Atlantic County Republican Committee Chairman Keith Davis said he feels enlivened by Saturday’s GOP convention and what it portends for this year’s election. Although he urged attorney Seth Grossman to abort his run for state senate in the 2nd District, he said engineer Vince Polistina is well positioned to defeat Grossman, in the event the latter tris to make it a race.
Held in-part in-person at the Scullville Fire Department in Egg Harbor Township and part virtually, the party convention resulted in the committee formally endorsing Joe Giralo for County Clerk, Maureen Kern, Frank X. Balles and Jim Bertino for County Commissioner.
“We are grateful and humbled by this endorsement and the overwhelming support shown by the Atlantic County Republican Committee this morning. We promise to fight hard in this campaign to prove that the faith this committee has shown in us today was well placed. We are proud to receive this endorsement,” Atlantic County Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Maureen Kern said.
Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson added, “I can’t think of a better team to work with me to keep Atlantic County strong. Joe, Maureen, Frank & Jim have decades of public service and are the right leaders for Atlantic County. With this team we can continue to keep taxes low all while continuing to expand services.”
The committee also backed Vince Polistina for state senate and former Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian and Northfield attorney Claire Swift for two assembly seats.
Movement conservative attorney Grossman, who came up short in his 2018 bid for Congress, chose not to compete for the organization’s backing, but appears poised to run in the primary as an insurgent.
Davis noted that it’s important to consider the context of his candidacy compared to three years ago.
“As I said at the convention, when he ran in 2018 there was a much different dynamic present,” the chairman told InsiderNJ. “There was a very crowded congressional field and he did not get a majority, though he got a plurality, and he won.” In the general election, following Grossman’s public comment that “diversity is a bunch of crap,” Davis pointed out that “Republicans throughout the country disavowed him.”
“Atlantic County Republicans stood by him,” the chairman noted. “We didn’t throw him under the bus.”
Consequently, the chairman expressed disappointment with Grossman’s decision to run against the party organization.
“He did compete at the convention [and accepted the convention’s rules],” said Davis, explaining that Grossman only backed down when he realized he couldn’t outmuscle Polistina for the machine’s backing. “You cant have it both ways. …He ought to do the right thing. If he wants to help Jack Ciattarelli and the rest of our ticket, get behind it. Let’s be unified.”
He won’t, Davis suspects of Grossman, and even if the movement conservative sticks around, “Vince is very well positioned and will be running with a slate of very strong candidates and with a conservative record on the issues during his four years as an assemblyman in Trenton.”
Davis was enthusiastic about Republicans’ chances this year.
“This is one of the best tickets we’ve had in many years,” he said. “Our strongest folks emerged from the convention and I think it was a year when we can have a Republican sweep. People lack confidence in the candidates endorsed by Democrats, especially when you see what’s going on at the clerk’s office.”
Davis, too, expressed a lot of enthusiasm for Ciattarelli’s gubernatorial candidacy.
The Republican candidate for governor attended the convention on Saturday.
“Ciattarelli will bring a lot of strength and leadership to the ticket and puts us in a stronger position,” Davis said. “He will help us down ticket. He has spent a lot of time getting to know people. He understands the needs of the casino industry. People respond well to that.”
Scene this year of a mayoral contest, Atlantic City will play a role in this year’s election, as Mayor Marty Small seeks a full, four-year term, and local political operative Craig Callaway – whose sister chairs the local Democratic Party organization – continues to send signals that he intends to work for and with Republicans.
Davis didn’t say much about the operative, who last year helped get out the vote in Atlantic City and Pleasantville for incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-2).
“When Democrats are fighting with each other, I tend not to pile on,” the Republican chairman said. “The Democrats have milked the Callaway machine from one cycle to the next. I don’t see the need to get into the middle of a party squabble.”
Davis said he loves the fact that Guardian – the former one-term Republican mayor of Atlantic city – has added his name to the LD2 Assembly ticket.
“There hasn’t been a lot of wisdom in Trenton,” he said of a state-led effort to wrest control of Guardian’s government (and local government generally) away from the people of the seaside gambling mecca. “We had a good steward in Atlantic City in Don Guardian and everybody knows it. He came into office inheriting a huge mess and he got spending under control and got the city under sound fiscal management.”