Two Republican candidates affiliated with unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate Steve Lonegan beat the regular party slate and a third faction yesterday to become the party's freeholder nominees in Gloucester County.
Ron Brittin and Matthew Burns, political newcomers who ran on the Conservative Republicans Putting Taxpayers First slate, will challenge Democratic incumbents Joe Chila and Robert Damminger in November. The five-member board has been dominated by Democrats for 20 years.
Brittin and Burns won despite Lonegan's loss at the top of the ticket.
"I think the other two slates blew it for themselves with all the bickering," said Brittin, a semi-retired landscaper from Mantua. "We didn't get involved in all the namecalling."
Brittin also thinks his stance against a proposed Gloucester County light rail link won over voters.
"In the beginning you had six candidates all saying we need to cut spending. But there's real-life issues in this county that have to be addressed, like the rail line," he said.
Burns, a West Deptford resident who just finished a stint in the Navy, attributed the victory to hard work and "grass-roots supporters" of Lonegan and his team.
The conservative candidates beat the rival slate of Larry Wallace and Phyllis Scapellato, who both ran for freeholder last year. They broke with the party this spring.
Trailing the other slates were Loran Oglesby, the county GOP chair, and her running mate, Stephen Austin.
The fight became ugly when Wallace and Scapellato called for Oglesby to step down, questioning her leadership ability, and when Oglesby then called them "insurgents" who didn't care about the party.
Last night, Wallace said he was "not disappointed with the outcome." Though he and Scapellato wanted to win, he said, he is glad Oglesby was defeated because the party will be able to move on and "be reinvigorated." He said he supports the winners and would not have supported Oglesby.
The election of the party chair is scheduled for June 9, and Oglesby said she is seeking reelection despite her loss in the primary. She said she thinks the conservatives won because that wing of the party is gaining traction and because the candidates did not "trash and bash" the party the way the other faction did.
Newcomer Chris Marrero, who ran for sheriff on the conservative slate, beat Richard John Dean, another newcomer affiliated with the Wallace-Scapellato team. Marrero will oppose Democratic Sheriff Carmel Morina in the general election.
In Harrison Township, incumbent Donald Heim and newcomer Robert Shearer won Republican nominations for two committee seats, defeating incumbent Jim Woods, former Mayor Phil Rhudy, and newcomer Joseph Naples.
They will face Democratic challengers Joseph Lancellotti and Joseph Hassell, who were unopposed in the primary.
In neighboring South Harrison, incumbent Gary Spinner and former Mayor James McCall defeated newcomer Mary Howard in a contested GOP primary.
The two will run for two seats on the Township Committee. No Democrats, including Mayor Robert Campbell, filed in the primary.