Hours after George Gilmore formally announced his intention to seek a return as county chairman, every legislator and countywide elected official in has endorsed rival Michael Mastronardy for the job.
The endorsements for Mastronardy, the there-term sheriff, included longtime Gilmore allies, including County Commissioner John P. Kelly, State Sen. Robert Singer (R-Lakewood), and his predecessor and mentor, Joseph Buckalew.
The 73-year-old Gilmore wielded enormous power as the Ocean County Republican Chairman for 23 years until he resigned in 2019 following his conviction on tax-related charges. President Donald Trump pardoned him on his final day in office and before Gilmore began a prison sentence.
Frank B. Holman III, a onetime Gilmore ally, won a May 2019 special election for county chairman. Holman won by 25 votes, 254 to 229, against Gilmore’s hand-selected candidate, Frank Sadeghi.
Holman is not seeking re-election this year and is backing Mastronardy. The vice chair, Barbara Lanuto, is running for re-election on the Mastronardy slate.
Endorsements for Mastronardy also came rom State Sens. James Holzapfel (R-Toms River) and Christopher Connors (R-Lacey), County Clerk Scott Colabella, Surrogate Jeffrey Moran, County Commissioners Virginia Haines, Gary Quinn, Joseph Vicari, and Bobbi Jo Crea, Assemblymen Gregory McGuckin (R-Toms River), John Catalano (R-Brick), Ronald Dancer (R-Plumsted) and Brian Rumpf (R-Little Egg Harbor), and Assemblywoman DiAnne Gove (R-Long Beach).
“Mike’s integrity, love of country, respect for our law enforcement, and proven record of success are exactly the qualities we need to lead our party into the future,” the GOP officials said.
The Lakewood Scoop first reported Gilmore’s anticipated comeback bid.
While Gilmore was pardoned, he still faces severe personal financial challenges.
A U.S. Tax Court judge ruled on April 12 that Gilmore still has to pay the more than $1 million he owes in unpaid taxes.
Gilmore was convicted in April 2019 on three of six counts, deadlocking on the tax evasion charge. Gilmore was sentenced to a year and a day in prison but remained free on bail until January 20, 2021, when Trump pardoned him as part of a wave of last-day commutations.
Judge David Gustafson writing that the Internal Revenue Service may “proceed with the collection of [Gilmore’s] unpaid income tax liabilities for the years 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2018.”