State Sen. Kip Bateman (R-Branchburg) is backing former U.S. Senate candidate Bob Hugin to head the Republican State Committee over Michael Lavery, a former Hackettstown mayor who served as state chairman for five months in 2017.
“I would probably, just knowing that and not knowing if anybody else is going to enter, I’d probably go with Bob Hugin because I think he’s got incredibly credentials and he’s been a big help to the party,” Bateman said. “I think he would be a great state chairman.”
Bateman’s endorsement is not surprising, nor is it likely to change the contest in any significant way.
The senator endorsed Ciattarelli, his former Assembly running mate, in January, and Bateman isn’t one of the 41 state committee members who’ll get a say in who’s next to lead their party.
A New Jersey Globe tally of the race conducted Monday afternoon had Lavery, who was state Republican chair for five months in 2017, leading the former pharmaceutical executive by nine votes, 24-15.
The fight over control of the GOP’s state committee is in part a proxy contest for next year’s gubernatorial primary.
There, Ciattarelli faces Republican State Chairman Doug Steinhardt, whose replacement is set to be elected tomorrow evening.
Lavery is a close ally of Steinhardt, while Hugin and the outgoing chairman have a more distant relationship.