Amid a nationwide Republican triumph, one veteran member of the GOP and the local Jewish community is coping with defeat. For the first time since 1999, Jack Schrier will no longer be a Morris County freeholder.
“It was an unpleasant surprise for me to lose the primary in June,” he told NJ Jewish News in a Nov. 5 telephone interview. “It is very difficult. I loved being a freeholder. I am not over it, but I will get over it and I will go on.”
A son of Jewish Newark, an important bridge between the MetroWest Jewish community and Morris County, and a committed resident of Mendham, where he has served as mayor and committeeman, Schrier agreed to discuss his disappointment — and future goals — after Election Day.
Despite his own defeat, Schrier said, he is pleased at Republican victories across the country. “I think it was a triumph of common sense. It is wonderful.”
His own loss was mostly bad luck, after 11 Republicans drew lots in May for three slots on the Nov. 2 ballot. Schrier and his two running mates drew the eighth, ninth, and 10th positions out of 11, making their names more difficult for voters to find, he said.
“There was no hanky-panky going on” he said. “But when the ballot was printed, even people who knew us for years couldn’t find us.”
Although Schrier and his two running mates, Doug Cabana and James Murray, campaigned vigorously, only Cabana was reelected.
“I don’t want to blame anything or anybody, but there was a confluence of circumstances,” said Schrier, who served as mayor of Mendham between 1997 and 1998, and deputy mayor for three previous years. “There were no Tea Party candidates, although there was a lot of anti-incumbent sentiment afoot. I guess part of it was that. But it wasn’t an ideological battle of the Tea Party vs. Republicans.”
And there was another factor that may have contributed to his undoing. Schrier said he considers himself a conservationist as well as a conservative. For six years he has been an active member, and is now acting chair, of the New Jersey Highlands Water Protection and Planning Council. Its purpose is to protect the water supply and natural resources in seven northern counties against pollution and industrial development.
“Republicans generally railed against the Highlands from the start,” he said. “They felt it was the taking of property without due process or just compensation and restricting development because of the need to protect water resources.”
‘Republicans have hearts’
And yet a man born nearly 79 years ago on the Lower East Side of Manhattan to parents who were Franklin D. Roosevelt Democrats wonders why many of his fellow Jews disagree with him politically.
“Really, more Jews should be Republicans,” he said. “They should be more interested in conservative matters.”
To Schrier, “it is a misperception” that Democrats seem to show more concern than Republicans for minorities and poor people. “Republicans have hearts. ‘Do we not bleed?’” he asked, quoting Shakespeare. “Those views are deeply ingrained — to help each other and be kind. It doesn’t mean you can’t be a Republican. It just means the Democrats have gotten hold of that brass ring and are riding around with it and waving it in the air. But when you do that to an extreme, you also destroy the effort you are trying to make.”
As of New Year’s Day, Schrier will no longer hold elective office. But, he said, he believes he “can offer great value to whoever wants to take advantage of that.”
He is pressing an issue that “was completely ignored” during the campaign. “Morris County could become the Silicon Valley of the East Coast,” he said.
Schrier advocates “filling those empty office buildings in the county with technology people. We have a lot of well-educated workers who are ready to fulfill jobs here with companies that are willing to move their innovations here.”
Schrier is eager to remain active politically, but relishes the respite.
“I have a list of chores my wife, Elizabeth, has been accumulating for 20 years,” he said.
And he plans to spend more time with his son, Stephen, and three grandchildren, who live in Haddon Heights, and his daughter, Samantha, a genetics specialist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Schrier has concluded his term on the board of United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ’s Community Relations Committee and has not decided whether he will return to an active role in Jewish communal life. But he stands ready to be of service.
“People still call me,” he said. “One guy had a problem. He said ‘Jack, I don’t know who else to talk to.’ I am happy to be that guy. So I really will miss working for my county and helping people. My hope is that I will be able to find something outside the chores around the house that will allow me to continue to do that while providing some substance for my family.”