VERONA – After 12 years as chairman of the Essex County Republican Party, state Sen. Kevin O’Toole, (R-40), of Cedar Grove, is retiring from the post and recommending County Party Executive Director Al Barlas of Bloomfield to succeed him.
In a letter to his fellow committee members, O’Toole laid out his reasons for giving up his chairmanship.
“As some of you know, after the election of Chris Christie as our Governor in 2009, I considered retiring,” O’Toole wrote. “At the urging of many party leaders, within our county and throughout the state, I remained on as Chairman. In the wake of my brother’s recent passing, I took some time to reassess where my focus should be. I have decided to focus more of my energies in the Senate, to continue to work closely with the Governor to execute his reform agenda, and most importantly to spend more time with my wife and 14-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter.
“As such… I have decided that after having had the honor and pleasure of serving as your Chairman to our County Party for 12 years, I will be retiring. In this past decade, we have seen our party reach its greatest heights and consistently achieve repeated success in local elections.”
On Tuesday evening, the county organization’s executive committee met and agreed to unanimously endorse Barlas to succeed O’Toole. A formal meeting is scheduled for Sept. 7.
A former state chairman of the New Jersey Young Republicans and chairman of the Essex County Young Republicans, Barlas last year became O’Toole’s chief of staff.
Gov. Christie had a response to the decision by O’Toole, widely regarded as the governor’s chief political tunnel rat in the Senate and key kitchen cabinet confidante.
“Chairman Kevin O’Toole has served the people of Essex County with distinction,” said Christie. “Kevin’s unwavering dedication to improve Essex County and New Jersey serves as an example for others to emulate. I know that Kevin will keep delivering for the residents of Essex County as their Senator and we are lucky to have such a distinguished voice in Trenton.”
Republican State Committee Chairman Sam Raia added, “Senator O’Toole has been a strong county chairman and it has been my pleasure to work with him. Essex County is a better place for Republicans due to Kevin’s hard work and dedication and I am looking forward to working with his successor, Al Barlas.
“Al is the current Executive Director of the Essex County Republican Committee, former Essex County Young Republican Chairman and New Jersey Young Republican Chair and I am confident that he will be a strong edition to the leadership of the NJGOP.”
During his tenure, O’Toole served as chair of the GOP county chairmen, succeeding Ocean County GOP Chairman George Gilmore and preceding current Chairman Keith Davis.