Race for GOP chair heats up in Gloucester

Gloucester County Republican Chairwoman Loran Oglesby, who nominated herself to run for freeholder this year as a placeholder candidate, said that she may remain on the ballot if she wins the June primary – depending on the outcome of the party's leadership contest between her and opponent Bill Fey the week after the primary.

"We'll have to wait and see what happens on June 9, but Mr. Fey and his group made it extremely difficult to find another freeholder candidate," she said. "The people we did speak with said they didn't want their names drubbed through web sites with personal attacks.

Oglesby, the two-term head of a beleaguered party that holds no county-wide offices or state legislative seats, faces a revolt led by Fey and former freeholder candidate Phyllis Scapellato. Not only is Fey challenging Oglesby for the chairmanship on June 9, but his faction is running a full slate of candidates against the organization's partial slate. Add to that gubernatorial candidate Steve Lonegan's team of candidates, and there are three slates competing for the chance to run a long-shot campaign against well-entrenched Democrats.

Oglesby is paired with Mullica Hill resident Stephen W. Austin for freeholder. On Fey's team, running with the slogan "Gloucester County Republicans" are Scapellato and Larry Wallace, who both ran with the organization's backing last year. Lonegan's slate has West Deptford resident Matthew Burns and Mantua resident Ron Brittin running for freeholder.

The state legislative races are another story. In the 3rd District, there's a four-way primary race between Art Marchand, George Shivery, Lee Lucas and Robert Villare. Marchand and Shivery are bracketed together and have the backing of Fey's faction. Although many insiders consider Lucas and Villare the Oglesby-backed candidates, she never officially endorsed them. In District 4, Fey-backed Domenick DiCicco is paired with the Camden GOP's Eugene E.T. Lawrence. But Oglesby-backed Andrew Savicky, who is running alone, is taking them on in the primary.

An uncomfortable scenario could occur if she Oglesby wins the freeholder primary (she has the advantage of running on the same line as presumed gubernatorial frontrunner Chris Christie), but loses the chairmanship to Fey. Oglesby did not say which outcome of the chairmanship contest would influence her decision whether to remain as a placeholder, but if she stayed on, it would force a working relationship between her and Fey.

Fey, for his part, said that the primary does presage the outcome of the chairmanship contest, but not based on its results. Rather, he said, his strong showing is the fact that he put together a full slate, while Oglesby's lacks a candidate for sheriff. Fey is running private investigator Richard James Dean for that position, while Oglesby's previous candidate for the spot, Chris Marrero, switched to the Lonegan slate after Oglesby's organization endorsed Christie. Oglesby said that Marrero's change in allegiance left her with no time to field another candidate.

"I wouldn't say it's necessarily outcome. It's who's willing to line with whom," said Fey. "You can't find a sheriff? You can't find a freeholder and you have to run yourself? What does that tell you for your organization?"

Fey said that his candidates will get full support from the organization – an allusion to Scappelato and Wallace's complaints that they were largely left on their own last year by the organization.

"We're going to put on a hell of a primary," he said. "Anyone who's running on our line gets support from our line."

Oglesby, however, said that Fey's slate shows weakness by recycling last year's freeholder candidates, and noted that Scapellato is also running for State Committeewoman on his slate. The other state committee candidate, Jeff Morris, is the former Executive Director of Oglesby's organization, but split with her last year.

"I find it amusing that Fey looked far and wide for candidates to fill ‘his' slate and all he ended up with was Freeholder candidates that were last year's county candidates," said Oglesby. "Fey's State Committeewoman candidate is also his freeholder candidate, his State Committeeman candidate is someone who has no loyalty to the County Republican Party and his Sheriff candidate was given to him last minute."

  Race for GOP chair heats up in Gloucester