Wilson wins, DiGaetano is a no-show

Republican State Chairman Tom Wilson coasted to a third term last night, defeating former Morris Township Mayor Peter Mancuso by a 28-10 — a percentage of 74%. That means Wilson can remain at the help of the state party organization until at least June 2009, when the Republican nominee for Governor, by tradition, would name their choice for State Chairman. Wilson was first elected in November 2004, defeating former Assemblyman Richard Kamin following the resignation of Joseph Kyrillos. He held the post the following June when the '05 gubernatorial nominee, Douglas Forrester, decided to retain him.

Mancuso, who was Republican State Committee Finance Chairman in the 1990's and lost a State Senate bid in 1997, supplemented the two votes from his home county, Morris, with support that came primarily from South Jersey, according to sources who noted the vote was by secret ballot. Cape May County Republican Chairman David Von Savage had endorsed Mancuso.

The third candidate in the race was a no-show. Former Assembly Majority Leader Paul DiGaetano had insisted as recently as Wednesday that he intended to run, and predicted that he would enjoy strong support. But no State Committee members ever endorsed him, and he chose not to attend the meeting.

DiGaetano’s political career, which included sixteen years in the State Assembly (including six as Majority Leader and two as Minority Leader) and sixteen years as a Passaic City Councilman, has likely come to an end. He won just 6% of the vote in the 2005 gubernatorial primary (finishing sixth out of seven candidates), and dropped his bid for re-election as Minority Leader in 2003 (after it became clear that Alex DeCroce would win the post). He flirted with the idea of challenging State Senator Paul Sarlo this year, but eventually declined.

Earlier this month, DiGaetano became embroiled in a political controversy for his role in the District 40 GOP State Senate primary. DiGaetano backed Todd Caliguire and according to sources close to that campaign, was a key participant in a plan to link Kevin O’Toole and the Rev. Al Sharpton in a racially-charged direct mail piece. As a result of that mailer, the Assembly Republican Caucus – and last night, the Republican State Committee – effectively censured political consultant Kevin Collins, a longtime DiGaetano adviser – urging that Republican candidates not hire Collins in the future.

Wilson wins, DiGaetano is a no-show