TRENTON, N.J. – Attorney Michael Lavery was elected chairman of the New Jersey Republican State Committee (more commonly known as the “NJGOP”) on Tuesday night on a remote Zoom call.
The vote – which was conducted by remote secret ballot – was 24 votes for Lavery, nephew of embattled Ocean County powerbroker George Gilmore, and 16 for Bob Hugin, the party’s 2018 U.S. Senate nominee who entered the race at the 11th hour.
The contest boiled down to a proxy battle between the party’s two major 2021 primary candidates – Doug Steinhardt and Jack Ciattarelli – who backed opposing chair prospects. Steinhardt, the outgoing NJGOP chairman, had handpicked Lavery as his successor; Ciattarelli endorsed Hugin after the ex-big pharma executive began calling committee members to solicit votes.
There were other storylines, too, including Chris Christie and Bill Palatucci’s reported advocacy for Hugin.
Control of the NJGOP is nevertheless largely symbolic at the moment.
The long-struggling organization is underfunded, understaffed, and likely to take a backseat in fundraising to the gubernatorial and legislative races through most if not all of 2021. What’s more, Tuesday’s committee election is only designed to fill the remaining several months of Steinhardt’s unexpired term. It’s possible Lavery will be replaced this spring, almost certainly if Steinhardt does not win the nomination in June.