Michael Lavery defeated Bob Hugin tonight 24-18 to succeed Doug Steinhardt as Republican State Party Chairman.
Lavery is returning to the job of state party chair, in fact.
An attorney and former Hackettstown mayor, he suddenly became chairman in 2017 after Warren County GOP Chairman Steinhardt bowed out of the running on orders by then-Republican gubernatorial candidate Kim Guadagno. The gubernatorial candidate expressed concern about Governor Chris Christie earlier that same day appointing Trudy Steinhardt, the chairman’s wife, to the state parole board, and the potential for people to draw the wrong conclusions about Steinhardt.
So Lavery stepped in, triggering puzzled reactions around the state and then cynical head shakes of disbelief when people learned he was the nephew of powerful Ocean County GOP Chairman George Gilmore, a close ally of Guadagno’s.
But Lavery is also very close to Steinhardt, one of his best friends, in fact, who was slated to become Steinhardt’s counsel at the state GOP. The two men had traveled to the state convention together. If the party is divided regionally and otherwise, with the wounds of the primary still stinging and Christie in some senses overshadowing the nominee, Lavery with friends in both main camps presents as a true consensus choice for a reeling Republican Party.
Tonight, Lavery resumed the chairmanship he once place-held for Steinhardt.