KANSAS-Ocean County’s Republican Party leaders are continuing to grumble over a monthlong hiatus by Ocean County GOP Chairman Frank Holman. Holman, a Lacey Township resident, escaped the COVID-19 virus-infected state of New Jersey in the early days of the growing pandemic for the clear blue skies of the American mid-west and he has been hiding there since. While the captain abandoning the ship during a global pandemic might seem bad enough, now party leaders, in the midst of a pandemic and an election cycle are starting to complain quietly, behind the scenes.
Right now, the Ocean County GOP needs a leader and Holman is nowhere to be found.
Days after Jackson Township Councilman Barry Calogero, a Republican and Trump appointee to the USDA called to deploy troops to neighboring Lakewood Township, a firestorm behind the scenes erupted in the GOP party.
State assemblymen and Senators were put into a bad spot politically by the councilman’s remarks. Assemblyman Gregory P. McGuckin, who represents Toms River and Brick in Trenton was put in a pickle. His firm also represents Lakewood Township. Insiders say McGuckin was furious at Calogero’s call to arms. Video from the meeting where Calogero called for military support shows McGuckin reading papers, oblivious to Calogero’s call to Murphy.
Insiders also report that response and reaction was considered by legislators in District’s 10th, 30th and 12th districts, but so far nobody can agree on how to maneuver out of the political minefield that lay before them, placed by Calogero.
Now, state legislators are just hoping Calogero’s call for deployment to Lakewood will simply pass and be forgotten. Nobody in the GOP party has echoed his call, not even his close ally Mayor Michael Reina.
The leaders across the county, including county and state officials, sought guidance from GOP Chairman Frank Holman, but have grumbled about his lack of availability and access to the chairman while he’s out hunting in Kansas, sitting out the pandemic on the sidelines, while the rest of his party deals not only with a public health crisis but now, an unforeseen political crisis.
Calogero himself has begun walking back his declaration. On Friday, Calogero said he wasn’t referring to Lakewood or Orthodox Jews in Lakewood when he called for Governor Murphy to deploy the national guard, insisting that he meant to deploy the guard to all of New Jersey’s COVID-19 hot spots.
While Calogero did not mention Lakewood by name, he mentioned the bordering towns of Jackson, Toms River and Brick and also referenced people who used religion to violate Murphy’s Law.
This also put Calogero and the Jackson Republican Club at odds with law enforcement. Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley Billhimer, behind closed doors took exception to Calogero’s request because it implied that local, county and state law enforcement was not doing their job to enforce the law.
Ocean County Sheriff Michael Mastronardy tried to dodge the subject with Shore News Network, but insiders also suggest he was unhappy with Calogero’s request. Mastronardy maintains good relations with the Orthodox Jewish community in Lakewood, Toms River and Jackson in his politically-neutral role as sheriff. County sheriff’s officers have been increasing patrols in Lakewood and other towns to ensure compliance, county officials told Shore News Network.
The Lakewood Police Department, who is on the front lines of enforcement in that community has also maintained radio silence as Calogero’s request directly challenges the department’s hard work during the pandemic. Behind the scenes, gears are in motion at many levels, as leaders decide how to respond publicly to Calogero’s request.
Right now, the general consensus is that if you ignore it, the problem will eventually go away, even Governor Phil Murphy, who shrugged off Calogero’s request.