Ocean County Freeholder Director Joe Vicari is leaving the contest to replace retiring Freeholder Gerry Little’s seat up to the county’s Republican committee.
“It has to go through the process of the Republican party,” he told the New Jersey Globe Wednesday. “There’s a screening committee. There’s a process right now.”
Little, a 17-year veteran of the county’s Freeholder Board, won’t seek re-election this year, creating a rare vacancy in what is perhaps the state’s staunchest Republican stronghold.
So far, Berkeley Township Councilman John Bacchione and Little Egg Harbor Mayor Barbara Jo Crea have entered the race.
“Those two have called me up personally and have been asking for my support. What I tell them is ‘bring your resume. Go before the screening committee,’” Vicari said. “It’s a fair process, and we’ll see where it goes from there.”
Other candidates are attempting to marshal supporters behind the scenes ahead of the county Republicans’ March convention.
The Ocean County Republican Committee split support for a third district congressional candidate this year. Former Hill International CEO David Richter won the party line with support from former Ocean County Republican Chairman George Gilmore.
Former Burlington County Freeholder Director Kate Gibbs, who won Burlington’s line and was endorsed by the Ocean GOP’s screening committee, had the backing of Frank Holman, the current Republican chairman.
That intra-party feud could reignite this year. Gilmore is backing Bacchione, while Holman’s support will likely follow the decision of the screening committee.
But Vicari is steering clear of that spat too.
“I keep out of that. From the former chairman to the new chairman, I try to be neutral. I do my job every single day, so I’m not involved in political disputes,” he said. “My concern is I just ran for re-election. I’m very fortunate to be given the opportunity to serve for another three years.”