Who will replace Jon Runyan on the ballot this November, Save Jerseyans? Republican decision-making is truly coming down to the wire as primary-related deadlines are fast-approaching.
A major milestone occurs this Saturday when Ocean County’s screening committee will meeting with candidates and decide who deserves their endorsement in June, the outcome of which renders the March convention a fait accompli for the victor.
Lured by the appeal of an open seat in a likely favorable federal cycle, approximately one-and-a-half dozen individuals have expressed interest, formally or otherwise, in pursuing the Republican nomination this year including a former Marine platoon commander and a sitting Assemblyman. Save Jersey sources in CD3, however, say three names comprise the serious contenders for Ocean County’s coveted line…
One well-placed source in the Jersey Shore GOP hierarchy echoed the consensus opinion, confirming for Save Jersey that “out of all the candidates in the race, three of them have been courting vote-holders at Ocean County’s Convention more seriously than others: Lonegan, Hill, and MacArthur. They can court all they like, but when the Chairman makes a decision nearly everyone in the county will fall in line, and Saturday’s screening is the first step towards that end.”
True enough. County GOP Chairman George Gilmore wields a legendary degree of influence in New Jersey Republican politics and he exercises near-total control over politics in a county that gave Chris Christie nearly 76% of its popular vote last November.
Who does he like?
“Lonegan and MacArthur in particular are leaps and bounds ahead of the others in terms of campaign organization” added our source. “It seems like they’re the only ones prepared for the eventuality of possibly winning at the convention.”
Lonegan, for his part, spent Thursday at McGuire Air Force Base in Burlington County to curry favor with the district’s heavily-military constituency but, lest we forget, kicked off his campaign in Ocean County’s largest town, Toms River. It’s been a grassroots patented Lonegan effort involving bombastic attacks on Democrat elites and feverish door knocking at the homes of county committee members. The biggest strike against Lonegan in Ocean County might be that Burlington will never support him, and reportedly Chairman Gilmore doesn’t like the idea of a contentious primary akin to the ’08 contest which resulted in the first Democrat CD3 congressman in over a century.
MacArthur is taking a more calculated approach to the race than Lonegan since he can afford it. Literally. He’s meeting with key constituency groups, rolling out his digital presence, and building a core of campaign professionals which now includes Chris Russell, a Ocean County resident who works closely with the Burlington GOP organization, and Frank Luna, a Waretown native with considerable CD3 and statewide political experience. We’re told he remains the favorite.
Other sources warn that we shouldn’t rule out a surprise. Retired Admiral, practicing dentist, and veteran Toms River Councilman Maurice “Mo” Hill doesn’t possess anywhere near the vast organization of a Lonegan or the impressive wealth of MacArthur. He does boast an impressive resume and the distinction of being the only “final 3” contender to not carry the transplant tag (Lonegan hails from Bergen; MacArthur is a mayor in Morris).
The key point heading into the weekend: unlike 2010, nothing is a lock. Not this time around.