Ocean County Republicans voted by a margin of 124-91 to certify a new Republican club in Toms River made up of those loyal to GOP Chairman Frank B. Holman III, handing the sitting party leader a win over former longtime chair George Gilmore.
“There’s been too much division there for too long, so I’m very pleased with the result, and we’ll take it from there,” Holman said. “We’ll try to get everybody back together. I think we’ll encourage people in the old club to come over to the new club and see if we can get that done.”
The intra-party fight over the future of the Toms River GOP was the latest in a series of bouts between Holman and the former chair since the incumbent party leader defeated Gilmore’s hand-picked successor, Frank Sadeghi, in 2018.
Republicans for Toms River, the new club whose members are loyal to Holman sought to wrest control from the Toms River Regular Republican Club, a group controlled by Gilmore that has been the recognized club for at least 35 years.
With the vote done, Holman is looking to move on, but the battle may yet continue. Gilmore said he did not believe the margins for Wednesday evening’s vote were sufficient to replace the existing Republican organization.
“It’s liars’ poker,” he said. “I said the interpretation of the bylaws would require a two-thirds vote. The parliamentarian ruled it only required 50% plus one vote. I disagree with the ruling.”
Some Ocean County GOP insiders expect he’ll pursue legal avenues to block the move, though Gilmore himself said it was “too early to make a decision” on next steps.
But Holman believes his side is in the clear.
“You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a lawyer around here. It’s all been studied by our credentials committee and our parliamentarian,” he said. “If George wants to invoke something, he has every right to do that. I think we’ve been very thorough.”
The committee handed Holman other victories Wednesday night.
His chosen candidate won the party line in the race to fill a rare vacancy on the county’s board of commissioners created by the retirement of six-term County Commissioner Gerry Little.
Bobbi Jo Crea, a Little Egg Harbor township committeewoman and former mayor, defeated Berkeley Township Councilman John Bacchione, Gilmore’s pick for the seat, in a 127-73 vote.
A third candidate, longtime Surf City Republican Chairwoman Lisa Hodgson Henson, won 15 votes.
Geri Ambrosio, a Gilmore ally and president of the existing Toms River GOP club, lost the contest for the party line in the 10th legislative district to incumbent Assemblymen Greg McGuckin (R-Toms River) and John Catalano (R-Brick).
McGuckin, who sided with Holman in the battle over the Republican clubs, ran first there with 63 votes. Catalano won 55, and Ambrosio got 21.
County Commissioner Jack Kelly won the vote to fill a GOP State Committee seat left vacant by the death of former Toms River Mayor Thomas Kelaher, who died last month. He was 88.
Kelly defeated former Point Pleasant Council President Michael Thulen Jr. by a margin of 114-78.
Gilmore has remained active in Ocean County politics, often to Holman’s chagrin. He resigned after he was convicted of federal tax charges in 2019, but President Donald Trump pardoned him in a wave of clemencies on his last day in office.