Old Bridge Chairman Spars with Panos Over Changed Middlesex GOP Convention Location

Tonight (March 15th) is the Middlesex County Screening Committee meeting, Save Jerseyans, and the convention is right around the corner (March 25th). It’s to be expected that a major county’s democratic convention in a contested gubernatorial primary cycle would be more than a little heated. This year looks like no exception to the rule.

Save Jersey has learned that one major town’s municipal chairman is steamed after MCRO Chairwoman Lucille Panos notified Republicans on Tuesday that the venue was changing: from the MCRO Convention from Old Bridge High School to The Ellora, a catering venue in Edison about 20 miles from Old Bridge.

The alleged significance?

Old Bridge has been a hotbed of dissent to former county GOP chairman and sitting State Senator Sam Thompson, a strong and vocal Guadagno backer, of whom Panos is a close ally. A few key Old Bridge elected officials (including the mayor) have endorsed Kim Guadagno (Panos’s endorsed candidate) but the municipal committee itself is considered a potential pick up for the campaign of Asm. Jack Ciattarelli who’s hoping to make a stand of sorts in the populous Central Jersey county bordering his own (Somerset).

Again, the antagonism isn’t new; Panos defeated Art Haney, leader of the resistance, in the race to succeed Thompson as chairman last June.

“We oppose this action and expect a full discussion and explanation on the 15th,” declared Haney in the email exchange forwarded to Save Jersey by more than one source. According to Haney, who is also seeking to unseat Thompson in the LD12 primary, the new venue is less well-equipped to accommodate the expected hordes of voters of which approximately 50% are estimated to hail from Old Bridge.

“The ELLORA website indicating accommodations of up to 650, is for events with table seating. The contract presented allows for max 900 with a guarantee of 800. I doubt they would put that in a contract if they could not accommodate that number,” Panos shot back.

“Once again, as Chair of the MCRO, I cannot allow the Old Bridge in fighting and your personal agenda and anger to eat away at what the MCRO is building,” she added in reply.

Victory at Middlesex’s free-wheeling, refreshingly unscripted convention could prove a major boost for Ciattarelli who is line-hunting; his team, led by veteran consultant Chris Russell and campaign manager Rick Rosenberg, have won there in the past. It’s a “bus voting” operation where registered Republicans can sign up to vote (the cost of which is 10 bucks), making the location arguably more significant than it is for a normal county committee voting session. Over 850 have reportedly registered thus far.

We’ll let you know how Round #1 tonight goes….

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