Republican leaders in Gloucester County elected a new party chairman this week after a bitter primary splintered the party into several factions.
Bill Fey defeated Loran Oglesby, who led the county party for four years, in secret ballots cast Tuesday night by nearly 250 municipal representatives. Fey has portrayed Oglesby as weak, saying Republicans have not won any county seats in a decade.
Democrats, who have controlled county government for 20 years, had no contested primaries.
Fey, of Franklin Township, said his victory would "move the ship in the right direction" and reinvigorate a party that controls only six of 24 municipalities.
He said he had won by a ratio of more than 2-1.
Oglesby, of West Deptford, fought to the end, even after most of the candidates she endorsed in the primary lost. Oglesby blamed Fey for their defeat, saying Fey had run a negative campaign and threatened the party's survival.
After she was replaced as chair, Oglesby put in a bid for vice chair but lost to Barbara Capelli of Wenonah.
Oglesby did not return calls yesterday, but in an e-mail she faulted Fey for failing to support her as vice chair, which she said would have helped the party heal.
"This would have been a golden opportunity for Mr. Fey to show the Republicans of Gloucester County that he would stand by his own words to unite this party," she wrote.
Fey said that his first task was unifying the party, but that working with Oglesby would have been too difficult.
While Fey's slate of candidates for two seats on the freeholder board battled an Oglesby-endorsed slate, a third faction aligned with conservative gubernatorial candidate Steve Lonegan won the nomination in the primary.
Lonegan, however, lost to Christopher Christie in the gubernatorial race.
Fey has vowed to campaign for the Lonegan freeholder candidates, Ron Brittin and Matthew Burns. But he said he planned to meet with the chairmen in the other counties to discuss the qualifications of Robert Villare and Lee Lucas, two Oglesby-endorsed candidates who won the Assembly nominations in District 3, which includes parts of Gloucester, Cumberland, and Salem Counties.
During the primary race, Fey questioned whether Villare had been a New Jersey resident for two years, as required by law.
Reached at his home in Woodbury, Villare called the accusation "ridiculous," and said he had been born in New Jersey and lived there 50 years. He said Fey "was crying over spilled milk" because his candidates lost.
Fey had backed Greenwich Township Mayor George Shivery and former Cumberland County Surrogate Art Marchand for the nominations.