Wesley: Calabro is no placeholder

Hamilton restaurant owner Rob Calabro is not a placeholder candidate for Assembly in District 14, both he and Mercer County Republican Chairman Roy Wesley said today.

“I’m pretty sure we’re going to start [campaigning] as soon as possible. We’re meeting every week as we speak,” Calabro said.

Calabro’s absence from the Mercer County Republican Convention last month drew skeptical responses from insiders who felt that no candidate who is serious about running in one of the state’s most competitive legislative districts would skip his own nomination. He was tapped at the last minute to replace Hamilton Councilwoman Kelly Yaede, who was the Republicans’ top choice but, after signaling that she was likely to run, declined.

Calabro said that he was with his wife, who is pregnant with the couples’ third child, on the night he was nominated.

Mercer Republicans are seeking a running mate for Calabro in the June primary, since they will not accept the candidacy of 21-year-old college student Brian Hackett, who was chosen by Middlesex Republicans.

“I know the state is going to put money in to support [Calabro],” said Wesley. “He’s not a placeholder.”

Wesley also reacted angrily to comments made by Mercer County Democratic Chairman Richard McClellan about the drama in the GOP’s candidate selection process.

“The only question is why is Rich McClellan sticking his nose into our business?” said Wesley.

Wesley disputed McClellan’s comment about the selection process being a poor audition for managing a $29.8 billion budget, saying that the county shouldn’t be spending that much money to begin with.

Wesley noted that he spoke with Hackett and, although he will not give him the county line, encouraged him to talk to the 14th District’s Mercer County municipal chairs. He also said that McClellan’s characterization of the GOP as engaging in back room deals was hypocritical, bringing up the case of former Democratic Freeholder Tony Mack’s challenge to Trenton Mayor Doug Palmer, a fellow Democrat.

“Lo and behold afterwards the Democrats wouldn’t support him for freeholder. Gee, what’s that about?” he said.

McClellan responded that Mack was dumped through a fair and open convention.

"Unlike the Mercer Republican Chair's unilateral decision to ignore his own convention process and deny poor Mr. Hackett the county line he deserves, Tony Mack was defeated in an open convention of over 350 Democratic delegates elected by the public," he said. "For the Republicans to try and defend the back room deals they are using to select their candidates as being better than the open and broad based process used by the Mercer Democrats, is the height of arrogance and a very good reason why Mercer voters have completely repudiated their party in recent years."

  Wesley: Calabro is no placeholder