SPARTA — Days after announcing she will relinquish her leadership position as a result of contentious county freeholder and Assembly races that have threatened to fracture the party, Sussex County GOP Chairwoman Ailish Hambel reiterated her decision today, telling PolitickerNJ that the tense nature of the contest is “absolutely” one of the reasons she’s decided to step down.
“The party is going to need healing, and I just don’t have the energy. We’ll need new leadership,” she said.
Hambel called it one of the “most competitive” primaries the North Jersey district has ever seen, pitting an incumbent Assemblyman and Sussex Freeholder — Parker Space and Gail Phoebus, respectively — against newcomers Marie Bilik and Nathan Orr to fill a seat left vacant by outgoing Assemblywoman Alison Littel McHose. The tickets collided over issues ranging from Common Core to gay marriage to, most notably, a botched solar energy program over the last several weeks.
The same goes for the freeholder race, where Fredon Mayor Carl Lazzaro and Sussex Borough Mayor Jonathan Rose are running against incumbent Freeholder Dennis Mudrick and Frankford Mayor Gary Larson,
And yet those races aren’t over. Just a short while before polls close Wednesday, Hambel’s reflection on the party’s primaries included shades of regret regarding the conflicts between candidates, as well as the observation of extremely low turnout at the polls.
“I just voted in District 13 in Sparta. And I was number 67,” Hambel said an hour before polls closed. “That’s unusual. It is expected in a primary to have this kind of turnout, but I thought maybe all the hoopla would have made people more come out.”
She said that hoopla convinced her it was time to leave her post, hoping it will help the healing process begin faster after today.
“It happens in a primary. And nine times out of 10, everybody will come back together,” she said. “And I think it will give them a better chance with me out of the way. It will be quicker if i’m out of the way.”