David Richter has scored an upset victory to win the Ocean County Republican organization line tonight, defeating former Burlington County Freeholder Kate Gibbs, 68 to 60.
“I just want to thank Chairman Holman, the entire Ocean County Republican Organization, every supporter. I just want to thank all of you for just a fantastic night,” Richter told the assembled crowd. “As you’ve learned, I’m a fighter, and I don’t mind uphill battles. I’m going to take this fight all the way to November. We’re going to take Andy Kim and make him a one-term congressman, and we’re going to take the gavel out of Nancy Pelosi’s hand come January.”
The former Hill International CEO’s victory sets up a tight contest for the Republican nod to take on Rep. Andy Kim (D-Marlton) in November.
Gibbs has the party line in her home county, and Barnegat Mayor John Novak, who declined a nomination at the county convention Wednesday night, said he intends to stay in the race if no candidate has lines in both of the district’s counties.
Richter’s victory came as an upset. Gibbs won the backing of Ocean County Republicans’ screening committee last month.
A portion of the county — including numerous legislators and Ocean County Freeholder Ginny Haines, who is also a member of the Republican National Committee — abided by the screening committee’s decision and backed Gibbs.
It’s unclear whether most of those endorsements still stand. Several lawmakers asked whether they would continue to back the former freeholder if Richter won the organization’s line either declined to comment or said they had not given the issue any thought.
Before Richter’s victory, Haines said she would back the organization’s candidate, even if that candidate wasn’t Gibbs.
Richter in part owes his victory to former Ocean County Republican Chairman George Gilmore, who resigned from his position after he was convicted on federal tax charges in April.
Though he suffered consecutive defeats for control of the Ocean GOP and the Toms River mayorship, Gilmore, who attended the county convention, and his circle successfully lobbied for Richter.
Election day is June 2.