Hainesport Republican Municipal Chair Lee Schneider walked out of a meeting between the eighth legislative district’s municipal chairs thinking Assemblyman Joe Howarth (R-Evesham) tried to join the Democratic party.
The meeting Tuesday night was meant to be a forum at which Burlington County Republican Chairman Sean Earlen could share his reasons for dropping support for Howarth, who Earlen believes attempted to join State Sen. Dawn Addiego (D-Evesham) on the other side of the aisle.
“The evidence discussed left no doubt that Howarth attempted to defect and continued working against the best interests of the Republican party,” Schneider said without giving specifics, adding that most municipal chairs now backed Earlen’s decision.
Though she did not mention her by name, Schneider noted that Pemberton Republican Municipal Chair Abigail Bargar, who has recently lobbed public criticisms at the at the Burlington GOP’s screening committee that she is a member of, was not among those arraying behind Earlen.
On Monday, 11 of the 15 Burlington municipal chairs from the eighth legislative district signed a letter asking Earlen to back Howarth’s reelection. Schneider was not among those to sign the letter.
Howarth was present at Tuesday’s meeting, but it’s not clear whether his presence benefitted him.
“The evening’s thoughtful conversation was juxtaposed with Howarth’s anger when he was given the floor,” Schneider said. “We were all stunned as he raised his voice to us, refused to answer any questions, and made very clear that his priority was running regardless of overall support, with little caring about what this meant for the party in its entirety.”
Another source familiar with Burlington’s Republican politics told the New Jersey Globe that Howarth yelled at the municipal chairs during Tuesday’s meeting, though details about what Howarth told the group were scarce.
Republicans in the district increasingly sense that Democrats want Howarth to make it through his primary. Some fear that should he make it to the general election, Democrats will publicly say that Howarth attempted to join Addiego in the Democratic party.
The assemblyman has denied attempting to defect.
“The Democrats want nothing more than to continue dividing our party,” Schneider says. “They want Joe Howarth to run for reelection this year, as they see their chances to take an additional Assembly seat greatly increase. We can do better.”