By John Burton |
FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP — The battle lines are drawn and the troops have made their selection of this year’s warriors for the political struggles of the June primary and November general election.
Scores of members of the Monmouth County Republican Committee gathered Saturday March 18, at the iPlay America indoor entertainment and theme park, 110 Schanck Road, to offer their endorsement by acclamation for the list of GOP candidates for this year’s challenges for the various offices on the county ballot.
And if politics is war by another name, minus the literal bloodletting, of course, it was on display as county party leaders offered their strategy and commitment to continue to maintain control of the county’s legislative delegation and county government, and the governor’s office, for the party faithful.
A high priority for this year’s political front, acknowledged county chairman Shaun Golden (who also holds the elected position of county sheriff), will be regaining the two state Assembly seats for the 11th Legislative District, which the Republican incumbents lost two years ago. “We have a great opportunity here,” Golden said, with the ticket for that particular race. A race, one audience member shouted was “stolen by lies and slander” by political opponents.
“It is our ground zero this year,” in the political races, Golden told the crowd, “and we will get these seats back.”
Democrats in that race benefited from a late game influx of cash from the state Democratic organization who detected an opportunity in the 11th District – which skews Democratic in voter registration and includes such county Democratic strongholds as Red Bank, Neptune, Long Branch and Asbury Park. Golden alleged the Democrats outspent the Republicans by more than $1 million to win the two seats, currently held by Joann Downey and Eric Houhtaling, who will be running for re-election this year.
Incumbent Republican state Senator Jennifer Beck, Red Bank, will be seeking another term for the 11th. Joining her will be Michael Whelan, who his currently two years into his three-year term on the Red Bank Borough Council; and Robert Acerra, Ocean Township’s deputy mayor.
Beck vowed to knock on 14,000 doors as she campaigned with her running mates for the three seats, running against what she called “All spin and no substance.”
With veteran state Sen. Joseph Kyrillos Jr.’s decision to not seek another term for the 13th district, that led to Golden, with his committee’s support, to announce that incumbent Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon would step up and run for the Legislature’s upper chamber. Assemblywoman Amy Handlin, Middletown, had said she intended to seek the party’s nod for the spot, but, according to Golden, decided to bow out leaving it open for O’Scanlon. Handlin will run for re-election for her Assembly seat.
O’Scanlon, Little Silver, said it was difficult to square off with his colleague Handlin, “One of the classiest people I know,” he said. However, “This party is in better shape than it’s ever been.”
With O’Scanlon running for the Senate, the other Assembly candidacy for the 13th District, will be Monmouth County Freeholder Serena DiMaso. DiMaso, Holmdel, was appointed to fill a vacancy on the Freeholder board in 2012 and began serving a full term in January 2014 and was re-elected in November 2016.
This year’s GOP freeholder candidates are veteran incumbent Lillian Burry, who began her tenure on the county government board in January 2006. Burry argued that the county has been well served by Republican elected officials, as she pointed to the county’s library and parks department, that she called the envy of the state, and fiscal responsibility that continues to earn national AAA bond ratings. “I would say after working in public service for 30 years,” including her term as a local elected official, Burry said, “I’m not finished yet.”
Joining Burry on the ballot will be Holmdel’s Deputy Mayor Patrick Impreveduto. Impreveduto has lived in Monmouth County since 1984 and has served on the local board of education as well as the Holmdel Township Committee. He is taking the place of incumbent Freeholder Gary Rich who is not running this year.
For the county organization, the top of the ticket belongs to Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno. Guadagno, a Monmouth Beach resident, told the supportive audience she has the ability and experience to defeat likely Democratic nominee Phil Murphy, a Middletown resident, for the governor’s office.
“It’s going to be a bloody battle,” for the governor’s race as well as the Legislature, Guadagno said. “A lot of it is about money,” she said, telling the crowd, “I have the ability to raise money and we will have the money to get the message out.”
State Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R-16) also made an attempt to sway some support for his bid for the party nomination, but promised following the June 6 primary he would support the Republican ticket.
The party committee members endorsed incumbents Senator Sam Thompson and Assemblymen Robert Clifton and Ronald Dancer for their re-election to the 12th Legislative District, which represents seven Monmouth County communities; and the 30th District’s Senator Robert Singer, Assemblymen Sean Kean and David Rible, whose district covers the county’s southern portion.
With the talk of money, Golden noted “I’m happy to report that MCRC is in great financial shape,” but didn’t offer any specifics. While the county returned incumbent Republicans to countywide offices last November (including Golden’s own re-election), and went strong for GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, there is a voter registration deficit with Democrats. But it’s the unaffiliated voters who make the difference. “And we have to continue to give them a reason to vote Republican,” Golden said.
This article was first published in the March 23-30, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.
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