Cumberland County Republican Chairman Michael Testa won the county line over former Assemblyman Sam Fiocchi (R-Vineland) Tuesday night by a massive 45-7 margin.
The loss is Fiocchi’s third before the Cumberland County Committee in a single year. He lost the party line to former FBI agent Robert Turkavage when he ran for the House seat now held by Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-Dennis). Fiocchi unsuccessfully attempted to oust Testa as county chair.
Despite the history, Testa said he doesn’t hold any ill will towards his primary opponent.
“I like Sam Fiocchi. He’s a good guy. We’re sort of neighbors. We live in the same neighborhood, for crying out loud,” Testa said. “I think this is the right time to fight Trenton Democrats, Phil Murphy, and I think, with all due respect to Bob Andrzejczak, I think he’s very beatable, and that’s where my focus lies, beating Bob Andrzejczak”
The contest is far from over. Atlantic and Cape May Counties have yet to hold their candidate conventions, and it’s possible that a win in either could set Fiocchi up to mount a competitive primary challenge to Testa.
Such intra-party contests often leave candidates broke and bruised when it comes time for the general, and while the contest for the Republican nomination has so far been relatively tame by the state’s standards, some jabs have already been thrown.
“It’s easy to dodge the bullets and the arrows coming from the other party. it’s hard to dodge the daggers comign from the back, and I’m not suggesting Sam Fiocchi’s going to do that, but I would be very disappointed if that’s the way the race goes.”
Testa said he hoped he and Fiocchi could come to peace and avoid a primary to avoid boosting State Sen. Bob Andrzejczak’s chances come November, but for now, no one’s dropping out of the race.
“All options are on the table. We, myself, my team, you always anticipate the worst-case scenario. It could very well be a primary,” Fiocchi said when asked if he would drop his bid if he lost the two remaining conventions. “The best response is all options are on the table. Two more conventions. Last year, I won one out of eight counties, and I won four counties in the primary.”
Lower Township mayor Erik Simonsen and Ocean City councilman Antwan McClellan made uncontested bids to run against Assemblymen Bruce Land (D-Vineland) and Matthew Milam (D-Vineland).
Because Testa is seeking Andrzejczak’s seat, Cumberland County GOP vice chairman Andrew Van Hook officiated the convention.