Is the Sussex GOP "Dysfunctional"?
Gary Larson has been a successful local politician. He is the Mayor of Frankford Township and has been elected and re-elected to that town's Committee. At that level -- the small community -- it is tough to avoid hearing from your neighbor, to avoid touching the voters.
Mayor Larson has also run for county Freeholder twice, in 2013 and again in 2015, and has lost both times. After each loss, Larson has blamed the Republican Party for his loss. In his most recent loss, he labeled the party as "dysfunctional". One can only suppose that if he had won the election, Larson would have said the party was in good working order, functioning as it should.
But Larson does have a point because, by virtue of his running with incumbent Freeholder Dennis Mudrick, he could be described as a candidate of the county's "establishment". So why didn't he win?
The weekend before the June 2nd primary election, Larson and Mudrick put out a mailer that listed their support from local and county elected officials. Including Mudrick, three of the five county Freeholders supported Larson. Their ticket ran a technically better campaign, with unified advertising and more voter contact. They got their message out, so what went wrong?
Well, what went wrong was the same thing that went so disastrously wrong with the campaign of Marie Bilik. The message and where it came from.
Instead of looking to the voters for guidance about what their message should be, in Sussex County many would be elected officials look to a small group of political insiders. They have conversations, conduct their own version of "market research" and then fashion their message based on how they believe these insiders will react to it. Unfortunately, these insiders represent only a fraction of the primary electorate who actually turnout to vote. And many have altogether different reasons for voting.
There are levels of "insider" in Sussex County. At the inner most core exist those who owe their living to government -- county, local, state, and federal (in that order) -- especially those whose living is based on a more fluid relationship with government. Most county employees have a static relationship with government (35 hours time for X in compensation, week in, week out) and are not political insiders. However, if you are looking to score a contract from government, it is probably safe to say that you are at least an aspiring insider. If you are not one of the chattering class, you will soon be.
It is this relationship -- the wanting of something from government -- that makes the Sussex County "insider" so different from the average Republican primary voter in Sussex County. The insider is looking for something from government: Money or some consideration that he or she can turn into money. The average Republican voter doesn't want shat from government. They simply want to be left alone. They want government to spend less, so it doesn't have to tax them at the highest rate in America.
So there's the difference. The insider wants government to spend taxpayers' money on their product or service. The average Republican primary voter wants government to spend less and just go away. It's a difference of perspective and it is why candidates like Gary Larson see "dysfunction" -- because the wants of the insiders he's listening to are different from those of the Republican voters he is trying to convince to vote for him.
And often -- too often -- the insider's game turns into little more than crony capitalism, with products and services considered based on the pedigree of the "representative" (aka "advocate", "lobbyist", "recipient of corporate welfare") as opposed to the needs of the taxpayer. Who said we needed solar panels on the roof tops of every public building anyway? Which came first, some insider's need for a score or the taxpayers' need for the product?
So Gary Larson is on to something. There is something dysfunctional about Sussex County politics. Too many prospective elected officials dispense with polling the people they want to represent and instead look to the direction of a handful of chattering insiders. These perspectives couldn't be more different, and so they lose, wonder why, and then call it "dysfunctional".