By Marion Filler
Morris County’s next freeholder arrived from Turkey in 1996 with no money and no English. He pumped gas in Madison to make ends meet.
Tayfun Selen was chosen on the second ballot Saturday at a county Republican convention to succeed Freeholder Heather Darling, who was elected as county Surrogate last November.
Selen, a resident of Chatham Township, bested four other candidates, including former Morristown Councilwoman Alison Deeb, who finished last in the voting at the County College of Morris in Randolph.
Selen was top vote-getter in the initial round, but did not garner 51 percent of the total votes as required by GOP rules. In a runoff, he defeated Bruce Meringolo, 198 to 171.
“I learned in America that you can achieve your dreams if you work hard and play by the rules,” said Selun, now a successful businessman and a former mayor.
Tayfun Selen’s victory speech. Video by Marion Filler for MorristownGreen.com:
Leading off candidates’ pitches, Christian Barranco surprised the standing-room crowd of GOP committee members by asking his backers to vote for Selun, “who has done as much or more than I have.”
Republicans had 35 days to appoint a successor to Darling. Selen will run in the June primary and, barring any surprises there, will run again in the November general election for a three-year term.
Mellissa Florance-Lynch rounded out the field of candidates on Saturday, before a Who’s Who of Morris County Republicans.
They included state Sen. Anthony M. Bucco and Assemblyman Brian Bergen (both R-25th Dist.), state Sen. Joe Pennachio and Assemblyman Jay Webber (both R-26th Dist.), Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-21st Dist.), Morris Sheriff James Gannon, and Morris Township Committeeman Peter Mancuso.
Describing Democratic Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-11th Dist.) as “the worst thing that ever happened in Morris County,” state Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. introduced Republican challenger Rosemary Becchi.
Asked if she agreed with that assessment, Becchi replied: “I think she doesn’t represent the people of Morris County because she promised to go to Washington and be a different kind of politician and she’s not. She’s voted with Nancy Pelosi 98 percent of the time and she broke her promise. We need someone to focus on the problems of New Jersey.”
And the winner is… Video by Marion Filler for MorristownGreen.com:
Alice Cutler introduced Alison Deeb, who served on Morristown Council for three terms before losing in November. This was at least her second try for freeholder. She has run unsuccessfully for mayor and Assembly.
Using a Super Bowl analogy, Deeb told the crowd: “I know how to punt, I know how to push back, I’ve learned how to play defense, I’ve learned how to play offense, I know I can be your voice and you can trust me.”
Describing her “passion for public service,” Deeb stressed her availability and willingness to support constituents in Morris County.
When asked after his victory if his story would be the same today, considering the restrictive immigration policies now in place, Selen acknowledged the chances would be slim.
“America is a great country and we love immigrants, but we just want them to be legal immigrants. We want to help everyone,” Selen said.
A big crowd of GOP committee members turns out to vote for the next Morris freeholder. Video by Marion Filler for MorristownGreen.com: