A Candidate for Ocean County Democratic Chair Steps Forward

Former Toms River Councilman Terrance Turnbach has announced his filing to run for Ocean County Democratic Chair. Running with Turnbach for Ocean County Democratic Vice Chair is Tara Kownacki, Municipal Chair for the Lacey Township Democratic Organization.

“After careful consideration and discussion with my family and many local and Statewide Democratic leaders, I am formally announcing my decision to run for Ocean County Democratic Chair,” Turnbach said. “My pledge is to rebuild and rebrand our county party as an organization we can be proud of, an organization people want to be a part of, and a party built on inclusion.”

When current Democratic Chair Wyatt Earp took the helm 16 years ago, Democrats held office in 11 of

Insider NJ presents the week's winners and losers in New Jersey's political news. Ocean County GOP Chairman George Gilmore's fall from power following federal tax evasion convictions is among the topics.

Ocean County’s 33 municipalities, Turnbach noted. Currently, Democrats hold office in only three of the 33 municipalities.

“We should not have to hide our identities as Ocean County Democrats in elections with the hopes of getting elected, but we must build a brand of public service and strong work ethic that drives our neighbors and fellow residents to vote for us,” Turnbach said. “Our party was built upon a strong work ethic and a dedication to public service. It’s time to get back to the basics.”

In 2021, Ocean County held 26 municipal elections, and only half of those had Democratic candidates. Currently, of the 212 elected positions across the county, 202 are held by Republicans.

“It’s hard to win elections when we’re not running candidates,” Turnbach said. “Is our party in a better position today than we were 16 years ago? It’s time for an honest gut check.”

Kownacki and Turnbach are working side by side to encourage Ocean County Democrats to fill committee seats left vacant by the current leadership team.

“There is a real opportunity here to strengthen the party and energize local Democrats,” Kownacki said. “It has become apparent that there are areas we can improve upon, such as communication and organization with our local municipalities. We need to streamline information and modernize the way we work with municipal chairs and candidates for office. Terrance and I share the same work ethic and ethos. We believe in building people up, bringing people along, and giving everything 110%.”

Turnbach is an attorney at the law firm Starkey, Kelly, Kenneally, Cunningham & Turnbach and is an active member of the community, including serving on the boards of the Hope Center and Northern Ocean Habitat for Humanity.

While serving on council, Turnbach worked with State representatives to amend the Code Blue laws; established the Toms River Education Foundation, which raised over $40,000 for students; created the Toms River Food Distribution initiative to address food insecurity during Covid-19; and worked hand-in-hand with Governor Murphy’s Office to secure $400,000 for the Toms River Field of Dreams and $7.6 million for Toms River Regional Schools as aid to address the budget cuts.

Born and raised in Lacey Township, Kownacki moved to San Diego for college, where she met her husband. They moved back to Lacey in 2009, where they raise their four children. She became more active in politics in 2016, attending the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. and volunteering for congressional candidates, going on to become municipal chair.
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