Monmouth County GOP chairman warms up to Pennacchio

In advance of his party’s convention on March 26, Monmouth County GOP Chairman Adam Puharic today said he no longer has reservations about state Sen. Joseph Pennacchio (R-Morris).

“I spoke with Joe Pennacchio, we had a real long talk, and I am growing more comfortable with Monmouth County Republicans getting behind his candidacy for U.S. Senate,” said Puharic.

Following the departure from the Senate race of millionaire Anne Evans Estabrook, the Monmouth County Republican chairman called for a meeting of county party chairs to discuss strategy. But he admitted at the time that the Bergen County Republican Committee’s likely endorsement of Pennacchio a day later would make it difficult to consider a viablealternative candidate.

Puharic had hoped a key ally, Sen. Joseph Kyrillos (R-Monmouth), would get in the race, but Kyrillos decided against running.

The main issue for Monmouth Republicans at their convention will be deciding who to pair on a ticket with Freeholder Director Lillian G.Burry as a replacement for outgoing Freeholder William Barham. They have two choices: Holmdel Mayor Serena DiMaso and Red Bank Councilman John Curley.

Puharic said whoever emerges as Burry’s running mate would have the edge against Democrats Amy Mallet of Fair Haven and Hazlet School Board President Glen Mason.

“If you look at the freeholder elections of 2006 and 2007, those candidates with better name recognition won,” said Puharic, considering a matchup with the Democrats.”In the end, those candidates with name recognition had a little bit of a decisive bump. That point is not lost on me.”

The chairmansaid he likes both DiMaso and Curley.

Puharic intends to run for another term as his party’s chairman in June. Opponents within his party are trying to recruit popular retired Sheriff Joseph Oxley to run against him.

Monmouth County GOP chairman warms up to Pennacchio