While Ocean County’s GOP heavyweights are partying it up in Beachwood, Ohio at the RNC, an insurgent challenger who broke rank from the party hit the campaign trail in Beachwood, New Jersey this week.
With their reelection campaign already underway, incumbent Republican Freeholders John P. “Jack” Kelly and Virginia “Ginny” Haines will see one half of the Kelly / Haines ticket be nearly 500 miles away from Ocean County this week, and one of their opponents is using Haines’ absence to their advantage.
In spite of the fact that many of the New Jersey’s top Republican leaders chose to skip this year’s convention, heavily Republican Ocean County’s delegation to the RNC includes Freeholder Haines, Ocean County Republican Chairman George Gilmore, Toms River Council President Brian Kubiel, Berkeley Councilman James Byrnes and 3rd district Congressman Tom MacArthur, all of whom are currently being lodged in aptly named Beachwood, Ohio joined by the Christie-led New Jersey GOP delegation as they participate in the Republican National Convention that kicked off Monday, where controversial New York real estate tycoon Donald Trump is expected to become their party’s official nominee for the presidential election.
Ohio’s Republican National Convention is hardly the first out of state junket for Ocean County’s newest freeholder, who was appointed after James Lacey resigned. As state lottery commissioner under Governor Christine Todd Whitman, it was noted that Haines drew criticism for taking thousands of dollars of taxpayer-funded out-of-state trips to lottery conferences.
Rise Of The Anti-Gilmore Republican?
But over in Beachwood, New Jersey it was a different story for Barnegat mayor – and freeholder hopeful – John Novak. While one of his incumbent rivals was taking selfies with RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, Mayor Novak was pounding the pavement Monday afternoon in the Ocean County borough. “I was not invited to the Republican National Convention in Ohio. I am not a delegate and will not be attending any of the ‘A-list’ cocktail parties or dinners,” Novak said.
Mr. Novak is currently the incumbent Republican mayor of Barnegat, who broke with his own party to run as an independent for Ocean County Freeholder in the 2016 general election. He previously criticized the freeholders for purportedly being pressured by Ocean County GOP chieftain George Gilmore to remain silent about a proposed 23-cent gas tax hike.
In Ocean County GOP establishment politics, breaking with House Gilmore can all too often be the third rail for elected officials beholden to the influential party boss and municipal attorney, but so far, Novak has not backed down.
Novak is hardly the first Republican to publicly break with the Ocean County’s dominant Republican establishment. Previously the Haelig-backed Traditional Republicans of Ocean County was a thorn in Gilmore’s side with primary challenges against machine-backed candidates. After some Stafford Republicans were disgusted with the direction of the party, the “Common Sense Conservatives” were born and campaigned against establishment politics through several primary challenges.
“I have to work this week and I was attending meetings for Barnegat Township much of the day,” he added. “When completed with that, it’s campaign time again. Today, I thought it fitting to campaign in Beachwood – as in Beachwood, Ocean County NJ.”
Mayor Novak spoke with Beachwood residents as he campaigned in the borough and also met with several of the borough’s police officers in a continuation his campaign in support of law enforcement in the wake of several deadly shootings that saw police killed in cold blood in the cities of Dallas, Texas and most recently Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Both shootings have further polarized presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton’s rhetoric in the days following the killings.
Novak told Beachwood officers about the response he received from the community as he led a program in Barnegat to give out blue ribbons in support of law enforcement at town hall and around Barnegat, and he encouraged Beachwood officials to do the same.
The candidate said that looking forward to the November 8th election, he believes that if he is to be successful it will not be “machinery of establishment politics,” but rather the people of Ocean County. In addition to competing for votes against Kelly & Haines, Ocean County Democrats have nominated Michael Cooke and Ed Wolff to run for the two seats of the freeholder board.
Byrnes Absent For Berkeley Coloring Book Brawl
Another Ocean County RNC delegate drew attention this week. Like his party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, the words that come out of Berkeley Township Councilman James Byrnes’ mouth sometimes get him into trouble, as the elected official has a reputation for being frank in his remarks.
The the 1st ward councilman’s latest pearl of wisdom saw him decree that Central Regional graduates are not even smart enough to use coloring books properly.
That remark drew a sharp rebuke from Central Regional Superintendent Dr. Triantafilos Parlapanides, who said that the councilman’s remarks were “insulting.” Byrnes said he didn’t want to “pull a Hillary” by debating Dr. Parlapanides in public.
The council and the Central Regional school board are currently in a spat over how to best use school choice funds obtained as a reimbursement from the state for allowing students that don’t reside in the district to attend school at Central. Central Regional Superintendent Triantifilos Parlapanides argued that the funds are used to allow the school to add new programs without increasing the tax levy, while Byrnes and the council are adamant about the school board sharing the funds the funds so that the township can use them for tax relief.
The timing of this year’s Republican National Convention may just have saved Byrnes from what would have been another contentious (and potentially embarrassing) public council meeting, as Dr. Parlapanides and several outraged parents made plans to attend Monday night’s Berkeley Township Council meeting and speak out, despite Byrnes being in Ohio with the rest of the Ocean County delegation.
Despite calling for tax relief, when we last checked in with Byrnes & company, he and the Berkeley council recently rubber-stamped the doubling of the salaries of appointed MUA and BTSA commissioners, who show up at one meeting a month and mostly consist of political lackeys.
Tom MacArthur Only NJ Congressman Attending RNC Convention
With his rival being the only New Jersey Republican congressman to attend this year’s Republican National Convention, Democrat Fred LaVergne, the party’s nominee for the 3rd congressional district, also chimed in on developments surrounding the RNC, chiding MacArthur for spending time outside of the district.
“Wrong Beachwood, Tom, “LaVergne declared. The congressional candidate also called attention to MacArthur’s campaign website, claiming that the incumbent congressman is still using a map of the third district from before the 2011 reapportionment. “CD3 does not include Barnegat Light anymore,” LaVergne added. “If Tom were actually from this area, he would know that.” In the June primary election, LaVergne bested Jim Keady in a contentious primary, spending just $600 to win the primary, according to campaign finance records. The MacArthurs own a beachfront home in Barnegat Light, which is currently located within the 2nd congressional district, where incumbent Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R) will likely be reelected.
Mr. LaVergne indicated that he does not currently have plans to participate in his party’s convention in Philadelphia that will be held later in July, stating that he intends to instead use the time to focus on CD3.