Will the last person left at the Sussex GOP Please remember to turn off the lights.
Last Friday evening, the Sussex County Republican Committee ran its annual gala. This is no longer the 300 person event that some of us remember. The gala, a key fundraising event for the committee, now draws less than one hundred – far less. And missing from the gala are some of the new factions that have come to life again since last year’s election battle between Surrogate Gary Chiusano and Glen Vetrano stand-in Alicia Ferrante.
In fact, Vetrano and much of what was once called the Littell faction didn’t participate in the gala or the party fundraising. Same goes for the Skylands Victory PAC and its associates in the Vernon municipal government. No shows to the gala.
Is the county committee becoming irrelevant? Don’t look for any answers from Tuesday’s primary election results.
Republican turnout was an abysmal 14 percent in the county. Low turnout usually means that the 500 or so connected GOP “insiders” and their friends and families will dominate the election, so you would expect a 70-30 or better win for an incumbent with all the money and all the support of the county GOP.
That didn’t happen. Instead we got a much closer 60-40 race between incumbent Freeholder Phil Crabb and challenger Wantage Committeeman Ron Bassani. This despite the fact that Crabb spent significant money on his re-election campaign, including at least two direct mailers, radio ads, and other voter contact. Bassani spent next to nothing and had no radio or direct mail. Yet he managed 40 percent.
Imagine what would have happened if he had a campaign?
Does this mean that 40 percent of the county’s Republican “super-voters” are unhappy with the people who are the faces of the Sussex GOP? Maybe, but it could even be worse.
In a U.S. Senate race between four relative unknowns, one of these unknowns had the support of some of the county’s top elected officials: Senator Steve Oroho, Assemblywoman Alison Littell McHose, and Assemblyman Parker Space. Despite this and the fact that they took out ads under their own names, the unknown with the support of the LD24 team managed less than 25 percent of the vote in Sussex County and lost Warren County too.
At the Sussex GOP’s Election Night gathering Freeholder Crabb thanked former Freeholder Rich Zeoli for his help while all but ignoring Senator Oroho and Assemblywoman McHose. Both of whom were early financial and political supporters of Crabb’s re-election. Does he consider them now to be irrelevant?
One thing certain is that the big winner on election night in Sussex County was former Steve Lonegan protégé Rick Shaftan. Shaftan managed to put together a Tea Party network that dominated Tuesday’s Senate primary in the county. Despite having the county’s top Republicans out there for candidate Murray Sabrin, Shaftan’s candidate, Rich Pezzullo, took 44 percent of the vote in a four-way race. This was a solid and impressive win.
Shaftan, who works for Hudson County Democrat State Senator/ Mayor/ School Superintendent Nick Sacco, was defeated just one year ago in a campaign for Republican State Committee. With Tuesday’s win Shaftan is now the county’s “top dog” consultant. We will all be waiting to see his next move.