Ocean County Republicans have nothing but praise for GOP Vice Chairwoman Barbara Lanuto, who is poised to take control of the state’s most powerful Republican county organization with Ocean County Chairman George Gilmore’s resignation likely on the horizon.
“Lovely woman. Like her very much. Always upbeat and has done a great job as vice chairwoman,” State Sen. Bob Singer said. “I’ve been involved for over 30 years, and she’s been involved as long as I have, so she’s a mainstay in the Republican party of Ocean County. And the good part of it is she’s been a woman involved, and I can’t tell you how much that means to have bright women involved in politics. It helps all of us.”
Gilmore was convicted on two counts of failing to file employee tax and one count of making false statements on a bank loan application. The jury found him not guilty on two counts of filing false tax returns and did not reach a decision on federal tax evasion charges against the Ocean County power broker.
Several sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity on Sunday told the New Jersey Globe that Gilmore had informed Republican leaders in the county of his intention to step down from his role as county chairman.
On Tuesday, Gilmore resigned from Ocean County Board of Elections ahead of State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal obtaining a court order to force him out of the role.
Lanuto, who was Republican municipal chairwoman of Lacey Township before ascending to her leadership position with the county organization, has mentored a number of notable Republicans in the county, including Freeholder Gary Quinn, a fellow Lacey Township resident who was elected to the county post in 2018.
“She’s always stayed in the background and done her job extremely well, and now it’s her time to get out there and take the reins and run the organizations for 60 days or whatever the timeframe is that the organization chooses to keep her in place,” Quinn said. “I have all the confidence in the world. She’s an extremely loyal individual, and she knows how to do what she has to do. And I think over the next couple months, people throughout the state will be impressed with her ability to run the Ocean County Organization.”
Lanuto, who has been involved in Ocean County Politics for more than three decades, has served as Ocean County’s deputy clerk since 2011, when she was appointed to the position by County Clerk Scott Colabella
“I reappointed her as my deputy for another go around, so obviously I was pleased with the initial move,” Colabella said.
Multiple Republicans credited Lanuto with the increasing number of women involved in Ocean County’s Republican politics.
The county vice chairwoman has long been involved with Ocean County’s Federation of Republican Women
“She’s an awesome woman, she really is,” Noriko Kowalewski, the group’s chairwoman said. “She’s been doing this for a long time, so we really have a lot of respect for her.”
The Ocean County Republican Organization’s bylaws require a special election be held to fill Gilmore’s seat as county chairman within 60 days of a vacancy. Lanuto would replace Gilmore until the seat is filled.
Two candidates, Frank B. Holman, III, and Frank Sadeghi have emerged as potential candidates to replace Gilmore.
Holman heads a politically-active accounting firm and is the son of a former GOP state chairman. Sadeghi is a Republican fundraiser that heads a Toms River-based engineering firm.
It’s not clear whether Lanuto intends to seek the seat for herself, but the abundance of praise from county Republicans suggests such a bid could be met with success.
“Barbara has always been a friend to grassroots Republicans,” said Frank Luna, who was district chief of staff to now-former Rep. Tom MacArthur. “She is always putting her hand out to do whatever needs to be done to help Republicans win in Ocean County, and she was a huge, huge part of my early career development and even when I was working with Tom.”
Still, it’s more than possible that Lanuto will choose to remain in the largely behind-the-scenes role she’s occupied until now.
“She’s got a heart of gold, and she’s the type of person that doesn’t look for the accolades,” Quinn said. “She’s a down-to-earth, hard-working individual that’ll work with you whether you’re running for mayor, council — my freeholder’s race. When I ran for that, she was behind me and working with me 24/7. She just gets out there and works with whatever candidate needs her help.”