The Battle of Monmouth

Already experiencing trouble among party leaders, Monmouth County Republican Chairman Frederick Niemannn took a huge hit last Friday when the Asbury Park Press reported that he and his Finance Chaiman, Josh Elkes, set up political action committees in municipalities throughout Monmouth County to accept contributions from county vendors that could not contribute directly to the county organization under newly passed pay-to-play restrictions. Such PAC’s may be legal, but campaign finance experts suggest some technical problems with Niemann’s PAC’s, including the use of the same Treasurer that Niemann already uses for his Chairman’s PAC. The Treasurer is an accountant at Holman & Frenia — which operates out of the same Toms River office building as Ocean County Republican Chairman George Gilmore’s law firm. The same day Niemann denied knowledge of the PAC’s, sources say he strongly supported in an address to the Monmouth County Affiliated Republican Club — comparing GOP County Committee members who have questioned his stewardship to al-Qaida when interviewed by the press. This has resulted in public calls for his resignation by several local party chairs and elected officials. So Far, two challengers have emerged to challenge Niemann when he seeks re-election to a second term as Chairman in June: former Freeholder Edward Stominski, who was dumped by party leaders when he sought re-election in 2004, and Mel Hood, an African American activist from Neptune. Sources say that other candidates are waiting until after the April 8th convention, when the Monmouth GOP picks candidates to replace retiring Freeholder Theodore Narozanick, and possibly Surrogate Marie Muhler. In the Freeholder race — which has recently been overshadowed by Niemann„s headlines — Ocean Township Deputy Mayor David Hiers has withdrawn and endorsed Howell Mayor Joseph DiBella. DiBella lost a February Special Election Convention to Anna Little to fill the Freeholder seat of Assemblywoman Amy Handlin. Marlboro Mayor Robert Kleinberg, Holmdel Committeeman Terence Wall, Manalapan Committeeman Andrew Lucas and Asbury Park attorney Thomas DeSeno are also running. Party insiders are expecting Muhler to retire, but she has still not made her intentions clear. Longtime Middletown Committeewoman (and former Mayor) Rosemarie Peters is already in the race, and Little Silver Councilman Rick DeNoia, who is close to Niemann, has begun to seek votes in the event that the incumbent backs out.

The Battle of Monmouth