists to advance Republican candidates and Republican beliefs. Committee members, as community Republican leaders, must be empowered to direct the course of the HCRC. Likewise, the HCRC must conduct itself in an open manner that reflects the will of the HCRC. To do so, the HCRC must have a Chairman who is a visible, dynamic and responsive leader

The HCRC must focus on the “3 M’s” – Message, Machine and Money. We need to stand for Republican principles, we must deliver an increasing percentage of the vote, and we must have the resources to support our candidates. My thoughts on each of these three key elements follow:

Message: The HCRC must have a compelling message that both advances our principles and contrasts the same with our opponents. Even in Hunterdon, located as it is in a State and region with an ever-encroaching Democrat majority, we cannot expect our decades long Republican majority to guarantee victory in the future. We must offer our traditional voters a reason to continue with us, and we must attract new voters. We must offer a unifying theme that will attract and excite voters, our vision of a society that is evermore prosperous, safe and free.

Ten years ago, the Republicans had a lock on Bergen, Union and Monmouth Counties, possessing all County offices and most Legislative seats. Somerset and Morris Counties were reliable Republican powerhouses delivering comfortable Republican margins of victory. Today Republicans are shut out of Bergen and Union (except for the Bergen Clerk), are reeling in Monmouth (3-2 Freeholder Board), and each of these three counties have split Legislative delegations. Somerset County Republicans have a bare 1000 person majority in voter registration, and it is close to a 50-50 fight in Congressional, State and Presidential elections; the Morris County Republican majority has shrunk and the Democrats are making inroads in towns along the rail and highway corridors. This has not been a good thing for New Jersey taxpayers, and it has hurt the Republican Party.

The reasons Republicans have fallen in these diverse counties are many. In some, like Morris and Somerset, it is simple demographics as refugees from New York City and its suburbs follow transportation west, bringing with them their bankrupt political philosophy. In others, such as Monmouth and Union, it was the Republican establishment becoming so entrenched and hidebound it had no message – other than score settling and profit making – and lost touch with its own voters. In Bergen, these factors, plus an internal civil war, have brought the Republicans to Watergate era levels of support.

I fear that many of these symptoms could impact Hunterdon. Certainly, the demographics are changing. Whether it be Trenton’s failed tax, borrow and spend policies, crushing regulations, or the perceived erosion in our overall quality of life, many of our voters are moving out; and they are not necessarily being replaced with Republicans. In addition, the message of the Hunterdon County Republicans is unclear. What do we stand for? What and where is the outreach and vision to attract new voters? Finally, our Party is torn by conflict, driven more by personality than by policy. No participant benefits from a circular firing squad. If we are to avoid the sad fate of some of our fellow counties we must focus on those things that bind, not divide, us.

As Chairman I will immediately ask for HCRC members to volunteer and convene a platform committee to deliberate and recommend a platform to the entire HCRC membership for further deliberation and endorsement at open meeting. The intent is to create a statement of principles and beliefs that most, if not all, Republicans share. The platform statement will serve as the Party’s anchor, and will be used as a basis to affirm our shared principles, to advance our candidates and our causes, and to attract new voters.

The message must be taken to the public. As Chairman I will be a tireless evangelist for Republican principles. I will advocate for our candidates and our principles in the media and to any group that will have me. I will debate our adversaries. I will make sure that every street fair and church festival (that so permit) is covered by Republican representatives and recruiters. Democrats will not be able to rely on our silence and lack of effort; they will be met at every step by a vigorous and hard-hitting opposition. We must ensure that Hunterdon voters always have a clear choice and contrast between the parties – the Republicans with an agenda of hope, growth and opportunity, or the Democrats with their fiscally ruinous socialism and grievance mongering special interests.

Machine: The best message in the world is meaningless if there is no means to get the message out. That is where the “machine” element comes into play. Machines are not always bad things – in our case, it means that the HCRC must provide the organizational structure and personnel to effectively get out the vote and spread the message.

Traditionally we have relied on the usual trifecta of phone banks, a mailer or two, and signs. Each of these elements has a necessary place in campaigns, but they can be done in a more effective manner. We must develop means to campaign in the 21st century. Instead of a robocall, or a phone bank using the same boilerplate message; or instead of sending the same old expensive, repetitive, content-poor mailings, we must acquire the existing technology to target specific voters for a specific targeted message. Aggressive use of e-mail (i.e. we should be sending out a Hunterdon Republican message of the week) is faster, cheaper and much more efficient, and will be better received, than a robocall at dinner time. By melding technology and the personal touch we can create effective blocs of informed, motivated voters.

Also, our website is ineffectual and grossly out of date. It is inconceivable that the latest information available on our website is from 2005 (“Forrester for Governor” events are the “upcoming events”). Both in Bloomsbury and in political campaigns I have set up fully functional websites in days, even though I know nothing about website design. I do, however, know plenty of people with the ability to create websites, and I’m sure you do too (just find a teenager). Our website should be an easily accessible portal containing useful links and accurate information. A working website is as essential as a telephone in our present times. Our failure to have the same is inexcusable.

Likewise, each of you has specific talents and interests that must be tapped for the continued success of our Party. Perhaps you are good with computers; then you could help maintain the website. Are you outgoing? Then you could serve on the welcoming committee, which will be featured at every Republican event. How many voters or prospective workers have we lost over the years because they were ignored when they were motivated to come to a Republican meeting? Any and every newcomer must be welcomed to a meeting, introduced to people and made to feel that the Hunterdon County Republican Party is the right place for them. Each HCRC member has and must contribute some skill or interest for the good of the cause.

The HCRC will maintain up to date voter registration lists and walk lists, which will be provided to municipal candidates well in advance of the general election. Municipal races will be priorities of the HCRC, and municipalities with Democrat officeholders will get enhanced attention. I will make every effort to re-establish the Young Republicans and bring young people, who make such energetic and effective volunteers, to the Republican Party.

We must have an effective get-out-the-vote operation, utilizing absentee ballots and targeted outreach. We must have volunteers working the Republican booths at fairs and festivals. We must give each HCRC member the means to spread the Republican message in their district. Each of us has an important role to play to advance our candidates and beliefs. I will be calling on each of you to fulfill your roles to the best of your ability

Money – The HCRC must have the funds to promote our candidates and spread our message. The HCRC must, at minimum, raise sufficient money to fund County-level candidates and local candidates in competitive races, and should also generously support legislative, gubernatorial and Federal candidates to the extent possible. Fundraising, however, should not be the sole interest of the Party. Money is a means to an end, not an end unto itself.

We of course must continue to schedule and attend the various “high dollar” events on behalf of the HCRC and candidates. In addition, however, we must have more “low dollar” or “no dollar” events to increase participation and build a sense of ownership with the Party. While some are fortunate enough to be able to write $500 and $1000 checks, many others cannot, but would be happy to donate $20 or $50. We must offer that opportunity. I envision having regional family picnics, where for perhaps $20 per family people could have hotdogs, do some pony rides, listen to some country music, and – yes – meet candidates and officeholders. We could do $35 spaghetti dinners in connection with actual candidate debates. We could have free events where we pass the hat. We can make this fun. In addition, we should use our website to create a pledge system, where a donor can make automatic $25 monthly donations, for example, or can make a donation by credit card. Also, being ever mindful of pay to play restrictions, there are ways to encourage traditional donors who are now hesitant to contribute because of said restrictions to lawfully assist the HCRC. None of this is presently occurring.

While we must raise money, we also have an obligation to spend it well. I believe that the Party’s strength begins at the grass roots; therefore, local races are essential and will have priority for funding. E-mail should be used as the primary means of communication, with members who wish to continue receiving letters having that option. The HCRC should investigate closing its present office and renting a hotel ballroom or other similar room for the few full meetings each year, and sublease office or rent smaller office for day to day operations (all that is needed is a single office with phone/computer/fax/files and a conference room).

Policy Goals:

With these goals in mind, I offer a few specific measures that I will initiate:

1. We have By-Laws that have not been honored. We will scrupulously follow the By-Laws, amending the same as necessary via open processes with full member participation. Every HCRC member shall receive a copy of the By-Laws;

2. The entire HCRC will meet not less than three times annually:

a. annual June reorganization,

b. pre-primary endorsement convention, to be held just prior to the primary filing deadline (Committee members decide who is entitled to Party endorsement), and

c. fall campaign meeting, to be held in September;

3. As for the annual endorsement convention, the same will be held close, but prior to, the filing deadline, to ensure that all candidates are considered. All candidates will be permitted to address the HCRC, and the HCRC members shall vote by secret ballot as to who they wish to endorse. If an absolute majority is not obtained by a candidate on the first ballot, a runoff election via secret ballot between the top two finishers shall immediately be held. The winner of each of these endorsement contests shall be the endorsed HCRC candidate.

4. Meeting agendas, meeting minutes, fiscal reports, and all other routine communications to be distributed via e-mail (or regular mail if requested), with agendas, minutes of prior meetings, and fiscal reports to be distributed at least one-week in advance of meeting;

5. Executive Committee – Chair, 2 at large elected Vice-Chairs, Secretary, Treasurer, 5 Regional Vice-Chairs (elected by members of respective municipalities), plus 1 at large HCRC member appointed by Chair – to meet monthly, or more frequently as warranted. (The Executive Committee will not be a rubber stamp for the County Chair, but will be a true representative committee of County Republicans.) All Executive Committee meetings shall be open to HCRC members, but participation by HCRC members shall be at the Executive Committee’s discretion. All contested elections of officers and Executive Committee members shall be by secret ballot. All HCRC elections, and votes, shall be determined by the winner of the majority of the quorum present;

6. Municipal Republican Committees shall have the right to determine which local candidate receives the HCRC endorsement and ballot slogan;

7. Vacancies shall be filled by a majority of the HCRC members of the subject municipality. If there are no present members, then a majority vote of the Executive Committee shall be required to fill such a vacancy;

8. The HCRC shall craft a platform setting forth its philosophies and beliefs. The Executive Committee shall serve as the platform committee, and the platform committee shall solicit and encourage insights from HCRC members. The various planks of the platform shall be adopted by the HCRC only upon the ratification by at least 60% of the quorum present at a properly noticed general meeting of the HCRC. Platform planks shall not be adopted until the same have been considered and debated by the HCRC at a general meeting. Platform planks may be adopted singly or as a whole;

9. The HCRC shall annually obtain and maintain up-to-date master voter lists and walk lists for each municipality, copies of which may be obtained by any Republican general election candidate.

I welcome any other suggestions designed to empower Committee members, make for a more effective and inclusive Committee, and lead to continued and renewed success.

Kuhl faces challenge for Hunterdon GOP post