Ocean County Republicans to vote on the future direction of party May 15th.
TOMS RIVER-A political tug-of-war is breaking out in Ocean County after the resignation of longtime Republican party chairman George Gilmore this week and with millions of dollars left on the table in his absence, a power grab has begun.
On one side, the old-guard, aging Republicans are jockeying for power ahead of an upcoming vote behind politically connected Toms River-based accountant Frank B. Holman. Those supporting Holman appears to be the party elites who have held on to the power bestowed upon them by Gilmore during his reign as chairman and they’re not ready to give it up just yet.
On the other side, a younger generation of Republicans eager to move the party out of the twentieth century, including many diehard Trump supporters are rallying behind Frank Sadeghi, an engineer based out of nearby Island Heights. That group is seeking a new direction and new future for the Ocean County Republican Party free from the chains of patronage and an unfortunate series of political corruption scandals which has plagued the reputation of county Republicans in past years.
On Wednesday, a GOP party leadership lunch meeting was held at the offices of former Ocean County Chairman Joseph Buckalew, now seen as the primary power broker and deal maker for the county since Gilmore is gone. In attendance at the meeting was the establishment elite, including county freeholders, assemblymen, state senators, sheriff and candidates for this year’s New Jersey assembly election.
The lunch gave a new meaning to the term “power lunch” as a small group of elected officials decided the future of the Republican party going forward and who controls the tens of millions of dollars in public contracts left on the table with Gilmore’s departure.
At the meeting, the old guard discussed their plan to retain power and control the public contracts that will be left on the table after Gilmore’s departure. Shortly after the meeting, Ocean County Freeholder Virginia Haines said the GOP leadership was in full support of Holman taking Gilmore’s position.
Since that meeting establishment elites have been working the phones, calling on the members of the Ocean County Republican Committee for support of their candidate, Holman, whose firm is appointed annually to millions of dollars in public contracts in the towns he would serve as chairman should he win.
His opponent, Frank Sadeghi, a commercial project engineer whose firm has never been awarded a public contract said he feels it’s time for a chairman in the county with no financial ties to the municipalities or any other governing bodies within the county.
“Under the circumstances, I think I can be more effective and impactful in this position,” Sadeghi said in an interview this week with the New Jersey Globe. “I have a lot of support in this county. I’ve been active for 30 years and I think I would do a good job.”
“I have no intention of taking any public contracts,” Sadeghi said, further pledging that should he win the seat, his firm will not take any public contracts.
Holman serves as an appointed accountant in many townships across Ocean County, including municipal and utility boards, including Lakewood Township. In total, those contracts are worth millions of dollars annually for the firm.
In the event that Holman wins, the county will continue to have a sitting chairman that works for elected officials on one hand and dictates their political policy and strategy on the other hand. That toxic mix and absolute power are what many often criticized Gilmore for.
The current GOP leadership has signaled it is ok with that combination, after all, it’s how it’s always been done in Ocean County, according to RNC Chairwoman and Ocean County Freeholder Virginia Haines.
“Nobody seemed too worried about that,” Haines said. “The thought never came into account because that’s just the way it’s been through the years.”
Haines referenced the tenures of Gilmore and Buckalew, each who insiders claim grew their financial empires through public service contracts after being appointed the chairman of the Republican party.
Haines added that there will be a special election for county committee members on May 15th and that all committee members will receive the establishment’s endorsement of Holman in a letter ahead of the meeting.
On May 16th, a group of several hundred elected County Committee officials will gather and cast their vote on the future of the Republican Party. The decision will be between maintaining the status quo in the county or to turn the page and move the party forward in a more positive direction away from “big boss” style politics.
Sadeghi hopes the committee will vote for him and that his pledge to not use politics as a vehicle to amass personal wealth, which has been a time-honored tradition in Ocean County politics.
“To me, this is about politics and not money,” said Sadeghi, who already runs a very successful company that doesn’t rely on political appointments. Sadeghi will now have an uphill battle rallying support against the power brokers the grease the wheels of the establishment GOP machine in Ocean County.
According to a story in today’s New Jersey Globe, Holman’s camp has the support of Gilmore.
“Holman has the backing of Gilmore and Joseph Buckalew, a former county chairman and a respected elder statesman, several Ocean GOP sources confirmed,” the Globe reported.