Passaic GOP prepares for tonight’s battle over chairmanship

The hard fought battle for control of the Passaic County Regular Republican Organization (PCRRO) might come to a head tonight, when a splinter group allied with a former party leader will attempt to oust Chairman Scott Rumana.

Rumana, who is also an assemblyman and a former mayor of Wayne, wants to hold on to his chairmanship. The rival organization, GOP Strong, is all but officially backing Totowa attorney Carl Mazzie, a former Rumana ally.

But, as the Herald News reported this morning, Mazzie went to court yesterday to delay the reorganization meeting until all sixteen of the county's municipal clerks have certified results for over 500 county committee races. Superior Court Judge Margaret Mary McVeigh said she would decide whether the meeting would go forward unless the opposing sides came up with a compromise.

Rumana was confident that the court would rule in his favor, and said no compromise was necessary. By tonight, he said, most municipal clerks will have certified the results. Committee candidates whose statuses are still unresolved will be able to cast provisional ballots

"About 95 percent or more of these people are unchallenged, guaranteed winners – they go into the voting machine. The balance of that 5%, if there's any question about whether they've won, they go to provisional ballots," he said. "Every vote will be counted, and if those provisionals have any impact on this race, then we'll worry about it."

The PCRRO has over 500 county committee members. GOP Strong filed somewhere north of 200, while Rumana said his slate had over 400. Having looked over the numbers, Rumana gave himself a 100 vote plurality.

But the fight took an even more confusing turn last night, when municipal committee members in Paterson held two parallel meetings. One meeting was called by Municipal Chair Betty Brown, a Rumana ally. Another was called by Vice Chairman Iradia "Bobby" Ruiz. They elected different leaders.

Rumana called the Ruiz meeting invalid. GOP Strong Co-Chairman Michael Mecca said adequate notice was not provided for the meeting called by Brown, so Ruiz called her own.

The situation has gotten so messy that both sides recognize that they will preside over a deeply divided party if they win, and both have already let slip a few potentially conciliatory words.

Rumana still frequently refers to the criminal record of GOP Strong founder Peter Murphy – a former chairman who was convicted of corruption earlier this decade – but also recognizes the need to get beyond the dispute.

"We've got a lot of good ideas, to be honest with you. It's not going to continue the way it is, and I'm going to make that announcement tonight," he said.

GOP Strong Co-Chairman Michael Mecca, who last night was elected municipal chairman of Clifton, doubted that Rumana could unite the party.

"To me it's the only child syndrome. It's either my way or no way," he said. "Even though he's been chairman for the last three years and we haven't won one election, the fact is this: GOP Strong and all its members always support Republicans. Scott can't win. He's an assemblyman and should be happy with that. Let's move on and rebuild the party. He is not the knight in shining armor."

Still, he said he wanted to find someone "agreeable to all of us" and hoped that "cooler heads would prevail."

The results of last week's primary may have offered a preview to tonight's event, but they make it tough to tell which way the wind is blowing. While Rumana kept the Republican nomination for Assembly District 40 – virtually assuring him reelection in November -candidates recruited by GOP Strong forced some upsets across the county. Most notable was a win for their county clerk candidate, Kristin Corrado, over Rumana's candidate, Bill Roca. Their 35th District Assembly slate also beat Rumana's candidates, although they're long shots to win the general election in that heavily Democratic district. GOP Strong's candidate for freeholder all lost, although by small margins.

  Passaic GOP prepares for tonight’s battle over chairmanship