ATLANTIC CITY – Having deposed an iconic John Bennett and assumed the chairmanship of the Monmouth County Republican Party earlier this year, Sheriff Shaun Golden craved a win on Nov. 4th.
Monmouth County Democratic Chairman Vin Gopal was mobilizing a well-funded challenge to incumbent Freeholders Lillian Burry and Gary Rich in a longtime GOP stronghold where Democrats actually outnumber Republicans 92,050 to 90,195.
Golden’s candidates prevailed by 9,000 votes: Burry 72,050 and Rich 72,754 to Democrat Joe Grillo’s 63,102 and running mate Larry Luttrell’s 63,922.
For Golden, the win made a statement and gives him traction for future stare-downs.
Golden insists the GOP showed too much strength.
“We were outspent 4-1 – look at the money and robocalls made by union representatives,” said Golden, sitting next to the bar on the casino floor in Bally’s with his political confidant, attorney Christine Hanlon. “Democrats thought they had this. This was their shot. They ran a pretty good campaign against our candidates and we saw it as a chance to make a stand.
“This was one of the biggest challenges we face in recent years and I am thrilled by the results,” he added.
Golden says he implemented many of the measures he envisioned when he first took on Bennett, a former Senate President. Part of his strategy to beat Bennett included the alliance with Hanlon, who took years ago lost by three votes to Bennett in a challenge for the chairmanship.
“I ran on a platform of making sure we do a better job of party building, diversity outreach, and improvement of technology,’ said Golden.
As chairman he assigned vice chairmanships to strong personalities around the county, including former Middletown Mayor Tony Fiore and Hanlon in Central Monmouth.
“I call her ‘the architect’ for a reason,” Golden noted.
Part of the GOP strategy for victory was to highlight the fact that northern politicians, including Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop and Essex Democrats, were funding Gopal’s candidates, but Republicans themselves leaned on Chair of the GOP Chairs Jose Arango of Hudson County for instruction in diversity outreach.
“He came down a number of times, we had bilingual mail – for the first time – that we targeted throughout the county,” Golden said.
The chairman said they also reanimated the party website, Facebook page and Twitter account.
“Our infrastructure was collapsing,” Hanlon said. “We needed a strong leader.”
A lifelong Monmouth County resident, Golden hails from Aberdeen and Keyport. He started as a police officer in 1992 for the Colts Neck PD, and holds a master’s degree in administration from Seton Hall University. A NJ Certified Public Manager, he’s also an adjunct professor at Monmouth University with the Department of Political Science and Public Policy.
He runs a 605-person operation with a $68 million budget.
PolitickerNJ asked the chairman about governor 2017. Both prospective establishment Republican candidates Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagano and Assembly Minority leader Jon Bramnick (R-21) made themselves in Atlantic City this week.
“We’re a few years out,” Golden said. “We’re fortunate that we have some great leaders.”
She’s Golden’s predecessor in the sheriff’s office.
He wouldn’t commit to backing her. Too early.
But, “She would make a great governor,” Golden said. “She is hard-working and very dynamic. We have a good bunch. JB [Jon Bramnick] is a leader. So is Tom Kean Jr.”
As for Gov. Chris Christie and his 2016 presidential prospects, “He’d make a great president compared to what is going on right now,” said the GOP chair. “The country is ripe for hard core, unadulterated leadership.”
Golden said Christie’s successful chairmanship of the Republican Governors Association gives him good traction with key leaders and will help him in a Republican Primary.
“By campaigning around the country for Republican candidates he has shown his commitment to the Republican Party and Republicans around the country will see that in a Republican Primary,” Golden said.
“Giuliani didn’t have that platform,” Hanlon noted, when PolitickerNJ asked if Christie’s Northeast tough guy act weren’t simply a case of warmed over Rudy.
“The work he’s done for these candidates will pay off,” Golden said.
The CW is that the GOP is in a better position to take the presidency and Democrats poised to take governor in reversals of the power paradigm in place now.
Golden says he sees early overconfidence in the opposition party, as prospective 2017 Democrats candidates for governor charge through casino watering holes like a Pamplona bull run.
“If President Obama keeps up at this pace, he’s not doing Democrats any favors, including the fact that more Obamacare measures kick in in 2015 and 2016. That party will some explaining to do when people feel the impact of Obamacare on the state budget,” he said.
As for county and legislative politics next year, Golden will put forward iconoclastic incumbent Republican Freeholder John Curley.
“I back him,” said the chairman/sheriff. “He’s a great candidate.”
Don’t look for any changes to the Trenton team.
“One works harder than the other,” Golden said.
“I don’t anticipate the challenges we saw this year,” he added with a grin.
Earlier the same day, Golden and Gopal sat down together at the league for a post-game drink in the Irish Pub.
“We like Vin,” said the chairman, brightening. “It’s nothing personal.”
But he will dismantle him, said the Republican, if the Democrat decides to get ornery again.