Home>Highlight>Connors backs Rumpf and Gove, calls efforts to oust them ‘misguided’

Senator Christopher Connors. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe).

Connors backs Rumpf and Gove, calls efforts to oust them ‘misguided’

Retiring senator believes ‘vindictiveness’ is behind primary challenges

By Joey Fox, March 02 2023 1:07 pm

State Sen. Chris Connors (R-Lacey), retiring from the legislature this year and thus freed from political knee-bending, forcefully backed two his district’s two imperiled assemblymembers today and said the campaign to oust them at next week’s Republican convention is “misguided.”

“They’re great colleagues, they’ve been very effective here in the state legislature,” Connors said, noting that they received more votes in 2021 than any other legislator besides himself. “I wholeheartedly support them, and I think they should be returned.”

Those colleagues, 9th district Assemblymembers Brian Rumpf (R-Little Egg Harbor) and DiAnne Gove (R-Long Beach), are under serious threat of losing the Republican organizational line next week; Gove in particular is likely the underdog to get the party endorsement in the heavily Republican district.

The challenges to Rumpf and Gove are part of an effort engineered by Ocean GOP Chairman George Gilmore, who is working to reshape the county delegation after shockingly regaining his old post last summer, though Gilmore is not directly gunning for Rumpf or Gove. Connors, who along with every other Ocean legislator endorsed Gilmore’s opponent in the race for party chair, lambasted the chairman’s attempt at retribution.

“We need public servants that serve the people, not the leadership,” he said. “How can you turn around after so many years supporting them, and then [oppose them]? There must be something else going on, and I believe that it’s because of vindictiveness for not supporting him for county chairman.”

On February 20, the Ocean GOP screening committee voted to dump Gove from party support, though Rumpf survived a similar attempt on his seat. Both incumbents will take the fight to the March 8 county convention, where they’ll face off against Stafford Mayor Greg Myhre (who won the screening committee endorsement), Lacey Mayor Timothy McDonald, Lacey Township Committeeman Mark Dykoff, and charter school leader Valerie Smith.

The fight for Connors’ open seat, meanwhile, has been over for months. Berkeley Mayor Carmen Amato launched his campaign shortly after the five-term incumbent announced his retirement, and he has the backing of Gilmore as well as Rumpf and Gove.

But other fights are brewing elsewhere in the county, including a parallel attempt to ditch 10th district Assemblyman Greg McGuckin (R-Toms River). Connors professed his support for McGuckin today – thus going further than McGuckin’s own senator, State Sen. James Holzapfel (R-Toms River).

“I’m waiting to see what happens with the convention,” Holzapfel, who is running for re-election without any likely primary opponents, said on Monday. “It is a process, and that’s the process. I don’t endorse.”

This story was updated at 4:32 p.m. with a correction: former Barnegat Mayor John Novak has dropped out of the race for Assembly in the 9th district.

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