Ocean County’s oldest commissioner facing younger Republican challenger in 2022

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TOMS RIVER, NJ – When Ocean County Republicans compete in the 2022 GOP primary election, the Board of Commissioner’s elder stateswoman, Virginia Haines will be wiping the icing clean from her 76th Birthday. Haines, who was born on June 6th, 1944, on the second anniversary of the D-Day invasion in France has been a fixture in Ocean County’s political circles since she was just two years old.

Haines grew up in government housing on the sprawling estate of Lakewood’s Ocean County Park. Her father, a county parks employee raised the family in a home provided by the county. With World War II ending in September of 1945, nine months later, Haines, born on June 6th, 1946 is one of the first post-war baby boomers.

Since her time being paraded around county government circles, Haines has come a long way. She was appointed to become a county commissioner in 2016 by former Ocean County GOP Chairman George Gilmore in a backroom deal inked in the halls of Connor Strong and Buckalew, owned by aging GOP Chairman Joe Buckalew and South Jersey Democrat power broker George Norcross.

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In the years between her time at the Ocean County park as a child to now, Haines has held multiple government positions, bouncing from elected office to elected office.

That all might come to an end as Toms River School Board member Ashley Lamb has announced her intent to screen for the job. We were first notified by Ocean County GOP insiders of the challenge, but later confirmed the challenge with Lamb.

Lamb confirmed that she submitted her name to Ocean County GOP Chairman Frank B. Holman earlier this week, saying she answered the chairman’s call for younger female candidates to step up and carry the torch for the Republican party as the existing and aging board of commissioners get ready to sunset.

After serving nearly 20 years on the board, former Freeholder John Bartlett, a retired school teacher, passed away at the age of 71. The other remaining commissioners aren’t getting any younger. Commissioner Joe Vicari is 74. Newly elected commissioner Bobbi Jo Crea is a young 71 and the other freeholders aren’t spring chickens either.

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“I strongly believe it’s time to start electing motivated conservative Republican women,” Lamb said, adding that she answered Chairman Holman’s 2019 call for the same.

In April of 2019 after taking the helm of the party, Holman said it’s time to start electing more women to office in a circle that is notoriously referred to as the “Good Ole Boys” club. Most of the aging members, including Holman are all long-time Ocean County baby boomers who attended high school and grew up together since the 1950s and 1960s.

“We need to elect more women and young people,” Holman said in an interview with the New Jersey Globe.  “I want that to be more representative of us.

“As a young Republican woman, I look forward to screening for Virginia Haines’ seat, a post she was appointed to in 2016 by party leadership,” Lamb said. “On multiple occasions, Chairman Holman has placed a call to action for young women to serve, even today in his announcement to step down as Ocean County GOP Chairman.

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Holman today said he is stepping down as chairman and will be succeeded by Ocean County Sheriff Michael Mastronardy.

Now, Lamb is hoping to be part of the divided party’s path forward behind the division created in 2019 when former GOP chairman George Gilmore stepped down and was replaced by Holman. Since then Ocean County has been a party divided with Holman and Haines being the tip of the wedge that forced party faithful into opposite corners.

Holman will preside over the June primary and steering committee selection process between now and then.

“I have answered the chairman’s call to compete for the county line,” Lamb said.