Mangled in Middlesex: Rival Party Chairmen take the point in hard-fought duel

Republicans charged up by Gov. Chris Christie’s 2009 victory in Middlesex want to capitalize, and fix their attention on at least two legislative districts: 14 and 18.

But Democrats under the leadership of a new party chairman don’t see the same dynamics as four years ago and today charged around the county on a bus tour in an effort to crank up the troops.

“I do think he will top that this time,” Middlesex County Republican Chairman Sam Thompson said of Christie’s 47-45% Middlesex scratch-out against incumbent Democrat Jon Corzine. “The difference now is he’s popular now versus four years ago.”

Thompson sees opportunity in LD 14, half of which sits in Middlesex, where state Sen. Linda Greenstein (D-14) is trying to ward off former Sen. Pete Inverso, a Republican from Hamilton.

On his side of the county line, Thompson sees a chance in Monroe, where GOP mailers are blanketing the ground game with criticisms of Democratic Mayor Richard Pucci, a Greenstein ally with an infamously bloated paycheck as head of the Middlesex County Improvement Authority.

Pucci’s not on the ballot, but his candidates are in township-wide ward races.

Thompson sees a Christie-drag effect in Monroe coupled with Pucci voter wear-and-tear.

“The governor’s doing fantastic in Monroe and Hamilton,” the chairman said of the district’s two big towns.  “Which way Monroe and Hamilton go has a large say in how the district goes. In ward races, Republicans are making Pucci the issue.”

But Democrats crush Republicans in voter registration Monroe – 11,600 to 5,400 in a town that Greenstein has commanded in past campaigns.

Scuffed up by headlines last year, Pucci remains machine-strong and a popular fixture in area senior centers, according to Democrats.

As for LD18, Democrats at yesterday’s hot dog rally at the Pines sponsored by Middlesex County Democratic Chairman Kevin McCabe howled at the suggestion that the GOP can win there.

Thompson insists he can.

“I’m still very optimistic about (GOP Senate candidate Dave) Stahl,” he said.  “We have so many things going for us right now with Christie at the top of the ticket. We may not win the vote by mail battle but I have never seen efforts like this by Republicans in the county.”

Still, Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by 3-1 in Middlesex.

Party members actively willed the failure of Corzine here in 2009, dispirited by his plan to monetize toll roads and aided by the under-the-radar advocacy of Chrsitie by Woodbridge Mayor John McCormac.

This year, despite his ongoing personal affection for the governor, McCormac is motivated by allies in local ward races and the possible ascent to the freeholder board of his longtime friend, Charlie Kenny.

On a mission to reverse engines on a county organization sagging with the corruption bust of former Sheriff Joe Spicuzzo, McCabe barreled through Middlesex on Sunday on an 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. bus tour.

“Chairman Thompson’s predictions of Republicans picking up legislative seats are about as accurate this year as they have been every year since he’s been chairman,” the Democrat said of his losing streak-beset adversary.

Mangled in Middlesex: Rival Party Chairmen take the point in hard-fought duel