After a very public squabble, the Burlington County Republican Committee has chosen a new leader who says the party is ready for the 2008 campaigns.

Bill Layton was elected chairman of the county party at a meeting over the weekend. Dawn Lacy, who had been the GOP's acting chairwoman, pulled herself out of contention before the vote.

Layton, 39, of Riverton, previously served as campaign chairman and ran the party's successful efforts to hold onto county and state legislative seats in November.

Lacy said she did not want to be the permanent chair; she said she would serve as vice chair until her term expires in June.

Layton agreed to implement some of the reforms Lacy wanted, including an audit of the party's finances. The party is about $400,000 in debt following the tough November campaigns.

Lacy had harsh words for her enemies in a speech she delivered Saturday to about 300 party members, whose loyalties were divided between Lacy and a former chairman, lawyer Glenn Paulsen.

Describing the battle since the election, when she took a computer and party records from the party's Mount Holly office and fired Layton and another staffer, Lacy said: "I have been called a thief, arrogant, power hungry, a [Camden County Democratic leader George] Norcross plant, the reason Vince [Farias, their unsuccessful 2006 surrogate candidate] lost his election, a liar . . . oh, and an adulterer.

"I've been threatened, my husband has been threatened, and some of you who have stood by me have been threatened," she said, according to a copy of her speech, which she provided.

Lacy was supported by Freeholders William Haines and James Wujcik, State Sen. Diane Allen (R., Burlington), and Sheriff Jean Stanfield.

Layton said the public phase of the battle - which included a Superior Court fight last week - is over.

"I came from a family with three sisters. My father would always tell us: a fight in house stays in the house. When we leave this house, we're united," he said.

The party must soon decide on: a candidate to replace retiring U.S. Rep. James Saxton (R., N.J.); whom to endorse for the U.S. Senate race; and a replacement for Freeholder Dawn Marie Addiego, who won an Assembly seat.