TOMS RIVER, NJ – The annual Ocean County GOP annual convention has always been an open and transparent process where political leaders publicly choose and endorse their candidates for an upcoming election cycle.
Historically, members of the public, the press, and members of the elected county GOP committee have been welcomed and invited to attend the transparent process of selecting Republican candidates.
After losing multiple floor battles to dissenting Republicans since taking control of the party, Ocean County GOP Chairman Frank Holman this week announced the process will now be a closed-door process out of the public view for the first time in recent history.
Last week, we emailed Pat Lane, the executive director of the Ocean County GOP who said that Shore News Network and other media outlets were barred from the convention to be held Thursday at the Days Inn. Aside from being the editor of Shore News Network, I am an elected member of the Ocean County Republican County Committee, representing Jackson Township’s 19th district.
Lane told me that in addition to not being allowed to attend the convention, which I have attended annually for the past 10 years, I was not allowed in as either elected committee member or member of the press.
Today, Asbury Park Press reporter Erik Larsen, a close ally to County GOP leaders also confirmed the newspaper’s request to attend was rejected.
Former Ocean County Chairman George Gilmore confirmed with Shore News Network this week that under his leadership, the process was always transparent and open to all who wanted to attend.
Gilmore used to host lavish functions that included hot buffet meals including all-you-can-eat shrimp. This year, Holman will be serving attendees hotdogs and hamburgers, according to some guests who will be attending who wanted to remain anonymous for fear of political reprisal.
The Ocean County GOP did not say why they were restricting access this year.
Joseph Buckelew, former GOP Chairman said everyone’s making a big deal about nothing.
“The event was planned during COVID-19 and nobody knew what was happening at the time regarding capacity and the virus,” Buckelew told Shore News Network. “We have a strong organization and everything will be transparent. Whether or not the press comes, they will be told what happens right away.”
Mike Mastronardy, who is running for re-election as Sheriff and hopes to be the next GOP County Chairman after Holman steps down in July did not respond for comment on the matter.