In Monmouth County, every town has county committee members. The county committee – both Democrat and Republican, are charged with making the political decisions for their party. Unless one is really interested in politics, the county committee members fly under the radar from the general public.
Depending upon the size of the municipality, the number of county committee members can vary. Typically, there are two committee members per voting district in each town. For instance, in Atlantic Highlands, there are sixteen county committee members- eight each for the Republicans and eight for the Democrats. The number eight is determined by the number of voting districts in town. There are four districts and each district must have a male and female committee person. Furthermore, the county committee members must reside in their voting district, so each party has a total of eight in Atlantic Highlands. In a town such as Middletown, there are over 80 county committee members as Middletown has many voting districts.
A county committee member gains importance when it comes time to choosing a leader for the county. This past Tuesday, members of the Monmouth County Democrat party gathered at the Shore Casino to select their leader for the next two years. The Republican county committee members met at Colts Neck High School to elect their leader. Most years, these elections are little more than coronations as the Chairman of the party is re-elected without any significant opposition. But this year was different, as both Republicans and Democrats held spirited campaigns to lead their party.
For the GOP, former State Senator John Bennett narrowly defeated Vice Chairman (and Atlantic Highlands Prosecutor) Christine Hanlon. This was a spirited race that deserves a future column of its own while the Democrats elected Vin Gopal to succeed longtime Chairman Vic Scudiery. For Bennett and Gopal, their missions are essentially the same: get their people elected to office and raise money for those races. The job that a Chairman does very often determines the fate of the party for the next two years, and the GOP with tight control over many county offices, will be hard pressed to maintain the status quo. The GOP and the Democrats have selected their leaders and now the race is on to see which party prevails in November..