BELMAR – Resembling the Republican and Free State armies, D’s and R’s encamped on opposite sides of this seaside burgh in their own taverns, beating the war drums of their respective corners with that foamy broth that admits equal parts green garb, Guinness, close-quarters maneuvering and BS otherwise known as New Jersey politics in the month of March.
“I’m originally from Boston,” said Phil Murphy, the Democratic front-runner for governor, be-draped in a marshal’s parade sash and with a crowd of Irish caps around him in a crammed Brandl. “Up there we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on one day, one event. Here in New Jersey you have 78 events spread out over the whole month.”
“And each event is a high holy day,” said former Governor Jim McGreevey.
The crowd here loved Murphy: friendly, effervescent, accessible, with an easy smile, shamrock bedecked pants; a former Goldman Sachs executive who in this environment looked like he was channeling Conchobar.
It didn’t hurt the overall mood that when the wind blew each new personality into the bar, he or she appeared like the latest cameo from the 30-year cast reunion of Miller’s Crossing.
“I’m Italian,” said Monmouth County Clerk Christine Hanlon.
Italians with Irish last names.
Irish with Italian last names (LG Kim Guadagno).
It was St. Patrick’s Day: the Jersey Shore version.
“St. Patrick was actually Italian,” said a grinning Hanlon, with a crowd around her.
There was Union County Sheriff (and 20th District state senate candidate) Joe Cryan, with a crowd around him.
There was Assemblyman Craig Coughlin (D-19) with an entourage.
There was Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty.
Crowd around him.
They kept coming.
Cheek by jowl.
VinGopalMikeBesonSeanDarcyPegSchafferMaggieMoranLenLucianoKevinDrennanJeffCantorInUniform. And so
Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling blew in.
So did Middlessex County Freeholder Ken Armwood.
Then Monmouth County Republican Chairman Shaun Golden showed up, light on his feet, moving through the room like a fighter in a ring that’s packed with bodies before the main event. He found Cryan. Jawed with him. He found Gopal. Same. A Democrat, Gopal’s running in one of the most-watched races of the year: LD11, where he wants to unseat Golden’s charge, state Senator Jen Beck of Red Bank.
“I can remember Jen on the front page of the Asbury Park Press calling on Governor Christie to resign while he was running for governor, so I don’t think that’s going to be an effective attack,” Golden told InsiderNJ, when asked about anticipated Democratic attacks on Beck’s same-party association with the ratings mangled and outgoing Republican governor who ran for president last year. “People in the district know that Jen Beck is her own person.”
Other friendly Republicans circulated in enemy territory: Assemblyman Sean Kean (R-30), and Freeholder Tom Arnone, among others.
On the south side of town, meanwhile, Republican gubernatorial
candidate Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R-16) worked the festive, beer-gonged entrance to Republican Assemblyman Dave Rible’s party at Bar A.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Ciattarelli told InsiderNJ, when asked about his GOP Primary rival Lieutenant Governor Guadagno’s proposal to have an elected – as opposed to a governor’s choice – state Attorney General. “I think that would politicize the position. Imagine having that person feeling that he or she must be accountable to 21 party chairs.”
Ciattarelli said he favors the position as it exists now, with a strong governor selecting the right chief prosecutor to occupy his cabinet.
When Arone entered the courtyard, Ciattarelli put him in a lovable bear hug and someone at InsiderNJ’s elbow groaned, “Oh, geez. Tom’s going to get in trouble for that.”
This is Guadagno country.
In her seeming competitive tilt with the ubiquitous Ciattarelli, she expects to get the line here in her home county.
Inside the packed tavern, InsiderNJ found the staging area for a barbarian raid hip deep at the bar, with Assemblyman Jon Bramnick (R-21) – crowd around him, Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz (R-21), Assemblyman Tony Bucco (R-25), a circulating, all-bases-covered Golden, Hanlon, Rible, an enemy territory-willing U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-6), and many others.
Kean was in there, too.
So was Freeholder Serena DiMaso of Holmdel, the GOP’s recruit for the assembly in LD13.
Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R-13) appeared to be the life of the party here, and why not? After nearly ten years in the legislature, he appears poised to receive the full support off the Monmouth County Republican Committee toward the LD13 senate seat, long occupied by retiring state Senator Joe Kyrillos of Middletown. It’s a stout Republican district.
“We’ve made peace,” said O’Scanlon, of the pre-primary fight with slate mate Assemblywoman Amy Handlin, out-hustled by O’Scanlon for the vacancy.
“One again, I’ll be the lone guy on the ticket,” he added with a grin, referencing his tenure in the old LD12 prior to redistricting, when he served with former Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande and Beck.
He looked happy in a knit wool sweater with the crowd teeming around him and the parade slated to start soon and another round of tall brown tumblers coming down the bar, and the friendly fervor for politics supplanting whatever baser practices occupy warlike tribes elsewhere.
And there was Cryan on Main Street, leading a mob of bundled up in the freezing-cold Democrats as they made their way to Bar A and the GOP, past a big, old gray Irish Wolfhound wearing a green bandana on a leash with a crowd around him, straddling Belmar north and south, with no understanding of the drawn lines, and no apparent party affiliation.
- Amy Handlin
- Caroline Casagrande
- Chris Christie
- Christine Hanlon
- Craig Coughlin
- Declan O'Scanlon
- Frank Pallone
- Goldman Sachs
- Jack Ciattarelli
- Jen Beck
- Jim McGreevey
- Joe Cryan
- Joe Kyrillos
- Jon Bramnick
- Ken Armwood
- Kim Guadagno
- Matt Doherty
- Middlesex County
- Monmouth County
- Monmouth County Democrats
- Monmouth County Republicans
- Nancy Munoz
- Phil Murphy
- Red Bank
- Sean Kean
- Serena DiMaso
- Shaun Golden
- St. Patrick's Day
- Tom Arnone
- Tony Bucco
- Vin Gopal
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