FLEMINGTON, NJ - For many people, the act of voting is as American as mom and apple pie.
Some people consider it an actual obligation – something that’s a responsibility for those lucky enough to live in a democratic constitutional republic such as the U.S.
Many of the biggest advocates of voting are public officials themselves. Some municipalities make it a point to not hold public meetings on Election Day. Raritan Township is one such example, which traditionally moves its regular Tuesday Township Committee meetings when it coincides with an election.
So it’s a bit of a surprise to see one former mayor telling Hunterdon voters that he’d rather they wash his car on Tuesday next week than vote in the primary election.
But that’s the message from Nick Corcodilos, a one-time Clinton Township Republican mayor who won election by defeating then-party favorite and incumbent mayor Tom Borkowski in the 2005 primary.
We caution you that Corcodilos’ argument on his exMayor.com website is crudely worded, but he argues that this year’s primary “smells.”
“We looked at this year’s Primary Ballot,” Corcodilos writes. “And we realized that if you vote on June 4, 2019, Primary Election Day… you’re a sucker. You’re wasting your time.”
He suggests that voters read the ballot, “Then fold, dispose and flush twice.”
The reason, Corcodilos writes, is that, “Voters don’t get any choices. Every candidate wins!”
Hunterdon County Republican Chair Pat Torpey called that reasoning a “false narrative.
“I’m not sure if you missed the donnybrook Republican primary in Flemington last year,” Torpey said. While Republican Mayor Phil Greiner ran unopposed, there was a three-way race for two seats on Borough Council. Torpey also pointed to local Republican primary contests in Clinton Township for the last two primaries.
The job of the party, Torpey said, is to get the best candidates on the ballot, a task that may not be as easy as it looks.
“I’m not finding candidates to run in Lambertville,” Torpey said. “Every year that there’s not a (Republican) candidate running in Lambertville is a demerit for me as the party Chairman … we want to give people choices.”
Republicans have no candidate next week for either of the two seats open on City Council.
Torpey had kind words for his Democratic counterpart Arlene Perez. “She’s putting people on ballots everywhere,” he said of the county’s Democratic Party Chair, “significantly better than anyone before her.
“Voters in Hunterdon County use to have less choice to pick their elected officials because the Democrats in the general election weren’t filling seats, so it was automatic wins” for Republicans, Torpey said. “That’s the job of the party, to give people choices in the November election when they’re really deciding who’s ultimately going to represent them.”
Torpey acknowledged that, “I like to build consensus. I try to have the local party agree on candidates when possible. And when they don’t, we have a primary.”
Hunterdon Republicans never block a candidate from appearing on the ballot, he said, and the county party’s bylaws forbid spending money in a primary to promote a candidate.
Local party reps do recommend to the county’s executive committee who will get the party line, Torpey explained, but even that’s no guarantee of victory. Torpey cited Clinton Township Mayor John Higgins and Councilperson Dan McTiernan as recent examples, along with state Sen. Michael Doherty, who defeated party favorite Marcia Karrow in the primary 10 years ago.
But Torpey is candid that, “My preference is 100 percent to have consensus … and try to avoid a primary.
“Why would you want to be fighting against yourselves when ultimately you want to win the general election?” he noted. And there are a handful of local Republican primary races next week, he said, including in Alexandria, East Amwell, and Bethlehem.
In an e-mail, Hunterdon Democratic Party Chair Arlene Perez called Corcodilos’ blog “inaccurate on a number of issues,” but didn’t return phone calls seeking elaboration.
Corcodilos was especially hard on her party, saying it runs “local candidates who don’t campaign to win.” The only purpose, he writes, is to call attention to the party to attract donations for state and federal races.
If local parties were doing their jobs well, Corcodilos said they’d hold primary debates so that voters could choose the best candidates. Instead, “You get no choices. There’s just one candidate for each open slot.”
And that is why the former mayor suggests that, “If you decide not to waste your time on Primary Day, and don’t need to wash your car, you could wash mine. For all the good it’s going to do you.” Local officials aren’t elected, he reasons, but chosen by party bosses.