Toms River, NJ – Ocean County’s Republican Freeholders, now commissioners have a healthy track record of running for office unopposed, but this year, that might change. At this week’s closed-door GOP convention, Toms River School Board member Ashley Lamb shocked a room full of GOP establishment insiders by getting 37 votes from the floor while armed police officers stood guard at the entrances of the ballroom at the Days Inn, in an effort to keep the media out of the room.
Inside, behind those closed and guarded doors, 37 dissenting Republicans broke away from the Haines-Kelly ticket, used to running for office unchallenged and sent a clear message to the patriarch of the county’s Republican biosphere, “You’re on notice.”
Now, the elder RNC State Committee Chairwoman, in her seventies, Haines has some healthy young competition and she’s frightened that this could be her last year in office if Lamb decides to put her name on the June primary ballot.
Lamb made it clear who her target was, Ginny Haines. But, in the floor vote, Haines received 152 votes, outshining her running mate Jack Kelly, who had 149 votes, meaning Lamb took votes away from both Kelly and Haines.
Lamb cannot officially “run against” Haines alone in a primary election or give Kelly a pass, the top two vote-getters of the three candidates would get the party line for November’s general election.
In a time when Haines is being reported by county workers as overbearing, micromanaging, and a vicious overlord of her respective departments, a revolt against Haines, and even Kelly is very likely, even in an off-the-line battle.
Kelly will face stiff competition as he is still seen as an ally of former GOP Chairman George Gilmore by the faction led by GOP Chairman Frank Holman, Haines and Sheriff Michael Mastronardy. Together, they are purging the Gilmore allied members of the organization one by one. Holman faction elites might try to send a message to Kelly during the election.
During the screening process, Kelly was safe from being kicked off the ticket, because he serves with Haines as a state committee member and it would have been an embarrassing move for Haines to deny the endorsement to her partner on the state committee.
For Haines, the resentment among rank and file Republicans is more personal. The Haines-Holman faction have been ruthless in purging former Gilmore associates from power, even though Haines was commissioned as a Freeholder by Gilmore himself. Haines, while she owes her new feeding at the public trough to Gilmore has since distanced herself from the former chairman. It’s very possible that a Republican voting base tired of Haines’ lifelong public service welfare and divisive tactics can push her to the curb in June.
It’s clear in Ocean County that you don’t cross Haines. Those who have, have lost their jobs, been ousted by the GOP party and shunned by the political elite, a group of professionals who rake in millions of dollars annually in public contracts, job awards to friends and families, and who also control the outflow of public money, funneling contracts to friends, political allies and campaign donors.
Haines has deep ties to the county. She grew up in publicly paid housing as a child when her father worked at Ocean County Park. From there she married into political royalty which allowed her to run for office after the divorce from her husband Dean Haines where she has bounced between being a councilwoman in Toms River and State Assemblywoman, often with mixed results during her elections.
In Ocean County, the Republican Party has become a legalized organized crime syndicate and if Frank Holman is the absent-minded mob boss of the family, Haines is the calculating, tip of the spear of the organization’s heavy-handed, Gestapo force. Haines controls who gets jobs and who gets fired.
Ocean County would be a better place with Haines returning to serving up burgers at the local tavern.’
Correction: Incorrectly stated Dean Haines had deceased. He and Ginny Haines divorced and he is indeed still alive.