Where the GOP Primary Reigns Supreme

Primaries are often thought of as “family fights.

There are times, however, when the “family” seems quite dysfunctional.

Take the Republican primary in LD-24, one of the strongest leaning GOP regions in the state. Republicans outnumber Democrats by about 32,000 on the registration rolls in a district ranging over Sussex and parts of Warren and Morris counties.

With success in November just about guaranteed, the primary is the election.

That would make for a competitive contest under normal circumstances, but things are compounded here because all three legislative seats are open. Senator Steve Oroho is retiring, as is Assemblyman Hal Wirths. The other Assemblyman, Parker Space, is trying to move up to the Senate.

Steve Lonegan, a perennial – and often unsuccessful – candidate for various offices, had been challenging Space for the Senate seat, but recently gave up his campaign.

That focuses attention on the contest for two Assembly nominations.


Dawn Fantasia, a Sussex County commissioner, and Mike Inganamort, the mayor of Chester Township, have teamed up and are also running with Space.

There is also the team of Josh Aikens, a school board member from Lafayette, and Jason Sarnoski, a Warren County commissioner.

Others say they’re running for the Assembly, but we will know more at the March 27 filing deadline.

As of now, it is the team of Fantasia-Inganamort and Space and the duo of Aikens-Sarnoski who are going at it.

Which brings us to a recent episode centering around an Instagram post (you’ve got to love social media) made by Sarnoski and “liked” by Aikens.

Before we continue, it’s instructive to know that the Aikens-Sarnoski team says they are the genuine conservatives in the race, a meaningful claim in a Republican primary.

Along those lines, the message in question said that Fantasia has been “more than happy to bend over to the special interests” and that she would not protect taxpayers from the “sticky fingers of big daddy government.”

This was about Fantasia’s support for raising the state’s gas tax in 2016.

It is true that opposition to taxes – all taxes – is a familiar rallying cry for conservative Republicans. However, in the case at hand, the gas tax increase was part of a deal put together by then-Governor Chris Christie and backed by a number of Republicans, Oroho included. The package also included eliminating the state’s estate tax, reducing the sales tax and tax cuts for veterans. Then again, it’s common for nuances to get lost in a campaign.

More relevantly, Laura Ali, the chair of Morris County Republicans, took exception to a post that criticized a woman by talking about bending over and “sticky fingers.”

Here was Ali’s take:

“Frankly, Jason Sarnoski’s Instagram post is despicable and has no place in this campaign. No man running for office would ever be subject to this kind of lewd, sexual innuendo, but for some reason Commissioner Sarnoski thinks it’s okay to apply them to Dawn Fantasia.”

Asked about this, Aikens explained:

“Our campaign is extremely issues-focused, and that is how I would like to keep it. LD-24 is New Jersey’s most conservative district, and we need real conservatives in Trenton with proven records to best serve our residents. Why does that (Ali) press release not address the subject of the Instagram post, which is an indisputable fact: Dawn Fantasia served as a spokesperson for the NJ Gas Tax hike. She recorded a robocall and a radio ad, paid for by the union.”

Aikens also brought up some – shall we say – unpleasantness that Space, a ticketmate of the Assembly candidates, has been involved in. Specifically, those are news items dating back a few years in which Space called a female opponent of his a “bitch.”

Aikens also said that the election is too important to get bogged down talking about “social media verbiage.”

In more traditional campaigning, the Space team says it is gaining momentum and eagerly talks about its support for the Second Amendment.

With that in mind, it’s been common to see pictures of the candidates on social media firing weapons.

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2 responses to “Where the GOP Primary Reigns Supreme”

  1. Didn’t Sarnowski & Aikens raise taxes in their respective roles? Aren’t NJ taxes high enough? I’ll be voting for Inganamort and Fantasia because I oppose tax increases.

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