Ocean County Republican Chairman George Gilmore today denied a rival Republican group’s charge that he has already selected a replacement for arrested Assemblyman Daniel Van Pelt (R-Ocean Twp.) and would push her through without a formal nominating process.
According to the Web site of the Traditional Republicans of Ocean County, Long Beach Township Commissioner DiAnne C. Gove is Gilmore’s pick to succeed Van Pelt, who resigned on Friday after being charged with taking a $10,000 bribe from an FBI informant.
Gilmore, however, said that he has not yet received official notice of a vacancy from the Secretary of State, and that he cannot call a meeting of Ocean County Republicans until he has one. Once he is notified, he said that the party call a convention in seven days.
Gilmore acknowledged that Gove has expressed interest in the spot, but denied that any decisions have been made. In fact, he said, Suzanne Penna – a member of the rival group who once ran in a primary for freeholder against machine-backed Republican candidates in Ocean County – expressed interest as well.
“I don’t know why she would have contacted headquarters if it was already decided,” said Gilmore.
Still, Gilmore said there probably would not be a screening process “because time is so short.”
Penna said that she called the Republicans “on a whim” last week to say that she would be interested if and when Van Pelt resigned. She spoke with Ocean GOP Executive Director Rob Cressen.
“My exact words to him was I thought you guys might be interested in someone who is not corrupt or part of the machine, and wouldn’t cause problems like Van Pelt did,” said Penna.
Penna acknowledged that with or without a screening process, Gilmore usually determines who gets to run for what office.
“If we can get the regular voters out there to think that it’s just a few people who hand picked the candidate, maybe it would change,” she said.