A Republican township committeewoman in Readington who supports Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Ringoes) was defeated in Tuesday’s primary.
Betty Ann Fort lost her bid for a re-election to a fourth term by a nearly 2-1 margin against Vinny Panico, a former president of the Hunterdon Central Regional Board of Education and a 2021 candidate for the State Assembly.
Despite contributing $7,900 to Malinowski’s 2020 and 2022 campaigns, local Republicans gave her the organization line for re-election.
But Panico, running off the line with the blessing of some Hunterdon GOP officials, leads Fort by 626 votes, 1,325 to 699,
In 2020, Fort was among a group of six Republican elected officials who called on the National Republican Congressional Committee to pull a TV ad accusing Malinowski of lobbying for sex offenders while running the Washington office of Human Rights Watch.
Two of those Republicans, East Amwell Township Committeeman Richard Wolfe and former Alexandria Mayor Michele Garay are among the organizers of the new Moderate Party, which filed petitions on Tuesday seeking to run Malinowski as their candidate in the general election.
Panico, a commercial hot air balloon pilot, came within 2,588 votes of capturing an Assembly seat in the 16th legislative district against Democrat Sadaf Jaffer last year.