By Art Gallagher
The race for the Monmouth GOP nomination for Freeholder is coming down to the wire. The only safe bet at this point is that Howell Mayor Bob Walsh will not be the nominee. A late entry into the race, Walsh has impressed on the stump, but this is not his year. He has a future in county or state politics, if he wants it. Elected in Howell as an Independent, Walsh needs to build support within the Republican party in order to secure a nomination on a higher than municipal level.
The race as it stands now is a nail biter between Manalapan Mayor Andrew Lucas, Wall Committeeman George Newberry and Spring Lake Councilman Gary Rich. Tonight’s speeches at the Monmouth County Affilitated Club’s candidates night ( Lakeside Manor, Rt 36, Hazlet, 6PM) will be delivered with the hope of closing the few undecided delegates and picking off delegates with “soft” commitments. A gaffe or a home run tonight could determine the nomination. Not that I want to create any pressure for the candidates.
Rich has emerged from the “oh him again” candidate to a tenacious contender. He has earned the respect of many and the admiration of his competitors. His presentation skills are strong. Rank and file Republicans and Tea Party groups both like him. If Rich wins the nomination it will be from the strength of his support from the municipal chairs, especially from the smaller coastal and bayshore towns.
Newberry is a solid guy. Honest, hardworking, dependable. A team player. While not yet comfortable on the county stage, George, if nominated will be a strong candidate in the general election against Democratic incumbent Amy Mallet and Sean Byrnes, if Byrnes is the Democratic nominee. If Byrnes runs for the legislature, Newberry is even stronger in the general.
Lucas is a proven winner in rough and tumble Manalapan politics. He is Lillian Burry’s first choice for a running mate. He has strong support in among chairs in the western part of the county. Andrew has run for Freeholder before, losing to Barbara McMorrow in 2006 when she was a Democrat. The is no shame in losing to McMorrow and losing a countywide race is no longer a disqualification for seeking another shot. Mallet lost an Assembly bid before winning her Freeholder seat and John Curley was successful in his second try for Freeholder.
The Monmouth GOP is fortunate to have such a deep bench of qualified candidates. Each of the four gentlemen pursuing the nomination this year could win the general election and serve with distinction. The close race is an indication of the difficulty of the choice.
The selection committee meets Saturday morning. MMM will have the result first.