TOMS RIVER-A lot has changed in the four years that have passed since North Jersey Republican power broker William Palatucci tried to remove Ocean County Freeholder Virginia Haines from her position as the New Jersey Chairwoman of the Republican National Committee.
First, her knight in shining armor at the time, former Ocean County GOP Chairman George Gilmore is no longer at the head of the table in Ocean County, at least not visibly. It was Gilmore who came to Haines’ rescue when Palatucci and former Governor Chris Christie made their move against Haines, who was thrust back into political power by Gilmore in 2016. Gilmore was instrumental in Haines’ appointment to the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders after the resignation of James Lacey.
Also that year, Gilmore aided Haines’ in her survival fight against Darlene Shotmeyer, the wife of wealthy and influential North Jersey political power broker Chuck Shotmeyer.
This year, it wasn’t Haines who Palatucci is pushing around to get out of office, it’s Rosemary Becchi, who was running against Tom Kean, Jr. in New Jersey’s 11th legislative district. It turns out, Palatatucci was being paid to push out Becchi by Kean, who was trying to eliminate his political competition.
Despite the bad blood in the past between Haines and Palatucci, Haines is now running for the RNC chair slot with Palatucci this month. A deal made behind closed doors that include Ocean County support for the embattled Kate Gibbs for Congress in CD-3 and former Obama administration pharmaceutical executive Rikin Mehta. Haines has been pushing for both candidates behind the scenes very hard.
Haines, a champion for female candidates in the mostly boys club of New Jersey Republican politics, hasn’t commented on Palatucci’s forcing of Becchi out of her race.
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The Ocean County Republican Party faces a potential all-out brawl on Wednesday at the organization’s annual nominating convention where the party is once again split on both congressional and senatorial candidates in the 2020 election.
Rank and file conservatives in the party would like to see a ticket of Hirsh Singh for U.S. Senate and David Richter for U.S. Congress in Congressional District 3, but establishment party operatives who were opposed to Trump in 2016, now want liberal-leaning Rikin Mehta for U.S. Senate and shoplifter Kate Gibbs for Congress.
In New Jersey, good back-door deals seem to heal all wounds in politics and this week will determine whether or not the Haines-Palatucci alliance pays off in Ocean County by Haines delivering Palatucci endorsements for his preferred candidates.
If things go south for Haines this year, Gilmore probably won’t be around to save her this time as Haines has blackballed Gilmore and anyone associated with him, despite the former chairman being responsible for her existing seat at the establishment political table in New Jersey.