UPDATE: Ali responds to Lonegan, dismisses convention critique as “overblown campaign rhetoric”

On day after LD24 Senate candidate Steve Lonegan wrote to Morris GOP Chairwoman Laura Ali raising concerns regarding the county’s upcoming nominating convention, Ali fired off a reply email to Lonegan categorizing his concerns as “merely overblown campaign rhetoric.”

“Put simply, we at the Morris County GOP are confident in the integrity of our procedures, which our Rules Committee spent considerable time reviewing and revising. As was explained to those candidates who participated on February 16, the Rules Committee met one final time that evening after that meeting to address concerns raised by one of the candidates. If you had serious concerns about the Rules, which were provided to you and every other candidate in advance of that meeting, it was your responsibility to attend and come prepared with specific suggestions,” said Ali. “Although we did not receive any specific suggestions from you either at the candidates’ meeting or in your email below, I’m sure you can appreciate that there is simply not sufficient time to alter these voting procedures—or order enough voting machines—on the eve of the Convention.”

“I will not respond to the meritless and bizarre attacks set forth in the balance of your email,” Ali added. “I assume these statements amount to merely overblown campaign rhetoric and that you do not intend them to be taken seriously.”

Lonegan original letter can be viewed here.

Ali’s response is reproduced below.

We’re coming up on the one year anniversary of the 2022 convention which initially ended in confusion after voting issues resulted in the convention being adjourned before a second ballot could be held in the contested NJ-07 and NJ-11 congressional contests, an episode which rightly or wrongly resulted in intense criticism of the Morris GOP organization at the time.  In his own letter, Lonegan alleged that not all eligible participants in the 2023 convention were “likely to participate given the controversy and uncertainty associated with the 2022 Convention.”

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Mr. Lonegan:

Thank you for your email. The MCRC Rules Committee adopted the current rules and disseminated them to all announced candidates for the convention’s Endorsement on February 12, 2023. The Chair invited all candidates to a meeting at Morris County GOP headquarters on February 16, 2023 to discuss the rules and raise “[a]ny questions and concerns regarding the petitions, process, program, and/or convention . . .”

You did not attend the meeting.

Moreover, much of what you state in your email is wrong. First, the only “mail-in” voting that will be allowed will be absentee ballots. These will be provided only to members who apply for absentee ballots in advance and only then if granted in the discretion of the Chair pursuant to Rul3 11(c).  All other members will be required to register in person on the day of the convention, irrespective of whether they will be voting by machine or electronically.

Second, your criticism of Paragraph 11 in general lacks merit and belies certain misconceptions about the process. This convention is not an election under Title 19 of the New Jersey Statutes. There is no requirement under the MCRC by-laws that convention votes be held by secret ballot. However, MCRC has determined that it wishes to proceed by secret ballot at our convention. Paragraph 11 recognizes this aspiration while also acknowledging the reality that the limited number of convention participants (which you concede) raises a remote possibility that volunteer convention staff may incidentally discover the identity of a voter, whether through voter error or otherwise—and makes explicitly clear that any such individual is “duty bound to preserve the confidentiality of the information entrusted to them . . .”

Put simply, we at the Morris County GOP are confident in the integrity of our procedures, which our Rules Committee spent considerable time reviewing and revising. As was explained to those candidates who participated on February 16, the Rules Committee met one final time that evening after that meeting to address concerns raised by one of the candidates. If you had serious concerns about the Rules, which were provided to you and every other candidate in advance of that meeting, it was your responsibility to attend and come prepared with specific suggestions.

Although we did not receive any specific suggestions from you either at the candidates’ meeting or in your email below, I’m sure you can appreciate that there is simply not sufficient time to alter these voting procedures—or order enough voting machines—on the eve of the Convention.

We are committed to ensuring that the convention accurately reflects the collective will of our members and have invited any and all qualifying candidates to compete for the members’ endorsement. You are welcome to participate in that process—or not.  I note that we are not in receipt of your signed pledge to abide by the convention rules, which is required of all candidates. The deadline to submit that pledge has passed. We will be printing ballots this week, so please return it to me no later than 11am today, February 22, 2023. If you do not return it by 11am, I will assume you do not wish to participate in the convention. Please refer to the message sent yesterday to all candidates for further information. 

I will not respond to the meritless and bizarre attacks set forth in the balance of your email. I assume these statements amount to merely overblown campaign rhetoric and that you do not intend them to be taken seriously. 

Most sincerely,

Laura Marie Ali

Chairwoman, Morris County Republican Committee

Matt Rooney
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MATT ROONEY is SaveJersey.com's founder and editor-in-chief, a practicing New Jersey attorney, and the host of 'The Matt Rooney Show' on 1210 WPHT every Sunday evening from 7-10PM EST.