FORKED RIVER – This week’s Lacey Republican Club meeting drew a rare public appearance from Ocean County Republican Chairman George Gilmore together with Freeholder Jack Kelly, as former Lacey mayor and longtime Ocean County GOP power player John Creby Parker responded to allegations of disloyalty to the Republican party during a contentious Tuesday night meeting.
Last year, Lacey was the site of a civil war between factions of the township’s Republican organization loyal to Mr. Parker and rival Gary Quinn. While the wounds at the township appear to be healed, as the Lacey GOP appears unified behind Mayor Steven Kennis and Deputy Mayor Peter Curatolo’s reelection campaign, 2016 is seeing the small southern Ocean County municipality play host to what can only be described as an open rebellion against politics as usual in Ocean County, with longtime GOP power player John Parker making his position crystal clear this week.
Showdown Between Parker And Gilmore At Lacey GOP Meeting
The highlight of the Republican club meeting was Mr. Parker’s monologue near the end. According to witness accounts of the exchange, Mr. Parker rose and pointed at Gilmore and Kelly and said that he doesn’t need any phone calls from freeholders questioning his loyalty, and that he’ll sit with and support who he wants, in spite of pressure from county leaders for Parker to keep quiet and go along with the party’s officially endorsed candidates.
Lacey GOP sources close to Parker revealed that the OCUA chairman and longtime former Lacey mayor’s support for Barnegat Mayor John Novak’s independent freeholder campaign has been a sore point for Gilmore, and one of the motivations behind his personal visit to the Lacey Republican Club accompanied by Kelly.
Parker: I’ll Support Who I Want
In the 2016 campaign, Mr. Parker is said to have thrown his support behind Barnegat Mayor John Novak, a move which has been cause for concern among the Republican establishment backing Freeholders Kelly & Haines, as for years, Mr. Parker has been a key player in the very establishment he now flouts.
Parker later said during the meeting that if anybody – including Gilmore & Kelly – wanted to publicly challenge his loyalty to the Republican party, they should do so right there at the meeting.
There were no takers.
Other Lacey Republicans spoke highly of Parker at the Tuesday night meeting, and joined in his defense. Gilmore and Kelly both maintained their usual calm demeanor throughout the exchange, and silently smiled as Mr. Parker spoke out. Parker, in his usual style, recalled his history in Lacey and Ocean County politics over the years, and the former mayor stated that his grandather started the Lacey Republican Club and that he has been a member of the Republican party his entire life, and that he will not allow his loyalty to be questioned, even by the party’s top leaders.
Gilmore: Don’t Let Novak Address Lacey Republicans
While Gilmore has traditionally relied on his adjutants to put out political fires for him around Ocean County as they pop up, the leader of the county Republican party took matters into his own hands Tuesday night with his visit to Lacey, which is also the base of operations for rival Republican lawyers like Jerry Dasti, both of whom are competing for the same marketshare.
Mr. Gilmore, for his part, stated to club membership that while he was aware that some members of the Lacey GOP wanted to hear Mr. Novak address their club Tuesday night, allowing the insurgent independent candidate to do so would violate established Ocean County Republican Organization precedent, in which only officially endorsed candidates have historically been given the chance to speak to club membership, in line with the powerful party chairman’s top-down management style.
Despite the county chairman’s protestations, Lacey Republican Club members told Ocean County Politics that Novak was given the chance to speak, in light of resistance from Gilmore.
It should be noted that Chairman Gilmore and Freeholder Kelly arrived to the club meeting in the same vehicle, with Gilmore in the driver’s seat and Kelly in the passenger seat (That would be picture worth a thousand words). Since Lacey Township is located in between Gilmore’s Toms River base of operations north of the township and Freeholder Kelly lives in the small southern Ocean County town of Eagleswood, south of Lacey, a reasonable outside observer might conclude that the two met up before the club meeting to plot their next moves carefully.
Parker Will Be Voting For Trump
Additionally, if there was any question about who Mr. Parker will be supporting in this year’s presidential election, the influential OCUA chairman has made no secret about it. Parker been seen sporting a red “Make America Great Again” cap while driving his signature red Parker Associates SUV up and down Route 9, in Lacey and elsewhere.