Led by a former Republican freeholder candidate, critics of Gloucester County Republican Chairwoman Loran Oglesby have launched an offensive intended to force her from office.
"If she cares anything about this party she'll resign now — step down gracefully while she still has good favor," said Phyllis Scapellato, a school administrator who unsuccessfully ran for freeholder last year, coming a little under 14,000 votes short of the least popular Democrat, Freeholder Warren Wallace.
Oglesby is up for reelection in June, but her detractors would like to see her removed before then, so that she does not have a role in picking the next slate of county-wide candidates for the beleaguered minority party.
Scapellato, who thinks that her top vote-getting running mate, Larry Wallace, might have beaten Warren Wallace had it not been for Oglesby's management, has started a Web site, itsnotlorensparty.com that states its sole aim as to "begin the search for a new chairman of the Gloucester County Republican Executive Committee."
Scapellato said that the freeholders were mainly on their own, without the simplest form of guidance like walking lists, and that her complaints were met from a harsh response from Oglesby, who she said told her "m-f-ing candidates, do what you want."
"Coming into this in the beginning, the guidance was wonderful, but then it seemed like it fell apart," she said. "There was no organization, no true leadership; she was not able to raise funds. People who I had many years of connections with refused to attend any of our fundraisers, and we set up some pretty good ones."
Larry Wallace, Scapellato's former running mate, helped touch off the anti-Oglesby campaign with critical comments he made to the Gloucester County Times last week. Although he said he took no part in setting up the Web site, he thinks it's time for Oglesby to resign.
"I think when she started we had about 60 elected Republicans in Gloucester County. We're down to 37," he said.
Wallace described the freeholder campaign as "spinning our wheels and going around in circles" and said that many Republicans from around the state would not donate specifically because of Oglesby.
"She can be very, very rude and crude, and it's not the type of leadership that's needed – we need people who are going to bring people together, not drive a stake through everyone," he said. "There are no checks and balances at the county level at all, and the way things are going so far this year, there won't be any in 2009 at all."
Jeff Morris, who was the party's executive director last year before resigning to become municipal chairman in Washington Township, has been feuding with Oglesby since making the move. Part of the feud has been over Morris's hopes to replace Phil Rhudy as the county's Republican State Committeeman.
While he said that he is not spearheading the movement to oust Oglesby, he does support it, and hopes it can be done before June, by which time the party will have chosen its count-wide candidates.
"In order to get serious about trying to generate results, I think it would be appropriate to have a new chairperson in there who has some association with picking our new candidates and planning the year out," he said.
Oglesby defended herself as a chairwoman of a party that was already having trouble when she took over the post four years ago, and said that she intends to stand for reelection in June. Trying to force her out of office, she said, only hurts the party more. She also denied using profanity in conversation with Scapellato.
"Trying to remove a chairman through clandestine operations prior to the June reorganization does not bode well for any member o the county organization or any Republican in Gloucester County" she said.
Oglesby offered a prepared statement in response to Scapellato, saying that it would have been easier for all parties involved if Scapellato contacted her directly.
"Mrs. Scapellato was extremely distressed and disgruntled over her loss in the November election. It is unfortunate that she chose this avenue to display her frustration. Mrs. Scapellato could have easily contacted me to discuss this matter instead of the format she chose," she said. "I was taken aback by Mrs. Scapellato's press release. I have been in her presence recently where she showed no discord. I invite Mrs. Scapellato to contact me so we can discuss this matter. Her response in a public venue only succeeds to instill public damage to the party she claims to have concern for."
As for Wallace's comments, Oglesby said that "Mr. Wallace is aware that we are in the grips of a Democrat stronghold with unlimited resources in Gloucester County. Of course we need more volunteers and funding."
Oglesby was particularly offended that her one time ally, Morris, joined in the call for her to step down, and said that her resistance to his candidacy for Republican State Committee was based on an ultimatum he allegedly gave her.
"Mr. Morris told me if I didn't give him the line for state committee he would work against me. So obviously I have some concerns or issues, however Mr. Morris, as well as any candidate, is entitled to a one-on-one interview with the chairman in return for the endorsement of the GREC," she said. "I am surprised that former Executive Director Jeff Morris is in agreement with a public forum that attacks the chairman of the Gloucester County Republican Executive Committee. This can only harm the Gloucester County Republican Party."
Morris said that he gave no ultimatum.
"I did tell her I was interested in running for state committee, and she frankly told me that if I came out publicly to support her for reelection she would give me the line," said Morris, who added that he refused to do so but also said he would not come out publicly against Oglesby.
"I didn't give her any sort of ultimatum. That was just a blatant lie," he said.
Wallace and Scapellato both say they'd be interested in running again under different party management.
Some Republicans say an ideal choice for chairman would be someone from one of the still-Republican towns. An early contender for the post appears to be Franklin Township Municipal Chairman Bill Fey.