In a surprising development, Republican state committee people tonight pulled the plug on Kim Guadagno’s first choice of Doug Steinhardt to lead the state committee.
Attorney Mike Lavery, also of Warren County, is in.
Leaders of the Republican Party convened at Forsgate in Monroe this evening, presumably to ratify Steinhardt to lead the state party and succeed outgoing Chairman Sam Raia, but that died once the principals convened.
A source close to the backroom conversations said powerful Ocean County GOP Chairman George Gilmore (pictured, above) – and others – voiced discomfort over the fact that Steinhardt’s wife was today nominated to the parole board.
In a fractured party, Steinhardt out and Lavery in signified a strengthened hand for Gilmore, a key Guadagno backer and a visible presence in her camp on the primary campaign trail.
Lavery is Gilmore’s nephew, and the former mayor of Hackettstown.
A source said Somerset County GOP Chairman Al Gaburo voiced public support for Steinhardt and tried to get Guadagno to stick with him. But the LG decided to support Lavery, infuriating the assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R-160 chairman’s wing of the party.
There were olive branch implications in the GOP choice, however.
Also close to Steinhardt, Lavery was going to be the attorney for Steinhardt when the Warren GOP chairman became state party chair.
That plan changed dramatically tonight.
The committee support for Lavery was by acclamation.