Ciattarelli Pulls Down Home County Endorsement in Somerset to Kick Off Convention Season


SOMERVILLE – On the same day that Paterson Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres ate corruption charges amid buzz about his friend Ocean County Republican Committee Chairman George Gilmore attempting to fend off stories about his law firm under investigation, Somerset County GOP Chairman Al Gaburo basked happily in the immediate glory of his fellow scrappy Raritan product: Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R-16).

The result tonight at the Somerset GOP Convention: 170 votes for Ciattarelli of Hillsborough, 16 for Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno of Monmouth Beach and 7 for engineer Hirsh Singh of Linwood.

“Congratulations, Jack Ciattarelli!” exulted Gaburo.

The pair, chairman and assemblyman, grew up together in that little Italian American mill town where a muscle-bound, Marvel Comics-like bronze statue of Congressional Medal of Honor winner John Basilone juts above the river, and now Ciattarelli’s running for governor with Gaburo bird-dogging for him, leveraging years of relationship-building to try to give his Somerset ally strong traction for a primary war with front-runner Guadagno.

Without saying a word, they’re banking on a stark study in contrast as the bell sounds and Ciattarelli and Guadagno come bucking out of the gate.

Backing Guadagno, the powerful and entrenched Gilmore has a scheduled convention tomorrow, and the timing isn’t great with Torres in turmoil and subpoenas flying in towns where Gilmore’s firm does or did business. That agony didn’t affect Gaburo’s mood tonight, or maybe it put an extra tacit twinkle in his eye in the packed Elks Lodge as he kicked off the convention cycle by putting his troops behind home county hero Ciattarelli.

For those keeping strict score: Ciattarelli now has one line and Guadagno now has two (Hudson, and also tonight Warren). The mood for the GOP assemblyman here was electric, on the same night that the Passaic GOP had a scheduled Lincoln Day Dinner ahead of their Wednesday night convention that kept the statewide candidates on the move.

The GOP legislative brass in the room.

“The first time I was here speaking before you was ten years ago, and I was in the unenviable position of running against Jack Ciattarelli,” said Somerset County Freeholder Mark Caliguire, the party’s nominee for the LD16

Operating Overtime for Ciattarelli: Gaburo.

Assembly seat Ciattarelli leaves behind in order to pursue the governorship.

“He’s going to be a great governor,” Caliguire added to cheers.

His running mate, a come-backing former Assemblywoman Donna Simon (R-16), received a big hand.

Gaburo limited candidates to a minute apiece and Simon made the most of her time before the county  committee. Democrats in Trenton. Boos. Need to be stopped. Claps. Jon Bramnick. Claps. Team. Claps. Work. Claps. Claps.

Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-21) went to the microphone.

“Let’s stay together,” Bramnick told the crowd. “Let’s support our candidates. There are forces out there in the media and outside the media who want to tear us apart.”

Almost every Republican in Central Jersey stood in the room tonight.

Kean and Bramnick.

Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean, Jr. (R-21).

Senator Kip Bateman (R-16).

Senator Tony Bucco (R-25).

Senator Mike Doherty (R-23).

Assemblymen Erik Petersen, Tony Bucco, Jr., Michael Patrick Carroll, John DiMaio, and many more.

Former Somerset County GOP Chairman Dale Florio stood in the room, with people falling over one another to get close to him.

“You can tell a real leader when you pack a room like this,” Bucco marveled with a nod to Gaburo. “You do a great job down here in Somerset County.”

Originally cast in the role of Sancho Panza to Ciattarelli’s Don Quixote, Gaburo decided to throw himself completely into the assemblyman’s quest once it became apparent that Ciattarelli refused to back down from running.

“I’m with him,” DiMaio told InsiderNJ, referring to Ciattarelli. “There’s not enough distance bewteen Guadagno and Christie.”

But Doherty wasn’t yet sure.

“I like both of them,” the senator and ex-Army captain said with a crusty grin.

The two Western NJ Republicans represent Bridgewater, that big chunk of Somerset excised from the county when Democrats prevailed in the 2011 redistricting battle.

“They turned out to be good guys,” cracked Bateman, victimized by that Democratic map, which took his biggest town away from him, lumped it in the laps of his LD23 colleagues, and burdened him instead with Democratic-leaning South Brunswick.

“If it weren’t for the Delaware River, the Democrats would have stuck us in Pennsylvania,” Doherty said.

Doherty and Bateman.
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