Al Barlas was re-elected to a four-year term as Essex County Republican Chairman on Tuesday evening without opposition.
Mary Devon O’Brien was re-elected vice chair.
“Together with our Executive Committee, we are committed to ensuring our Party is always moving in the right direction by recruiting candidates, supporting candidates, and providing our elected officials with the resources they need,” Barlas said. This year, we are extremely proud to have recruited the first ever all-female countywide slate of candidates for Freeholder At-Large and County Clerk.”
A senior vice president at Mercury, Barlas serves as Republican Chair of the New Jersey Legislative Reapportionment Commission. The panel will draw maps for new legislative districts either for the 2021 election, or if voters pass a constitutional amendment in November, for 2023.
Barlas won a special election for county chairman in 2011 and was re-elected in 2012 and 2016.
Earlier this year, Barlas announced that Essex Republicans voted to adopt policies that will deny party support to county and municipal candidates who force staff, vendors and volunteers to sign non-disclosure agreements that limit victims of toxic environment issues.
Essex is one of the state’s most solidly-Democratic counties; the county has 225,576 more Democrats than Republicans and the GOP makes up just 9% of the total voters. Still, the 54,257 registered Republicans represents a formidable block in a statewide primary election.
The GOP slate includes one African American woman and one Latina.
Monique Headen, Gynise Gotto, Bernara Quezada and Alexandra Campisi will run for freeholder-at-large against incumbents Patricia Sebold, Brendan Gill, Rufus Johnson and Romaine Graham.
Kristina Christoforou, who ran for Register of Deeds and Mortgages in 2019, will take on county clerk Christopher Durkin.
Republicans have not won the county clerk post since Anthony Giuliano beat Harry Lerner in 1955.
In 1960, Giuliano and county register Abbie Magee, both Republicans, tried to switch jobs and both lost. Democrat Nicholas V. Caputo, the “man with the golden arm,” was elected county clerk and stayed in office for 30 years; Madaline Williams was elected register, the first African American woman to win a constitutional row office in New Jersey history.
The last Republican to win a freeholder-at-large seat in Essex was Gerardo Del Tufo (R-Newark), who gave up his State Senate seat in 1971 to run for the countywide post. Del Tufo lost re-election in the 1974 Watergate landslide.
Republicans have won four times since then in elections where they forged a coalition with a significant wing of the county Democratic organization: Nicholas Amato for county executive against incumbent Peter Shapiro in 1986; Earl Harris for surrogate the same year; and James Treffinger for county executive in 1994 and 1998.
The last GOP win was a 2003 special election for District 4 freeholder, when Muriel Shore won with 51% of the vote. She lost her seat in 2005 to Linda Lordi Cavanaugh.
Sebold, the longest -serving freeholder in Essex County history, will seek re-election to an 11th term. She won a special election convention in 1993 and has won nine countywide elections, including a 1993 primary win against Sheila Oliver.
Gill, the Montclair Democratic municipal chairman and a top political advisor to Gov. Phil Murphy, won a district 5 freeholder race in 2011 and at-large races in 2014 and 2017.
Johnson, a former aide to State Sen. Ronald Rice (D-Newark), is seeking his 5th term.
Graham became a freeholder in 2019 following the death of Lebby C. Jones and won a special election last fall.