With the GOP race to unseat freshman Rep. Andy Kim (D-Marlton) beginning to take shape – former Burlington County Freeholder Kate Gibbs announced today, and Barnegat Township Deputy Mayor John Novak entered the race yesterday – Ocean County Republican Chairman Frank B. Holman III says he isn’t ready to endorse any one yet.
Holman hinted that the field of candidates might get bigger.
“There may be some more people who will be emerging,” Holman told the New Jersey Globe. “I would prefer an Ocean County candidate. I’m waiting to see if anyone will run.”
New Jersey’s 3rd district is split between Ocean and Burlington counties. Ocean cast 53% of the Republican primary vote in 2018, 52% in 2016, and 48% in 2014.
Kim ousted Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-Toms River) in 2018 by a narrow 3,973-vote margin and Republicans think they can win the seat back.
The formula to beat Kim is fairly simple: the Republican plurality in Ocean needs to exceed the Democratic margin in Burlington.
In 2018, MacArthur won Ocean by 30,657 votes (61%-37%), but Kim carried Burlington by 34,630 (59%-40%).
Gibbs, running in the same election, won 46% of the vote in Burlington municipalities in the 3rd district.
She already has the endorsement of Burlington County Republican Chairman Sean Earlen.
Holman said he was open to supporting Gibbs.
“I think she’s a great candidate,” the chairman said.
Novak, who ran as an independent candidate for Ocean County freeholder against GOP incumbents in 2016, appears to have been forgiven for his move against the county Republican organization.
“There’s no penalty,” Holman said. “He ran a gentlemen’s campaign.”
That could mean a protracted battle for the nomination, although Holman carefully said the Ocean Republican convention would be next year – leaving the door open to a vote earlier in the year. Conventions are usually held in March.
Holman became county chairman in May in a special election to replace George Gilmore. Gilmore resigned after a federal court jury found him guilty on tax-related charges.
His first six months resulted in holding on to the Toms River mayor and council in a close race and mounting a strong bid to pick up council seats in Brick.
Holman’s freeholders and legislators won easily.