Conservative activist and blogger Michael Illions announced over the weekend that he is running to become Middlesex County Republican Chairman.
“Currently, the Executive Board of the Middlesex County GOP is ineffective and void of leadership, both in providing it or inspiring it in others. It is mostly filled with longtime establishment insiders, who care more about what’s in it for them, then how to grow and build the Party,” wrote Illions in a post on his blog, Conservatives with Attitude.
Illions made the announcement on Saturday at the Conservative Leadership Breakfast in North Brunswick, which he helped organize.
Illions was a major backer of former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan in the Republican gubernatorial primary, and has been a frequent critic of GOP gubernatorial nominee Chris Christie, who he says has shifted his campaign rhetoric to the left after defeating Lonegan in June. He has also criticized current chairman Joseph Leo, whose term does not expire until June, 2010.
Middlesex is dominated by Democrats, who hold all of the county-wide elected offices.
In a video taken at the breakfast, Illions, an IT professional from Woodbridge who moonlighted as a pro wrestler until his son, Cole, was diagnosed with hydrocephalus, outlined what he saw as the party’s woes.
“Leadership is poor, raising money has been miniscule, success stories have been zero, technology non-existent. All of those things, if they’re turned around, those losses become wins,” he said.
Leo, for his part, would not say whether he was running for another term next year.
“We’re in the middle of a campaign, and our interest right now is to elect Republicans to office and organize to make that possible. I’m not talking about what the leadership situation is a year from now,” he said before throwing one jab at Illions.
“Not a single [municipal] chairman attended his event.”
Illions accused Leo of throwing him and his wife, Kim — along with fellow activist Don Nelson and his wife — off the party line for reelection to the county committee last year after he was critical of Leo. Illions and his wife won anyway, but he said it helped motivate him to run for chairman.
“It shows his kind of leadership that when someone disagrees with him he kicks them off the line,” he said.
Illions said that it did not bother him that no municipal chairs attended because “they only count for 25 votes,” and that he was taking his case directly to the 550 county committee members.
One potential problem for Illions among those members – who, along with some non-members at the county’s open convention, voted overwhelmingly in March to give Christie the party line – is that Illions refuses to vote for Christie in November. He either plans to vote for independent Jason Cullen or write in Lonegan.
“I know it’s going to be an issue, but I’m not changing my principle or beliefs because I’m running for county office,” he said.