A joint fundraiser being conducted by Republican organizations in Ocean and Monmouth counties later this month has fueled some speculation that the two GOP strongholds might move as a block in support of a single gubernatorial candidate in next year’s primary election.
Ocean County GOP Chairman Frank Holman says that’s just conjecture and that the two county organizations have simply identified the best possible option for 2020.
“The less events the better,” Holman said. “We like hanging out together.”
Still, the combination of Ocean and Monmouth could become a formidable block as Republicans compete for the chance to take on Gov. Phil Murphy next year.
“Dating back to 2005, Monmouth and Ocean haves consistently accounted for a fifth of every GOP gubernatorial primary. If they were to forge an alliance and award their lines together, it would instantly become the biggest prize on the map,” said Micah Rasmussen, the director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University. “Then again, that’s already a status Ocean County enjoys all by itself, so this would even further magnify its clout as New Jersey’s GOP kingmaker.
Ocean has 159,241 registered Republicans, 11.2 of the total statewide GOP registration and the largest block in the state. Monmouth has the second-largest number of Republicans in New Jersey – 137,292 – and comprises 9.6% of the registered Republicans in New Jersey.
The Monmouth County Republican Chairman, Sheriff Shaun Golden, has been mentioned as a potential candidate for governor in 2021. Golden has not overtly sought support for a statewide bid, but has not yet removed himself from the race.
Golden has been critical of another possible candidate, Republican State Chairman Doug Steinhardt.
Steinhardt has told the New Jersey Globe that he is considering taking on Murphy, but won’t decide until after the upcoming general election.
Earlier this year, a group of top Steinhardt allies, including former GOP State Chairman Mike Lavery and Donald Trump’s campaign manager, Bill Stepien, formed a new super PAC that was viewed as a signal of the GOP chairman’s interest in running statewide.
Lavery is the nephew of former Ocean County Republican Chairman George Gilmore.
Gilmore resigned in 2019 following his conviction on federal tax-related charges. Holman defeated Gilmore’s hand-picked replacement, Frank Sadeghi, by 25 votes, 243 to 229.
Since then, the two have been at odds after Gilmore launched his own fundraising operation to compete for dollars in Ocean County. Gilmore has rebuffed Holman’s request that he cut it out.
Gilmore recently held a fundraiser for Republican congressional candidate David Richter that was sparsely attended. Another fundraiser, for Gilmore’s political action committee that featured Richter as the honoree, did a little better.