The internal fight in the Passaic County Regular Republican Organization took an amusing turn today.
First, a splinter Republican group called GOP Strong — which has been highly critical of Assemblyman and Passaic County Republican Chairman Scott Rumana (R-Wayne) — issued a press release casting doubt on Rumana’s effectiveness and earnestness in his fight against Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) regulations.
Half an hour later, Rumana issued a press release announcing that he had been named “Legislator of the Year” by the Building Officials Association of New Jersey because of his opposition to the new COAH rules.
That drew a follow-up press release from GOP Strong, claiming that Rumana was touting the award as a “desperate attempt to demonstrate the he actually matters in Trenton,” and that the organization is “made up of a handful of bureaucrats who enforce onerous building codes in New Jersey.”
The group pointed out that the organization has only given “person of the year” awards four times out of the last ten years—and always to code enforcement officials.
“He is trying to build a resume out of saying and doing nothing,” said GOP Strong co-chair Mike Ramaglia, a potential Rumana rival for the Passaic County Republican chairmanship next year.
Rumana, however, said he didn’t even know about GOP Strong’s first press release, because he’s been at the League of Municipalities convention in Atlantic City all day. The group first told him they were going to honor him with the award a month ago.
“You yourself know I’ve been the leader on this issue, and you can call [Assembly Minority Leader] Alex DeCroce, and he’ll tell you who’s the leader of the Assembly Republican caucus,” said Rumana. “GOP Strong is the Democrat arm of the Republican Party. They’re just trying to interfere with the Republican Party. We’re rebuilding after they left us with corruption and the integrity of the party destroyed.”
Passaic County Republicans, who once dominated the county, are without any county-wide elected officials.
Montclair State University Professor political science professor Brigid Harrison said such flare-ups are common in minority parties.
“Often times we see the greatest levels of intra-party squabbling amongst minority parties because there is so little to control that people do wind up arguing over the future direction of the party and how to get more to control,” she said.
But Harrison was puzzled by Rumana’s willingness to argue with the group’s members.
“The reality is that it’s kind of rare for any of these groups to exercise any power in the voting booth,” she said. “Especially in primaries, incumbents win so handily. In my mind it’s interesting that he would kind of legitimize this squabble by responding to it in such a public fashion.”