The Ocean County Republican screening committee voted to recommend Bobbie Jo Crea for an open seat on the Board of Commissioners, setting up a possible convention fight next month – or a contested June GOP primary — with Berkeley Township Councilman John Bacchione.
Bacchione has the backing of former Ocean County FOP Chairman George Gilmore.
Republicans in the county that produces the most GOP primary votes statewide also unanimously backed former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli for governor. Ciattarelli defeated former Franklin Mayor Brian D. Levine and perennial candidate Hirsh Singh, who won the Ocean convention when he ran for U.S. Senate in 2020.
Assemblymen Greg McGuckin (R-Toms River) and John Catalano (R-Brick) were also selected by the screening committee to run for re-election in the 10th legislative district. They faced a challenge from another Gilmore ally, Geri Ambrosio.
Ambrosio could take on the two incumbents at the convention, or in the primary.
In addition to her Assembly bid, Ambrosio faces a fight for re-election as president of the Toms River Republican Club. Her opponent, Virginia Haines, is seeking to simultaneously hold four jobs: she already serves as a county commissioner, as a Republican State Committeewoman, and as the Republican National Committeewoman from New Jersey.
Crea, former mayor, was one of thirteen Republicans who sought a rare open seat as a county commissioner. The six-term incumbent, Gerry Little, is retiring.
There was no opposition for Commissioner Gary Quinn to seek re-election to a second term.
In addition to Crea and Bacchione, there was a eleven other candidates: Pine Beach Mayor Lawrence Cuneo; Lacey Mayor Peter Curatolo; Ocean Township Board of Education member Shawn Denning; former Brick school board candidate Victor Finamore; Lisa Hodgson-Henson, a realtor from Surf City; Jackson Council President Andrew Kern; former Stafford Council President Sharon McKenna; former Point Pleasant Beach Mayor Stephen Reid; former Brock Councilman Michael Thulen; Island Heights Councilman Rolf Weber; and former Assistant Ocean County Prosecutor Rory Wells.
Gilmore resigned in 2019 after his conviction on federal tax-related charges. He has remained active in county politics while awaiting sentencing and received a presidential pardon last month.
The new county chairman, Frank B. Holman III, has protested Gilmore’s consistent meddling in party affairs.
If the 72-year-old Crea wins a county commissioner seat, she would become just the third woman to win a countywide election in Ocean County history.