TOMS RIVER, NJ – The Ocean County Republican Party will be screening candidates for office in June’s primary to decide who will get the coveted party line, but the organization has already selected and advertised their preferred candidates ahead of time.
According to the organization’s website, the GOP has already chosen incumbents Jack Kelly and Virginia E. Haines for County Commissioner, Michael Mastronardy for Sheriff, Chris Smith for Congressional District 4 and Jeff Van Drew for Congressional District 2.
Still, the show must go on and the formalities of allowing others to screen for the positions, even though they’re not going to be chosen must continue according to the organization’s bylaws.
The screenings will begin at 4:15 p.m. today at the county’s headquarters in Downtown Toms River. The screening committee consists of Commissioners Jack Kelly, Virginia Haines and Gary Quinn. Joining them are Sheriff Michael Mastronardy, GOP Vice Chairwoman Barbara Lanuto, Senator Bob Singer, Committee Finance Chairman Jerry Dasti, Point Pleasant Mayor Bob Sebosik and embattled Jackson Township Mayor Michael Reina.
Alternates include Commissioner Bobbi Jo Crea, Carmen Amator, John Peterson, and JoAnne McAndrew.
According to the screening committee’s schedule, interviews will begin at 4:15 pm with incumbent commissioner Virginia Haines and at 4:25 pm with Jack Kelly.
Kelly and Haines will have three challengers including Jackson Township Councilman Andrew Kern, Toms River School Board member Ashley Lamb and Mike Thulen of Point Pleasant. According to the county, Lamb has officially challenged Haines and Kern has officially challenged incumbent Jack Kelly.
When it comes to Sheriff, Mastronardy, who is meeting at 4:35 pm will be challenged by former Brick Township police officer Justin Delaney.
Incumbent Congressman Chris Smith will interview via phone at 6:00 pm and will be faced by challengers Mike Crispi and Mike Blasi for the Congressional District 4 seat. Nobody is screening for the party line against Jeff Van Drew, who will screen at 5:50 via phone.
Some conflicts of interest are evident as Mastronardy, Haines and Kelly are all on the committee that will select the county’s preferred candidates. The only surprise you may see today is the Ocean County GOP backdooring long-time Freeholder Jack Kelly as rifts in the party continue between the Holman-Haines faction against the Gilmore faction.