The Particular Political Challenges (Right Now) of Ten County Party Chairs


Atlantic County GOP Chairman Keith Davis

His committee having gotten behind Linwood engineer Hirsh Singh in the CD2 Republican Primary, Davis now faces the challenge of trying to get Singh into the endzone amid party in-fighting. Today, he announced that Brian Fitzherbert, who exited the CD2 contest with bitter things to say about Singh, would chair a new Young Republican Group.


Cumberland County GOP Chairman Mike Testa, Jr.

Following his county committee convention, Testa scrapped with former FBI Special Agent Robert Turkavage, who upset former Assemblyman Sam Fiocchi by landing the Cumberland GOP line. Turkavage had expectations of the party organization reflecting his convention victory by appropriately securing his preferred position on the ballot. It never happened. Now Testa has the delicate political job of showing respect to the comebacking Fiocchi, while not getting entangled with Turkavage, and finally acknowledging the financial and organizational advantage of Singh.


Union County Democratic Chairman Nick Scutari

Having defeated Fanwood Mayor Colleen Mahr for the chairmanship earlier this year, Scutari faces his first big test on June 5th in his hometown of Linden. Mayor Derek Armstead ran countywide on a slate with Mahr in direct opposition to Scutari. Now the new Union County Democratic Chairman wants to eradicate Armstead from City Hall – in part as payback for the mayor’s decision to line up with Mahr.


Essex County Democratic Committee Chairman Leroy Jones

CD11 Democratic candidate Tamara Harris is throwing a lot of money into her primary effort, running a negative campaign against former Navy helicopter pilot Mikie Sherrill. Notwithstanding  frontrunner Sherrill’s own merits, Harris’ willingness to hit her repeatedly in an attempt to turn the primary into a real dogfight makes the Essex County Democratic Organization’s role here that much more critical.

Essex GOP Chairman Al Barlas.

Essex County Republican Committee Chairman Al Barlas 

Barlas is aligned with CD11 Republican challenger Tony Ghee, who’s trying to upset Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-26) for the backing of the GOP districtwide for the seat occupied by retiring U.S. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11). Teamed up with former Passaic GOP Chairman Peter Murphy, Barlas wants to drive as much support as he can in Essex and Passaic for Ghee to blunt the Morris-based Webber’s impact.

DiVincenzo COS Phil Alagia, left, with McCabe.

Middlesex County Democratic Committee Chairman Kevin McCabe

As the state runs up against the end of June deadline to pass a budget, the chairman will have the delicate job of balancing loyalties in an intense atmosphere. To date, Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) and Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-19) (McCabe’s Middlesex ally) have had close budget priorities that pit them against Governor Phil Murphy and the Governor’s proposed $1.6 billion in new taxes. It will fall in part to the diplomatic McCabe to soothe bristling egos, gently nudge Murphy toward compromise, while continuing to help manage pal Coughlin as a reasonable budget partner, who offers more than simply South Jersey reinforcement.

Brown, left.

Monmouth County Democratic Chairman Dave Brown

Few Congressional primaries this season have been as intense as CD4, where Josh Welle is vying with Jim Keady to go up against U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-4) in the fall. Moderate Welle has the backing of all three party organizations (Monmouth, Ocean and Mercer) as he seeks to finally smother hyperactive progressive Keady. Having helped get Senator Vin Gopal elected last year, Brown will have the substantial Primary task on June 5th to protect Welle – and the emergent Monmouth County Democratic brand.


Ocean County Republican Committee Chairman George Gilmore

Veteran player Gilmore – the larger-than-life overlord of the South Jersey Republican Party – helped finesse the deal that made Hirsh Singh the front-running candidate to represent the Republican Party in the fall general election for the seat occupied by retiring U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-2). If Singh stumbles on June 5th, Gilmore will eat the loss – and once again face the howls of those hungry young hounds in his own party always eager to more beyond the Gilmore era.


Hunterdon County GOP Chairman Pat Torpey

It will fall to veteran Central Jersey player Torpey to go on the attack against serious CD7 Democratic challenger Tom Malinowski. Getting an early start during the primary season, he’s already shown a willingness to mix it up and poke Malinowski in the eye when he has to in defense of his home county ally U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance (R-7), who’s in the fight of his political life.

Sherrill, right, with Currie

Passaic County Democratic Committee Chairman John Currie

Simultaneously serving as chair of the Democratic State Committee, county Chair Currie has the task of working with Mayor-elect Andre Sayegh to strengthen Paterson politically as Sayegh puts together a new administration on the ruins of busted former Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres. Like Jones in Essex, Currie must also ensure organizational support on June 5th for Sherrill, looking to get past a financially animated and game Harris.



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