In response to a threatened primary challenge to Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce (R-Morris), Republican State Chairman Tom Wilson wrote a letter to gubernatorial candidate Steve Lonegan defending DeCroce and asking the anti-establishment Republican to distance himself from his chief strategist, Rick Shaftan.
“I truly hope that Mr. Shaftan’s comments and intentions are not yours and that you had no prior knowledge of his self-indulgent, baseless, inaccurate and personal attack on Assemblyman DeCroce,” wrote Wilson. "I ask that you make clear your position on Mr. Shaftan's comments and, if the statements were made without your authorization, to make sure that Mr. Shaftan does not abuse his position with your campiagn in the future. His childish outbursts only serve to divert focus away from our principal goal: electing more Republicans and reversing the policies that have driven our state to the doorstep of bankruptcy."
In an interview with PolitickerNJ.com yesterday, Shaftan said that DeCrcoce was “happy to be a big fish in a small pond” and was Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts’ (D-Camden) “best friend in the state.”
Wilson said that DeCroce has spent “thousands of hours” working to support Republican candidates through fundraising and traveling throughout the state. Attacking one of the state’s top Republicans in a year when the party actually thinks it can make gains, he argued, is counterproductive.
“Mr. Shaftan’s comments are, charitably, out of line and counter to our shared goal. His actions reflect poorly on you, do nothing but alienate potential supporters to your campaign, and are a foolish distraction from what should be our ‘primary’ focus,” wrote Wilson.
Lonegan said that he did not read the letter. After PolitickerNJ.com read him an excerpt, he stood with Shaftan and called not only for DeCroce's defeat, but for Wilson to be removed as well.
"I don't care what Tom Wilson says or thinks. Tom Wilson and Alex DeCroce are the duo that is responsible for the failure of the Republican Party to stand up for Republican principles and values, and they have done nothing but overseen the demise of the party," he said. "It's time for both of them to go."