June July 17 Governor Murphy is scheduled to attend the Democratic Committee of Bergen County Special Election for the position of DCBC Chair left vacant by Lou Stellato. Our governor won his seat through the popular vote open to all constituents. Our new county chair will win the seat through a far less democratic process.
According to the letter received by all county committee members, they are “summoned to the meeting” where “voting will begin immediately following the nominations(s).” As of now there is only one candidate for the position, Paul Juliano. The letter goes on to indicate, “No nominations will be taken by the floor.”
Members of the Teaneck Democratic Municipal Committee have been discussing the need to improve the system. As Sen. Loretta Weinberg points out, “Actually some of this is governed by state law and not just a creature of bylaws. I believe this need some reform, but it is not just DCBC bylaws which govern the County Committee. My point is there are portions like who makes up the county committee, who determines what is the ‘official list’ of county committee persons, and dates for statutorily required meetings which are covered by State law.”
Regarding vacancies Tom Abbott points out, “As for the state statutes, there is little about the selection of a county committee chair controlled by the statutes. As far as I can tell, the only reference is in NJ Rev Stat § 19:5-3 (2018) which says simply, ‘The members of such committee shall elect some suitable person as chairperson who shall be a resident of such county to hold office until a successor is elected.’ There is no provision for a vacancy.”
More broadly Ron Schwartz says, “I have reviewed the county bylaws extensively, and see numerous ways that they can be amended to make the selection and convention process more open, inclusive, and transparent.” Tom Abbott explains, “The process in the bylaws has no restrictions on who can run beyond being a democrat who lives in the county. All they need is the signatures of 30 committee members from at least 10 municipalities submitted 5 days before the convention and they are on the ballot. Unfortunately, there is typically an anointed candidate and the challengers have virtually no chance. This makes the process seem undemocratic but it has a lot to do with who becomes committee members and how.” W
Earlier on Todd Sherer of Mahwah said, “It is no secret that Paul Juliano and I have each been encouraged by members of the Democratic Committee to run for County Chairman. However I do not believe that now is the right time for me to pursue the chairmanship.” So unless someone else submits the requisite signatures five days before the convention, Juliano will be the sole candidate and voting at the meeting becomes meaningless.
According to his bio, Paul Juliano, 46, has served as public works chief for both the county and the borough, as a commissioner on the Bergen County Utilities Authority, as a member of the county Board of Elections and as Democratic municipal chairman in Fairview.
Tom Abbott says of the October 2018 DCBC meeting, “Stellato’s attempt to close nominations when a challenger for the Sheriff’s nomination was clearly entitled to run was appalling.” You can read more about this awful meeting in my Blue Jersey article “An Iron Fist Versus An Open Hand” here. (Photo above is of this meeting.) Also at the last DCBC meeting committee members were summoned there to vote but left quickly after being told there was no need to vote. It was a done deal.
Senator Weinberg adds, “To be fair – let me point out that our governor won his nomination to run as our Democratic nominee by the same process with even less notice and less input.”
This process has to be completely reformed. Change toward a more democratic system is needed now.