Ocean County Freeholder Director Joe Vicari is staying out of the contest for the Republican gubernatorial nod.
“Not right now,” he said when asked whether he had a preferred challenger to Gov. Phil Murphy. “I think that’s going to go to the process.”
So far, three candidates have launched campaigns for the governorship. They are former Republican State Chairman Doug Steinhardt, former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli and perennial candidate Hirsh Singh.
Backing in Ocean would be a huge boon for any Republican seeking Murphy’s seat. The county is perhaps the staunchest Republican stronghold in the state, and an endorsement there was nearly enough for Singh to overcome massive deficits in most other parts of the state when he unsuccessfully sought the nod to run for U.S. Senate this year.
Former Ocean County Republican Chairman George Gilmore is expected to back Steinhardt, while Frank Holman, the current county chairman, appears to lean toward Ciattarelli, but Vicari is steering clear of the fight between the two party leaders.
He’ll also likely continue to hold his gubernatorial preferences close to his chest in case he ends up on Ocean Republicans’ screening committee, which will endorse a gubernatorial candidate ahead of the county GOP’s March convention.
“We’ll see how it works out from now until March,” he said.