The Camden County Republican Party deflected a challenge from a splinter organization in Tuesday's election, winning the GOP primary for two freeholder seats.
Businessmen George J. Zallie and Scot De Cristofaro will challenge incumbent Democrats Edward T. McDonnell and Carmen G. Rodriguez in the November election, trying to end the Republicans' two-decade absence from the Board of Chosen Freeholders.
"People are fed up and disgusted with the cost of living in Camden County," said De Cristofaro. "You have to cut spending. You have to look at efficiencies. The other half of that is creating a viable tax base and an attractive climate for business."
That message was shared among the six other candidates running in the Republican primary for freeholder.
But there was a split in the county party ranks early in the primary season after several insiders defected and ran their own candidates, Gene M. Mignogna and Bernard I. Shuster, for the two open seats. And when two candidates affiliated with the insurgent tea-party movement also entered the race, the party organization seemed to face a legitimate threat. But none of the other candidates came close to matching Zallie and De Cristofaro in a primary that saw one of the lowest voter turnouts in years, according to Republican observers.
Mignogna, 53, attributed his ticket's loss to the strength of the county organization. But he was also taken by the impact the tea-party candidates had on the election.
"They don't have an official organization here, but there are a lot of people who agree with the constitutional thinking of the tea party," he said. "I think that will come out in the general election."
For Rick DeMichele Jr., chairman of the Camden County Republican Committee, Tuesday's result came as a relief and he spoke positively of the party's chances in November.
"We're raising more money every cycle," he said.
In Camden County municipal races, Bertha Kalvaitis won the Democratic primary to be Runnemede's next mayor, with no Republican in the race.
In Stratford, Republicans Steven Easterday and Stephen Venuto narrowly won the primary to run for town council in November.
In Lawnside, Mary Ann Wardlow won the Democratic primary for mayor, with no Republicans running.