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Tea party runs candidates in Burlington County GOP primary

A South Jersey tea-party organization is running a slate of candidates in the June 4 primary to challenge the Burlington County Republican Committee's picks for county and state offices.

Stephen Silver.
Stephen Silver.Read more

A South Jersey tea-party organization is running a slate of candidates in the June 4 primary to challenge the Burlington County Republican Committee's picks for county and state offices.

The West Jersey Tea Party, established in 2010, is endorsing candidates to seek the Republican nod to run for Burlington County sheriff, the one seat up for grabs on the county Board of Chosen Freeholders, and four state Assembly seats.

The Democrats have no primary contests for these positions.

"We're fed up with the political machine in the county," said Bill Haney, founder of the local tea party. "We believe the GOP party has allowed itself to be cut loose from its moorings of conservative sensibilities."

Haney, who runs a carpentry business from his home in Tabernacle, said that the tea party had endorsed only one candidate in the past - Justin Murphy, who unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Rep. Jon Runyan in the 2010 GOP primary.

"It's so difficult to find candidates. . . . People are pilloried" and their life is held up for "microscopic inspection," Haney said.

Bill Layton, chairman of the county GOP organization, said his party had built a consensus over the years among conservative, moderate, and liberal members. "I think sometimes what happens, as in every facet of life, you can do seven or eight things right, but there's always one thing they don't agree with you on. And it's their right to run an election," he said.

The GOP's contest for sheriff will be a repeat of the 2010 primary.

Sheriff Jean E. Stanfield, first elected in 2001, is being challenged by Bill Moore, owner of the Greenbriar Bed and Breakfast, who ran against her three years ago. At that time, he ran without the tea party's endorsement because the group was unaware of his candidacy, Haney said.

Moore, 68, of Edgewater Park Township, is married to Carole Lokan-Moore, who has run unsuccessfully for state senator three times. Moore is a lifelong NRA member whose major issue is the protection of the right to bear arms, Haney said. Stanfield's gun buyback program, scheduled for Saturday, is misguided, Haney said.

"The sheriff's position is the last bastion of freedom from overreaching by the government" when it tries to impose gun control, Haney said.

Stanfield, a lawyer from Westampton, released a statement that the buyback program was "just one prong of an overall strategy to reduce gun violence. Taking unwanted weapons off the street can only benefit the community."

She also noted that the National Sheriffs Association strongly supports the Second Amendment but also supports "strengthening laws that prevent or reduce the access" to firearms of those who are legally prohibited from having them.

For freeholder, the tea party's candidate is Stephen "Lance" Silver, 70, of Medford, a retired owner of the former Katmandu restaurant/bars along the riverfront in Philadelphia and in Trenton. The former businessman will push for lower taxes and changes in the state's school funding formula, Haney said.

The GOP committee-endorsed candidate is Freeholder Director Joe Donnelly, a sales manager from Cinnaminson, who was first elected in 2007.

"Under his leadership, Burlington is the only county in the state to cut the county property tax levy and the rate five years in a row," according to the GOP committee's website. He also voluntarily cut his freeholder salary in half and would not accept health benefits, the website says.

The Democrats have selected Reva Foster, 64, of Willingboro, who heads her township's Community Affairs Department on Aging and Veteran Affairs, for the freeholder seat; and James Kostoplis, 68, of Bordentown, a retired police lieutenant for sheriff.

The tea party, which has more than 550 members in Burlington, Camden and Gloucester Counties, is also endorsing candidates for state office, Haney said.

For state Assembly, the group is endorsing Conni Hare Murray, 49, an office manager from Moorestown, and Joe Siano, 54, a media director from Burlington City, for the Republican nominations for seats in the Seventh District; and Scott Fay, 58, a Medford business consultant, and Gary Jacques, 62, of Westampton, a purchasing director for the Lutheran Social Ministry, for the Eighth District.

They will challenge the GOP committee's endorsed candidates, Jeffrey Banasz, 36, a businessman from Moorestown, and Anthony Ogozalek Jr., 43, a lawyer from Delran, in the Seventh District, and Assemblyman Chris Brown and newcomer Maria Rodriguez-Gregg, 31, of Evesham, an economics major at Rutgers-Camden, in the Eighth District.

The Democrats are running Assemblymen Troy Singleton and Herb Conaway in the Seventh. Newcomers Ava Markey, 22, of Marlton, an education student at the College of New Jersey, and Robert McGowan, 64, of Medford Lakes, a retired nursing home administrator, are endorsed in the Eighth District.