Ocean County Commissioner Joseph Vicari is moving toward a bid for the Republican nomination for governor, filing a letter of intent on Saturday to seek the organization line in Ocean County.
Vicari told the New Jersey Globe that he will focus on winning his home county support but has no plans to campaign statewide.
“As of right now, I just want to focus on Ocean County issues as the favorite son of Ocean County,” he said. “I want to make sure that the Jersey Shore is represented.
Vicari, a 74-year-old retired public school teacher and superintendent of schools, is the longest-serving county elected official in the state. He was first elected to the Board of Freeholders in 1981 and in now serving his 14th term.
“I will be screened. I will bring forth issues of Ocean County,” Vicari said. “I want to use that as leverage for issues related to Ocean County.”
He listed senior citizens, veterans and middle-class families as his main priorities.
Vicari also pledged to run a positive campaign.
“I will not be negative. I will say only good things, including about Gov. (Phil) Murphy,” Vicari explained. “I have respect for how campaigns should be run. As an educator for many years, I encourage people to run for office.”
The deadline to file for consideration by the Ocean GOP screening committee in February and to be able to compete at the Republican convention in March was on January 16.
Former Republican County Chairman George Gilmore had been expected to back Doug Steinhardt before his unexpected withdrawal from the race one week ago.
His successor and now rival, Ocean GOP Chairman Frank B. Holman III, issued a personal endorsement of former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli for governor last week.
Vicari served as a township committeeman in Dover (now called Toms River) from 1980 to 1994.
Three other Republicans also filed letters of intent in Ocean: former Franklin Mayor and Somerset County Freeholder Brian D. Levine; businessman Joseph Rudy Rullo; and perennial candidate Hirsh Singh.