Some Republican municipal chairs who signed a letter backing Assemblyman Joe Howarth (R-Evesham) for re-election earlier this week may be reconsidering after meetings with party officials, according to two Burlington County Republicans who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Burlington Republicans are meeting on Saturday to screen candidates for State Assembly in the 8th district in advance of the March county convention. The process being used to select
candidates is identical to the one adopted two years ago without complaints from GOP officials.
Earlier today, Pemberton Republican municipal chair Abigail Bargar said she would quit if the county GOP organization didn’t change the format of their screening committee composition.
But according to text messages obtained by the New Jersey Globe, Bargar accepted an invitation to be on the screening committee. She had served on the same panel before and knew the rules.
Burlington County Republican chairman Sean Earlen is not supporting Howarth for re-election. He says Howarth mulled switching parties last month along with State Sen. Dawn Addiego (D-Evesham).
Democratic officials have confirmed that there were discussions with Howarth about a party switch. The discussions ended when state Democrats realized the inherent difficulties of securing the Burlington County Democratic organization line for Howarth.
Now Republicans are looking for a new candidate to run with Assemblyman Ryan Peters (R-Lumberton).
Howarth has said he will run even if he does not win the endorsement of the county GOP organization.
The 8th district has not elected a Democrat since 1973 but shifting demographics have put the district in play.
Howarth finished 645 votes ahead of former Waterford mayor Mary Ann Merlino and Peters won his seat by just 350 votes over former freeholder (now county clerk) Joanne Schwartz. Howarth ran 170 votes ahead of Peters.
Addiego defeated George Youngkin in the Senate race by 2,637 votes, 52%-48%. Phil Murphy won the 8th with 52%, a 1,496 vote plurality.
The 8th now has 6,694 more Democrat