NJ11 UPDATE: Ghee enters GOP primary to succeed Frelinghuysen, drops loaded endorsement list

By Matt Rooney

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Original Post 1:00 p.m.
Updated 2:03 p.m.

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Just when it seemed as if the NJ-11 GOP primary battle to succeed Rodney Frelinghuysen was cooling off a bit?

Save Jersey has learned and confirmed from sources close to the candidate that black attorney and U.S. Army JAG officer Antony Ghee of Totowa is 100% committed to entering the Republican contest.  

Ghee, 47, is married with two kids. Born in Trenton and, after obtaining a law degree at Howard University and an L.L.M. from Georgetown, employed as a lawyer for Director at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, he’s also a published authority; Plaxico Burress authored the forward to his book F.L.A.G (Fraud, Lies & Greed): Cautionary Tales of How Professional Athletes Become the Victims of Fraud.

Politics is new to Ghee (who only registered as a Republican on Tuesday, one day before his announcement) but he’s already managed to coalesce support from Republican NJ-11 establishment forces outside of Morris County which, by itself, is at least half of the primary electorate.

“I enthusiastically endorse Tony Ghee for Congress in District 11 because his story is the All-American story of success. As a proud husband, father and member of the US Army, Tony is a guy who came from nothing and through hard work and dedication made a better life for himself and his family,” said Peter Murphy, the influential and often controversial Totowa Municipal Republican Chairman. “Having a dynamic candidate like Tony running with our organization this year in Passaic County not only helps keep this seat in Republican hands but helps all of our candidates up and down the ballot. I couldn’t be prouder of Totowa’s own Tony Ghee for stepping up to this challenge and we in Passaic County are proud to endorse him.”

“When Peter Murphy and I met with Tony, we were immediately impressed with his life’s story, his commitment to his family, and dedication to our Country,” added Al Barlas, Essex County Republican Committee Chairman. “His story of success, both personal and professional, through perseverance and hard work is one that will resonate with voters of all political beliefs. Tony’s life story is not a republican or democrat one, rather an American one we can all relate to. To have a candidate come forward of Tony’s caliber, with his life story and service to our country, it is a dream for the Republican Party. It’s not about where the candidate is from in this election that will matter, it is what that person is about. Tony is the game-changer we are proud to support.”

Barlas, Murphy, and their allies have consistently advocated for a non-Morris candidate after years of representation from a Morris congressman, arguing that an alternative to a Morris candidate is important for the district’s Republican Party.

The Ghee endorsement list (below) does include one big Morris name: John Sette, the recently retired GOP chairman of Morris County.

Not everyone agrees that it’s time for a non-Morris candidate. Ghee’s likely prime contender in June is Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-26), a popular Morris County-based figure in New Jersey Republican conservative circles who earned the endorsement of his almost primary rival and Assembly colleague Anthony Bucco of LD25 on Tuesday. Webber’s legislative district also represents the largest bloc of voters inside NJ-11, setting up a potentially titanic primary fight between the under-50 primary rivals if both succeed in raising cash.

Whoever emerges will face presumptive female Democrat nominee Mikie Sherrill, herself a Navy veteran, on the November ballot.

A full list of first round Ghee endorsements is posted below:

Al Barlas, Chairman Essex County Republican Committee
Peter Murphy, Chairman Totowa Municipal Republican Committee
John Traier, Chairman Passaic County Republican Committee
John Sette, Fmr. Chairman Morris County Republican Committee
Sen. Kristin Corrado, Senator District 40
Asm. Kevin Rooney, Assemblyman District 40
Asm. Christopher DePhillips, Assemblyman District 40

Essex:
Mary Devon O’Brien, Vice-Chairwoman Essex County Republican Committee
Russell Mollica, Chairman Bloomfield Republican Municipal Committee
Luis Linares, Fmr. Chairman Bloomfield Republican Municipal Committee
Shane Berger, Fmr. Member Bloomfield Board of Education
Gordon Lawshe, Chairman Caldwell Republican Municipal Committee
John Cascarano, Fmr. Caldwell Councilman
Peter Tanella, Mayor of Cedar Grove; Chairman Cedar Grove Republican Municipal Committee
Edward Abott, Chairman Essex Fells Municipal Republican Committee
Anthony Campisi, Chairman Fairfield Republican Municipal Committee
Lee Holtzman, Chairman Livingston Republican Municipal Committee
Michael Rieber, Fmr. Mayor of Livingston
Cynthia Santomauro, Council President Boro of North Caldwell
Walter Smith, Nutley Republican Municipal Committee
Mary Comito, Roseland Republican Municipal Committee
Christopher Smith, Chairman West Caldwell Republican Municipal Committee
Joseph Tempesta, Mayor of West Caldwell
Mark Meyerowitz, Chairman West Orange Republican Municipal Committee
Jay Sniatkowski, Chairman Verona Republican Municipal Committee

Passaic:
Walter Davidson Jr, Acting Passaic County Clerk
John Capo, State Committeeman Passaic County Republican Organization
Susan Enderly, State Committeewoman Passaic County Republican Organization
Brendan Murphy, Finance Chairman Passaic County Republican Organization
Joe Cupoli, Chairman Clifton Municipal Republican Organization
Joanie Houston, Chairwoman Hawthorne Municipal Republican Organization
Donald Radcliffe, Chairman Little Falls Municipal Republican Organization
Randy George, Chairman North Haledon Municipal Republican Organization
Ramon Leon, Chairman Paterson Municipal Republican Organization
Tim Troast, Chairman Pompton Lakes Municipal Republican Organization
John Speer, Mayor of Ringwood; Chairman Ringwood Municipal Republican Organization
John Coiro, Mayor of Totowa
Michael Marotta, Chairman Wayne Municipal Republican Organization
Chris Vergano, Mayor of Wayne
Matthew Conlin, Chairman West Milford Municipal Republican Organization
Ernest Sesso, Chairman Woodland Park Municipal Republican Organization
Giovanni D’Ambrosio, Member Passaic Valley Regional High School

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