Webber resigns as state GOP chairman; Raia has governor’s backing to succeed him

Personally selected by Chris Christie for the job, Jay Webber tonight announced his resignation as Chairman of the New Jersey Republican

Personally selected by Chris Christie for the job, Jay Webber tonight announced his resignation as Chairman of the New Jersey Republican State Committee, five months before the finish line and effective immediately. 

His successor is expected to be Sam Raia, mayor of Saddle River, big Christie fan and a solid fundraiser.

“It is with an overriding sense of satisfaction that I make this bittersweet announcement,” said Webber.  “Although I enjoy and appreciate the opportunity to lead our Party during such an important time in our State’s history, the reality is that only about five months remain in the only term I planned on serving.  Much of that time in early 2011 will be dedicated to the once-a-decade reapportionment process, a watershed moment in the State’s governmental and political life requiring and deserving my full attention. Shortly after the completion of that process, I will be focused on my service on the Assembly Budget Committee, as we close another budget deficit for Fiscal Year 2012. My stepping aside now will allow the next NJGOP Chairman to get started right away and give our Party’s vital operations the attention they deserve heading into the 2011 elections.

“I am grateful to Governor Christie and the members of the Republican State Committee for entrusting me with the responsibility of leading the Republican Party,” Webber added.  “I also thank our elected officials and candidates, the dedicated members of the NJGOP staff, and the thousands of supporters who through their tireless efforts and tremendous generosity have been the true engine of our Party’s revival.  I have been, and remain, humbled to have earned your support for our common cause.   

“Together we have made a strong and successful Republican Party by rebuilding from the grassroots up, restoring the integrity of the Republican brand, and electing winning candidates committed to governing the right way when entrusted with the mantle of leadership.  I am proud of all that we have accomplished, and have every confidence that together we will continue to serve our State, and our Party, well in the future.”

Christie issued a statement in support of Raia of Bergen County as the next chairman.

“I’d also like to thank Mayor Sam Raia for his willingness to lead our Party as our next State Chairman,” the governor said of the Saddle River mayor. “Sam is a true leader who will continue to organize and broaden our Party at the grassroots level to build upon Chairman Webber’s November successes. I look forward to working hand in hand with Sam to continue to build, widen and develop our Party.”

Webber’s departure five months prior to the end of his term as party chairmen dropped jaws all over the state.

Money was a nagging refrain.

The coffers of the Republican State Committee were not exactly overflowing, albeit up from four years ago ($824,868.43 at the beginning of the last quarter, $149,108.09 at the end on October 15; compared to 2006 when the organization had $21,031.15 in the bank), a storyline that clashed with ongoing underground rumors of Christie-allied private 501(c)4 Reform Jersey Now holding $25,000-per head events with the national rock star governor.

“I have no comment on Reform Jersey Now,’ said Webber. “I had nothing to do with it. I didn’t go to those fundraisers because it was a 501(c)4 organization with its own board and members.”  

Webber’s failure to resolve a redistricting budget with state Democratic Party Chairman John Wisniewski might have been another factor. Others – and this from a variety of sources – suggested the front office likes to control things. There’s room for one ego, Christie’s.

Then there was the fact that Webber was trying to fulfill the duties of state party chairman while being a family man, serving as a legislator and running a solo practitioner law firm. Too much, fretted sources – even for him.

Once a Rhodes Scholar contender who competed with Bill Baroni, Anne Milgram and Rndal Pinkett for a scholarship ultimately won by Pinkett, Webber from Morris Plains first entered a more intense public eye of Republican Party politics as a 2003 renegade challenger to former state Senator Bob Martin in the 26th Legislative District. Webber lost that contest but not before weakening Martin enough for the elder statesman to bow out of public life in 2007. Also interesed in the Assembly seat that same year after Joe Pennacchio cleared all comers with his declaration of interest in the state senate seat, Larry Casha of Kinnelon summoned Webber to a friendly meeting at Applebees.

They would conduct a GOP Primary contest like gentlemen.

Webber promptly went for the jugular, hammering Casha’s record as council president of the local governing body and obfuscating – in Casha’s view – the fact that Casha had to oversee rejected school budgets. The public went with Webber over Casha.

Once in office, Webber rose fast and aggressively, where he remains – as an assemblyman member of the budget committee, redistricting commissioner and prospective future 11th District Congressman.

“The governor’s the face of the party,” the former chairman told PolitickerNJ.com when asked why he would resign so suddenly after quickly and successfully forging a statewide image.  

Webber resigns as state GOP chairman; Raia has governor’s backing to succeed him