OCEAN COUNTY – Two close campaigns were run to get the Republican County Committee’s endorsement in the 3rd District and Senate race.
The importance of winning party line approval means that a candidate will be below Donald Trump on the ballot, and likely to rack up automatic votes with supporters.
The way it worked in Ocean County is that a screening committee made a recommendation. Then, the votes were cast at a convention in Toms River. Then, there would be a primary election to see who would be on the ballot in November.
Kate Gibbs Vs. David Richter
Kate Gibbs and David Richter were the two most prominent choices for the 3rd District race to see who would be up against Congressman Andy Kim in November.
In the weeks leading up to the convention, almost daily emails were sent from both camps detailing which politician was endorsing who. A few from one town would endorse one candidate, and then a few would endorse the other.
On the night of the convention, Richter won by just eight votes, 68-60, said Frank Holman, the chairman of the Ocean County Republicans. This was a slight surprise since she had been endorsed by the Ocean County Republican screening committee.
Holman said the close race was due to having two good candidates.
“They all ran good campaigns,” Holman said.
Gibbs served one term as a Burlington County Freeholder. However, some bristled over some legal issues she had in the past, such as shoplifting and drug charges.
“There were quite a lot of opinions” among voters about that, Holman said. Some said “How could I vote for that?” Others said “That’s not as bad as what I did when I was a kid.”
Richter had been accused of district shopping, since he was all set to run against Congressman Jeff Van Drew in the 2nd District before Van Drew became a Republican.
Even after the convention, endorsement emails have been sent to the media. One mentions that Richter is the best choice in the primary.
Republican leaders had hoped to avoid a primary fight. However, now Richter will be the party line candidate on Ocean County primary ballots and Gibbs will be the party line candidate on the Burlington County primary ballots.
Barnegat Mayor John Novak had also been interviewed by the screening committee, but withdrew his candidacy just before the convention.
“He’s a great candidate and a great mayor,” Holman said. “I hope he doesn’t get too discouraged.”
Gibbs is deputy director of Engineers Labor-Employer Cooperative, which represents the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 825 in providing statewide opportunities between employers, contractors and workers.
Richter is the former Chief Executive Officer of Hill International, a professional services firm that provides construction management services.
Former Hainesport Mayor Anthony Porto has also announced a bid to run.
The other close race was for Cory Booker’s Senate seat. Hirsch Singh won 106 of the county’s votes to Rik Mehta’s 77. This was another case where the screening committee’s choice was not the choice of the membership.
Calling Ocean County “the most powerful Republican Organization in the state,” Singh called it a mandate for him to be the candidate to face Booker in November.
“Singh’s victory made history as one of the first times in many decades that a candidate won the Ocean County screening off the floor, in a show of massive grassroots support and populist appeal,” according to a statement from his camp.