Jackson Mayor removed from county screening committee after snubbing Chairman, political appointments

TOMS RIVER, NJ – Jackson Township Mayor Michael Reina will be removed by Ocean County GOP Chairman George Gilmore as a member of the Republican party screening committee. Reina, according to inside sources, has been targeted because he did not provide municipal appointments to pay-to-play firms connected to the chairman.

Prior to Gilmore’s conviction by the IRS, the two were close political allies, but in Gilmore’s return to politics, Reina has been lukewarm to the chairman’s new climb to the top.

During his campaign, Reina made it clear that he would not take pay-to-play donations and would not appoint professionals based on their financial and political contributions.

The screening committee in Ocean County is largely a ceremonial committee that selects a nominee, but in recent years, that nomination has not amounted to party-line support in the Republican primary elections.

Both Hirsh Singh and David Richter won county endorsements in key congressional races despite being nominated by the county committee, a group of aging political insiders largely out of touch with the rank-and-file Republicans in the county. Screening committees are built by the chairman to stack the deck in favor of the chairman’s desired candidates.

The screening committee meets prior to primary and general elections to decide which candidates will get the GOP party line in upcoming elections.

Reina had served on that committee under former GOP Chairman Frank B. Holman.

In November, Gilmore was unable to solidify the party line in favor of Reina during his election in Jackson Township, an act seen by Reina as Gilmore trying to play both sides in the contentious election between Reina and hardware store owner Marty Flemming. Some in Reina’s circle say Gilmore was unwilling to put the party’s endorsement behind Reina.

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In the end, the Ocean County GOP did not endorse Reina, the four-time incumbent mayor of Jackson. Instead, Gilmore blamed Ocean County Commissioner Virginia Haines for being the lone holdout refusing to endorse Reina, although he had a 4-1 majority to announce an endorsement.

Gilmore said the GOP would not make an endorsement unless it were unanimous.

Today, Gilmore confirmed the rumor saying, “I’m not kicking him off; it’s not a lifetime appointment.”

Instead, Gilmore said Reina’s seat would be filled by an Orthodox Jewish replacement but did not mention a name, but others say Gilmore’s replacement for Reina will come from Barnegat Township. Some names at the top of that list would be Justin Flancbaum and Yankel Wenger, both high-profile insiders in Lakewood and county politics.

Insiders in Jackson Township today said Gilmore is upset with Reina over not appointing any of Gilmore’s affiliated firms to government appointments in January. Gilmore denied that accusation.

Gilmore attended Jackson Township’s annual reorganization meeting sitting beside Frank Sadeghi, now a candidate for Ocean County Commissioner. Sadeghi was not appointed by Reina, leading to Gilmore to express disappointment in Reina’s decision.