SOMERVILLE – In a divided Republican Party here, members of the Somerset County Republican Organization at a special meeting passed a resolution expressing “no confidence” in Chairman Tim Howes.
Their vote came ahead of a regularly scheduled meeting set for Tuesday – timing not lost on Howes.
Asked for comment about tonight’s vote registered by his critics, the Somerset GOP Chairman fought back, calling the special meeting an unsuccessful attempt to embarrass him.
“Had they had the critical mass and the numbers they would have done it at the [regularly scheduled] meeting [on Tuesday], but I don’t think that’s their point. I think they are somewhat punishing me for being too independent.”
Howes said he takes pride in his leadership of the party, and in those members working on its behalf.
“Every day we work hard to move the campaign forward,” he said. “Every day we plan new events. Every day, I wake up and plan how to make this better, despite the detraction.”
According to the bylaws of the organization, 15% of the sitting county committee can call a meeting for any reason. Twenty percent are necessary to conduct business. There are 425 members of the committee. The anti-Howes faction consisting of 108 members tonight voted “no confidence,” revealing – at the very least – a continuing schism in the Somerset GOP.
Members of the organization have not recorded a “no confidence” vote of this kind in 80 years.
That said, the Republican chairman took the helm of the party organization under fractured circumstances, which apparently haven’t healed since Matt Moench upended Bridgewater Mayor Dan Hayes in a 2019 Republican Primary.
Hayes had the backing of Chairman Al Gaburo.
In 2020, Howes of Peapack and Gladstone submitted his name to serve as Somerset County GOP chairman. Moench supported him.
He succeeded long-serving Gaburo, who put all his chips on Jack Ciattarelli’s 2021 gubernatorial run.
The intraparty pushing and pulling has gone on pretty much unabated – in some fashion anyway – ever since.
Here is a formal press release from the anti-Howes faction, which has the support of former Chair Gaburo:
“Tonight the Somerset County Republican Organization (SCRO) held a Special Meeting to receive all detailed and accurate information regarding the financial status of the SCRO, and to vote on a resolution of no-confidence in SCRO Chairman Timothy Howes.
“Citing a failure to file required reports with the Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) for over two years, failure to win county wide elections, failure to raise money, failure to secure a single legislative seat for Somerset County, and lack of transparency regarding the financial status of the SCRO, nearly 40% of the authorized SCRO membership trigged a provision of the SCRO by-laws and held a Special Meeting to address the concerns.
“Vice-Chairwoman Tracy DiFrancesco ran the meeting, which turned out members of the Organization voting 108 to 0 in favor of no-confidence.
“Our membership deserves transparency when it comes to our finances, and we have not been provided that from Chairman Howes. Tonight, we hold Chairman accountable for his failures, specifically when it comes to certain disclosures of financial information. Everyone who attended tonight’s meeting did so in the spirit of transparency and what is best for the future of the Organization.”
“Somerset County Republican State Committeewoman Janice Fields added, “Chairman Howes has repeatedly misled our Organization and caused reputable harm amongst the entire NJGOP. Our Chairman deserves to be held accountable for his actions. The official business conducted at tonight’s meeting did just that. SCRO members in attendance left with more questions than answers. I urge everyone to continue in their efforts to seek transparency while working towards historic republican wins in November.”