Assemblyman Michael Doherty (R-Washington Twp) prided himself on never schmoozing with the power elite in Warren County, but now that he’s been abruptly shut out of organizational channels in the aftermath of his loss last month in a special convention bid for state Senate, he’s going into full-gear, good-government outsider mode.
“Part of what distinguishes me from Marcia Karrow is my position on debt and wanting voter approval,” said Doherty. “In this case, people need to come out of their ivory towers and see where the taxpayers are before they borrow money to build a library on the Delaware River. …I have been working on this issue for over a year now. What is precipitating my action now is the Freeholders’ announcement last week to move forward with their $26 million (library)building.”
A prime Assembly sponsor of the Lance Amendment requiring voter approval for all state borrowing, Doherty plans to attend the Warren County Freeholders’ meeting on Wednesday evening armed with a similar resolution he wants the freeholders to adopt on the county level.
In a Feb. 6th advance letter, the Assemblyman wrote to the freeholders, “Passage of the resolution will ensure voter approval of any bond debt issued to finance new capital projects in Warren County, including, but not be limited to, a new county library headquarters, expansion of the administrative complex, or renovation of the Warren County Courthouse.”
Among those who received the communication was Freeholder John DiMaio, a candidate for the Assembly in the 23rd Legislative District who’s guaranteed a place on the organization line in Hunterdon County, thanks to an agreement reached last week by Warren County GOP Chairman Doug Steinhardt and Hunterdon County GOP Chair Henry Kuhl.
Doherty and DiMaio were allies up to the special convention last month in which Karrow defeated Doherty for the right to claim the state Senate seat in the 23rd Legislative District, but didn’t diminish the Assemblyman’s plans to challenge her anyway in the June Republican Primary.
Post-convention, DiMaio ducked Doherty’s endorsement offer, and now Kuhl – Karrow’s chief ally – has admitted his support for DiMaio in the primary, regardless of how he fares in the Feb. 21st special convention.
As he moves forward with his strategy to run against Karrow, Doherty knows DiMaio’s presence on the line with Karrow is aimed at helping the incumbent senator by providing ticket balance between Hunterdon (Karrow’s home county) and Warren (DiMaio’s and Doherty’s home county) – and potentially weakens him.
With the voter approval letter and his appearance at the freeholder meeting tomorrow night, he’s going after DiMaio directly and attempting to force a tough decision on the organization’s Assembly candidate and the establishment freeholders.
Ultimately Doherty swears he’s not concerned about having to run alone, or about the Steinhardt-Kuhl agreement to back DiMaio. If anything, it gives him anti-establishment fuel.
“The line doesn’t matter in the 23rd,” he said. “Warren doesn’t have a line, and the Hunterdon line doesn’t matter that much. I’m going to run as a strong Reagan conservative. I’ve been there, done that. People can make their deals all they want, but this is a legitimate issue. I was prime sponsor on state borrowing, and the same principles should apply to the county.
“Nothing surprises me in politics,” Doherty added. “What are you going to do? These conventions are not decided on the issues, they’re decided on everything but the issues. But the primaries are decided on the issues.”