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Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso (R-Holmdel). (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

Monmouth GOP mulls dropping DiMaso from organization line

Two-term assemblywoman could be forced into convention battle, off the line primary fight

By David Wildstein, January 26 2021 4:48 pm

Conflicts with top Monmouth County Republican leaders have put Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso (R-Holmdel) in serious danger of losing party support for a third term, setting up a likely convention fight and potentially a bid off the line in the GOP primary.

Multiple sources closely tied to the Monmouth GOP have confirmed that Monmouth County Republican Chairman Shaun Golden is pursuing another candidate to run for Assembly in the 13th legislative district.

But while DiMaso has run afoul of some powerful Republicans, she also remains hugely popular with several key party officials who are prepared to support her on or off the line, the New Jersey Globe has learned.

An opponent for DiMaso has not yet emerged.

Monmouth County Commissioner Sue Kiley was recruited to run, sources told the NJ Globe, but she prefers to seek re-election to her county post this year.

Republicans involved in the process acknowledge a reluctance to run three men on their ticket, suggesting that DiMaso’s opponent would be a woman.

Until January 2020, the 13th district was represented by two Republican women, DiMaso and Amy Handlin (R-Middletown).  Handlin retired in 2019.

The filing deadline to seek organizational support is ten business days before the county Republican convention.  That date has not yet been set, although it traditionally occurs in March.

State Sen. Declan O’Scanlon (R-Little Silver) and Assemblyman Gerald Scharfenberger (R-Middletown) are expected to run on the organization line for re-election, with our without DiMaso.   That doesn’t necessarily require one or both of them to support the new Assembly candidate, if it’s not DiMaso.

DiMaso and Golden have sparred in local races in the assemblywoman’s hometown of Holmdel, where she served as mayor.  In 2019 and 2020, she backed local slates running off the line against Golden-endorsed candidates.

A 57-year-old former Monmouth County freeholder, DiMaso won the Assembly seat that opened up when O’Scanlon replaced retiring State Sen. Joseph Kyrillos (R-Middletown) in 2017.

This could be the first hotly contested Republican primary in 16 years.

In 2005, Monmouth County Republicans dumped Joseph Azzolina (R-Middletown), who had served 11 terms in the Assembly on and off since 1965 – and one term in the State Senate.

Azzolina ran off the line in Monmouth and on the line in Middlesex County, when the 13th district included Old Bridge.

Handlin defeated him by 624 votes.

Over the last six years, Monmouth Republicans lost three women legislators.  Democrats ousted Assemblywomen Mary Pat Angelini (R-Ocean Township) and Caroline Casagrande (R-Colts Neck) in 2015, and Vin Gopal (D-Long Branch) defeated three-term State Sen. Jennifer Beck (R-Red Bank) in 2017.

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