Along with the success of the Republican Party in Monmouth County come some sticky issues that the Party must confront. The latest issue crops up with Governor Chris Christie’s nomination of Party Chairman Joseph Oxley to the Superior Court bench. Since Oxley can’t serve in both positions, the Monmouth County GOP is going to have to find another leader.
Because of his ability to deliver Republican wins in Monmouth, and arguably, the margin of victory for Governor Christie in the last election, it was simply a matter of time before Christie showed his appreciation. Oxley restored the Freeholder board to Republican control, our state legislators are all Republican and with the exception of Congressional offices, Monmouth is a solid GOP territory. The Monmouth GOP had been fractured in recent years- some still think it is, but Oxley has presided over the most major accomplishments since the heyday of Bill Dowd. While his methods of selecting candidates has not always been inclusive of the rank and file, Oxley nonetheless deserves credit for putting out a united front for the press and rebuilding the infrastructure of the party.
The big question is which Republican will ascend to the top job. The current Vice Chairman of the Party is Christine Hanlon, a respected lawyer and acknowledged front runner right now. (In the interest of full disclosure, this columnist has voted for Ms. Hanlon as the Atlantic Highlands Prosecutor, a part time position which she currently holds) In addition to being Oxley’s top aide, Ms. Hanlon is also the municipal chairman in Ocean Township, so she knows first hand the effort required to win local municipal elections.
At this time, only former State Senator John Bennett of Red Bank has expressed an interest in challenging for the top job. Bennett is well known to GOP loyalists and at one time, he was the second most powerful man in Trenton. Unfortunately, over a long career in politics, one is bound to make some enemies, and Bennett may not have the broad support needed to win over the party faithful.
It should be interesting to watch the developments over the next few weeks. Republican county committeemen and women will have a choice to make, and there will be a convention with a vote for the next Chairman. The winner is bound to be compared to Oxley and Dowd, a difficult task given their track records. It is unusual to think that keeping the status quo makes for a success, but given the GOP record over the past few years that would be quite an accomplishment for whoever is elected as the next GOP Chairman.