Ocean County Republican Chairman George Gilmore is not ready to roll over and anoint former Eagles tackle Jon Runyon as the Republican nominee for Congress in the 3rd District.
First, he at least needs to hear from Runyan, who lives in Burlington County.
"I'll wait for Mr. Runyan to make contact and we'll take it from there, but obviously there are a lot of viable candidates out there," said Gilmore. "Some are from Ocean County, some from Burlington, and we'll have to wait and see how they all withstand the scrutiny that will be put on their strengths and weaknesses."
Republicans from Burlington County, which makes up roughly the same portion of the 3rd District as Ocean County, recruited Runyan and wasted no time pushing out a statement quoting him as being "very interested" in running.
But Gilmore – who gets Republican street cred for Christopher Christie's 70,000 margin of victory in Ocean County — has his own stable of potential candidates, foremost among them state Sen. Christopher Connors (R-Lacey Twp.).
Ocean County, which is represented by two congressional districts, has never put a native son in the House.
Last year, Gilmore's party ran Freeholder Jack Kelly in a nasty and costly campaign against the eventual Republican nominee, Lockheed Martin executive and then-Medford Mayor Chris Myers (former Tabernacle Township Committeeman Justin Murphy also ran, getting nearly as many votes in the primary as Kelly did, and plans to run again this year). Republicans feel they would have beaten U.S. Rep. John Adler (D-Cherry Hill) – who last year became the first Democrat to represent the district since the late 19th century – had they avoided the primary.
Gilmore also noted that Runyan – a free agent who is not active in the NFL right now but has not retired – has expressed interest in past interviews about returning to play football.
"These are the questions we want to ask, but I have yet to have the opportunity to discuss this with Mr. Runyan," he said.
Camden County has one town in the district, but it's a big one: Cherry Hill, which is dominated by Democrats but, by its sheer size, has enough registered Republicans to factor into the decision making process. Camden County's Republican chairman, Rick DeMichele, wasn't ready to call the search process over either.
"I haven't heard from Mr. Runyan either, but I would suspect that he'll reach out to me if and when he's decided he's actually going to make the run," he said. "Until that time I would hope that Burlington County Republicans and Ocean County Republicans would get together and try to make sure we get the best candidate for the run, regardless of where they're from."