Kingmaker without a portfolio

A strong argument could be made that the path to becoming a Monmouth County Freeholder goes through Red Bank realtor Jim Giannell’s office. 

Since 2005 when he backed Colts Neck Mayor Lillian Burry, Giannell has picked every non-incumbent Freeholder nominee except two.   One exception was Marlboro Councilman Jeff Cantor who replaced Freeholder Anna Little, a Giannell pick, on the ticket in 2007.  Cantor lost a close election to Democrat John D’Amico and then left the Republican party for Jon Hornick’s Democratic organization in Marlboro.  The other exception is John Curley.  Curley was Giannell’s pick over Serena DiMaso in 2008.  Curley narrowly lost to Amy Mallet in the Obama landslide.  In 2009 Giannell backed Kim Spatola, a former Atlantic Highlands councilwoman over Curley.  Curley prevailed at Joe Oxley’s first candidate selection screening and went on to defeat Sean Byrnes of Middletown in the 2009 Christie landslide in Monmouth. 

With the election of Gary Rich earlier this month, 3.5, counting Curley, of five Freeholders owe their offices to Jim Giannell.  If the former Red Bank municipal chairman’s pick in the current race to replace Assemblyman-elect Rob Clifton, Howell Mayor Bob Walsh, is elected on January 14, Giannell will have picked all five members of the board.

While the Freeholders may owe their careers to Giannell, there is little, if any, evidence that he is a boss, in the classic New Jersey sense of the word.  Once they take office, the Freeholders go their own way.  Burry is supporting Anne Marie Conte over Walsh in the current race.  Curley and Tom Arnone are staying out of the race for now. 

Here is a list of Giannell’s picks for non-incumbent Freeholders since 2005:

2005: Lillian Burry.  Burry ran with incumbent Bill Barham.  Barham was elected at a Republican convention earlier in 2005 to replace long time Freeholder Director Harry Larrison.  Even in the wake of the Operation Bid Rig scandal which tarnished the Republican brand, Barham and Burry defeated Democrats Barbara McMorrow and Rebecca Aaronson and Independent Brian Unger.  The Republican victory was in large measure do to the Asbury Park Press’s call for voters to bullet vote for Unger.  Back then the APP’s endorsement still had influence.  Unger garnered over 18,000 votes.  Burry’s margin of victory over McMorrow was only 1,792 votes. 

2006:  Anna Little and Andrew Lucas.  Little was elected, by one vote, over Howell Mayor Joe DiBella at a convention to replace Amy Handlin who had been elected to the Assembly.  Giannell managed Little’s campaign and her floor fight at the convention. A month later at a contentious multiple ballot nominating convention, Giannell and candidate Terrence Wall threw their support to Lucas in an anti-establishment move against DiBella and then Chairman Fred Neimann.   Little went on to win the rest of Handlin’s unexpired term in the general election.  Lucas lost to Barbara McMorrow. 

2007: Giannell did not have a candidate.  Little, his successful pick in 2006, spent a contentious year battling with Chairman Puharic and Freeholder Director Barham. Little declined to seek the nomination rather than submit to Puharic’s rules for screening and the convention.  Cantor was selected to join incumbent Rob Clifton on the ticket.  Clifton won.  Cantor lost to Democrat John D’Amico.

2008: John Curley was Giannell’s pick over Serena DiMaso who had the backing of Chairman Adam Puharic.  Burry was Curley’s running mate.  In a photo finish election dominated by Obamamania, Burry prevailed and Curley lost to Amy Mallet on the count of provisional ballots.  Democrats took control of the Freeholder Board for the first time in 20 years.

2009: Giannell backed Chairman Joe Oxley in supporting Atlantic Highlands former Councilwoman Kim Spatola over Curley.  McMorrow was up for reelection and was considered a lock to be reelected.  Nominating a woman, given the pro woman gender gap demonstrated by Burry and Mallet’s 2008 victories was considered the only hope of defeating McMorrow.    Just before the nominating meetings for both parties, McMorrow announced she would not seek another term.  Curley won a roll call vote at Oxley’s first screening selection.  The Democrats scrambled to find a candidate to replace McMorrow, settling on Byrnes from Middletown over Mike Beson of Neptune Township.  Curley defeated Byrnes and Republicans won back control of the Board.

2010:  Giannell’s pick, Tom Arnone, narrowly defeated former Middltown Committeeman Tom Wilkens and Spring Lake Councilman Gary Rich.  Arnone and incumbent Rob Clifton went on to defeat D’Amico and Spring Lake Councilwoman Janice Venables.

2011: Giannell backed Rich over Manalapan Mayor Andrew Lucas, who had Burry’s support, Walsh, and Wall Township Committeeman George Newberry.  Rich won the nomination with 25 votes in the screening committee. Lucas has 23 votes and Newberry 22.  Walsh withdrew before the polling.   Rich and incumbent Burry went on the defeat Mallet and newcomer William Shea earlier this month.

2012?  Monmouth County Republicans have not had a nominating convention of all county committee members since 2008.  It remains to be seen if Giannell can pull off another close race.   Don’t bet the house against Bob Walsh.

Posted: November 30th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Monmouth County, Monmouth County Board of Freeholders, Monmouth County Republican Committee, Monmouth Democrats, Monmouth GOP | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments »

25 Comments on “Kingmaker without a portfolio”

  1. Kathy Baratta said at 1:24 pm on November 30th, 2011:

    Yes. Walsh is just what Monmouth County needs in a leader. Someone who has to wear sunglasses during a township meeting. As I asked then, “just what is he trying to hide behind those Foster Grants.”

    Given the following, videotaped admission, one can only wonder.

    It features one of my favorites. That being when Walsh was sitting and staring (perhaps trying to remember where he was and why he was there) when the pause became so awkward a fellow councilperson tried to, ‘bring Walsh ’round,’ so-to-speak and Walsh said, on video, “I told you I was medicated, didn’t I.”

    http://howellnj.com/smf/index.php/topic,7399.0.html (fast forward to the 12:20 mark and wait for it).

    Yes, Walsh will make a fine Freeholder because someone with all the “finesse” of “Crazy Guggenheim” is just the face Monmouth County needs.

  2. James Giannell said at 3:08 pm on November 30th, 2011:

    Hi Art,
    Thanks for the promo but its not only me, I’m just a small cog in a wheel. Credit should go to the numerous Chair People and County Committee people (most of whom prefer to be anonymous) who are involved in what I like to think of as a coalition whose goal is to promote the general interest of the members of the Monmouth County Republican Party as opposed to Special Interest or Self Interest.
    The only request we have had of our Freeholder Candidates is that they govern well; and they have (we would let them know if they didn’t) ! Speaking only for myself (though most agree), I can say I’m quite proud of the current group of Freeholders. They bring a variety of good ideas & views to the table.

  3. Justified Right said at 3:43 pm on November 30th, 2011:

    Bob Walsh would be an outstanding Freeholder.

    He has been my Mayor for years now, and I can share a couple of things with you:

    1. I never, ever have to guess what the man is thinking. He hides nothing. It takes a very honest man to act that way.

    2. When you need him, reach out to him. He’s there to solve problems. I’ve seen him broker between competing intersests, which is an important attribute for any stateman to have.

    Good luck to him in the race.

    Tommy De Seno

  4. Kathy Baratta said at 4:04 pm on November 30th, 2011:

    Mr. Giannell,

    Please sir, false modesty is worse than no modesty at all. You are a Republican Power Broker and to try and humbly present yourself as just another “small cog in a wheel” is, to say the least, disingenuous at best. I say that not to insult you but to acknowledge your position and power within the Party whether you care to admit to it or not.

    I have a question for you, sir. You say you expect your Freeholder candidates to “govern well.”

    Is it good governance to make it a continual practice to tack-on “add-ons” to previously published agendas; agenda add-ons by the way which are always pertaining to “hot-button” topics with strongly held opinions by those residents with both pro and con on the given issue. Agenda add-ons that are only tacked onto the “public board” at Howell Town Hall just before the matter is to come up for discussion at the meeting (satisfying maybe the “letter” of the law but certainly not the “spirit’) and well after most interested citizens have gone home.
    Coming from the eastern end of the county I’m not sure if you are familiar with attendance records at Howell Township meetings. Oftentimes, there is standing room only. As a former newspaper journalist, I have covered a slew of Monmouth County towns and I have to say, with the possible exceptions of Manalapan and Marlboro which come close, none of most of the towns compares to the turnout at a Howell Township public meeting.

    Those who do come pore over every item on the printed, PUBLISHED agenda that is published online and presented to the public that attends the meetings. Not only are add-ons not explained, there have been times when they weren’t even alluded to.

    Add to that the fact that some of the most controversial matters have been handled in just such a questionable manner.

    Mr. Giannell, are you in favor of bringing Howell’s type of “stealth government” to the County level?

    If so please expound on the virtues of this tactic otherwise, if you don’t approve of it, please have the honor to do the right thing and say so.

  5. Anonyman said at 5:39 pm on November 30th, 2011:

    Agree with Justified Right. Bob Walsh is a fine man. Good luck to him.

  6. The Truth Hurts in Howell said at 6:05 pm on November 30th, 2011:

    Mayor Bobby is not the man for the job. If Mr. Gianelli has the fine record he does he is best to pick and back someone other than Mayor Bobby. The posts above this one are all the evidence you need….do you now see the train wreck we have been talking about? This is what you get with Howell. Its a disaster and he leads the disaster parade. He’s not a good Mayor just because he calls someone back. Please. He’s been a lousy Mayor. The township’s tax rate has gone up and services have gone down (not very Republican). He has some really testy enemies that will come at him and the Freeholders hard. Why do we need this? We don’t. Stay away. There are plenty of candidates to choose from. Keep Howell out of Freehold with this guy.

  7. there's no way said at 8:59 pm on November 30th, 2011:

    our county can have a “stealth” government some people seem paranoid about: where have some folks been for the past six years?.. between the (usually false/inflammatory) opinions/agendas of the dying local paper, and quite a few informed/vocal “regular curmudgeons/citizen watchdogs,” plus, a pretty experienced,well-educated, and dedicated staff , the county, under the guidance of the freeholders, remains just about the best county in many areas, in the state, and one of the most financially-sound..the agendas are available 48 hrs. ahead of time, and by the way, there’s nothing wrong with adding/subtracting items, it’s a work in progress as the business must flow and be voted on, any given meeting date.. you can now hear the mtgs. and see,print, or download all the dept’s’ and much of the public records/county publications,from the comfort of your own home/technologies- our county is more transparent than ever!.. so, not to worry, if one doesn’t like the way a town or two conducts business, much local stuff is turf battles, old customs, and competing little fiefdoms, anyway.. not so, in the now 4th-largest county!!..there is much to be positive about and proud of..

  8. Tim said at 9:35 pm on November 30th, 2011:

    Bring back Ed Stominsky before Bob Walsh, PLEASE! Big mistake pegging him as front runner. BIG mistake. Trust those who know him best. Bad news.

  9. when one has been working said at 10:02 pm on November 30th, 2011:

    on a candidacy for nearly a year, even before Rob won his assembly seat, and was the first to declare again, one would have to call him the front-runner, at this point.. whether a couple of haters in his rather colorful, always-divided town want him to fail or not, ( we read you loud and clear, it’s still your opinion),the guy is still the first horse out of the gate, this go-round..

  10. Kathy Baratta said at 12:05 am on December 1st, 2011:

    Giannell is a Realtor. Walsh is a mortgage broker. Interesting.

    What is even more interesting is that within an hour and a half of my original post, Giannell found it necessary to post a talking point that really said nothing.

    I asked some salient questions and here it is eight hours later and nothing. It’s like he disappeared into the Politician Protection Program. Either way, his silence speaks volumes – if you know what to listen for.

    Also, not for nothing but how is it Mr. Giannell says, regarding County Committee people, they “…prefer to be anonymous.”
    Someone inform Mr. Giannell that County Committee people are elected to their position. If I or anyone so inclined wished to we could go to the County Board of Elections/municipal clerks and find out not only who holds each of these County Committee seats but who ran for them.

    What else can we expect to hear/read that won’t bear closer scrutiny?

  11. TR said at 8:41 am on December 1st, 2011:

    Crazy Kathy always good for a few laughs. He means they remain anonymous because they don’t announce who they are supporting. By the way you can check it out I did and I am not even an “Professional Journalist” like Kathy.
    Giannel and Walsh have not had business dealings together.
    If Giannel is a power broker its kind of hard to discern what he is using his power for. He sure isn’t getting rich of politics. The guy just seems to be a true believer who trys to get like minded conservatives into office. Unfortunatly I think his picks have often dissapointed. No suprise there as politicians usually do dissappoint.

  12. what??? said at 8:47 am on December 1st, 2011:

    and Curley has a family business, and Gary works for a large company, and Lillian an Tom have their own businesses: what the hell, everyone has to earn a living, what they all do IS their business, and I thought we admire small business and working people in this country!.. oh, and now we attack unpaid volunteers’ jobs/characters, and throw silly innuendos around them, too?.. this whole county,state, country and process has really become a sick, self-centered blood-sport, if you ask me- no wonder so many people refrain from any involvement in the process! .. sure everyone can get a copy of the public record of all elected officials and call, visit, otherwise contact any of them.. because some happen to work harder and are more successful at it than others, is no reason to begin with sleazy attacks..FOCUS: a new office-holder simply needs to be chosen, and soon!

  13. RBRep said at 9:52 am on December 1st, 2011:

    Giannell should spend more time getting Republicans elected in Red Bank and less time trying to influence county politics. His record in Red Bank has been less than impressive by all accounts.

  14. Kathy Baratta said at 10:55 am on December 1st, 2011:

    Crazy like a Fox, TR.

    Giannell said the County People prefer to be anonymous, not that they prefer to keep their vote anonymous. Why am I not surprised the finer points escape you.

    Also, how is it Walsh is now being hailed as a, “like-minded conservative” by the Republican Party. This after he refused to wait his turn and turned on the Party and ran and was elected as an Independent. Hardly sounds like a “Party” guy to me. Sounds more like a self-serving egomaniac.

    As to why I mentioned their two professions; it is because they go together hand-in-glove. It’s my process in trying to figure out what else brings them together. It can’t be Party unity because as I already noted, Walsh has already demonstrated he has none of that.

    Also, not for nothing there Mr. Anonymous but how do you know to state so conclusively that Walsh and Giannell have never done business together?

  15. Jim Sage said at 12:24 pm on December 1st, 2011:

    Wow, for once Transcript has been Baratta has my attention.

  16. Kathy Baratta said at 12:38 pm on December 1st, 2011:

    Jim Sage. The same Jim Sage that did his best to curry favor with me (no matter how many times I rebuffed him) before I retired.
    (I have the emails to prove it, BTW).

    Do I need to state the obvious. That being that it is better to be an award-winning, retired “has-been” than a wanna-be, never-was.

    Now because he is a bombastic boob, Sage will now try to engage me in a battle of wits; a battle for which he is obviously woefully unarmed. I get no joy in sparring with those so clearly not worth my time or effort so, of course, I will do the intelligent thing and take my leave.

    So, go for it, Sage but don’t look for me to indulge your mania. I’ve said everything here that needed to be said. I’m back to “my place.”

  17. JerryW45 said at 12:57 pm on December 1st, 2011:


    You can’t engage with yourself in a battle of wits. Please take your dribble elsewhere.

    We ain’t buyin’ it.

  18. Jim Sage said at 1:44 pm on December 1st, 2011:

    Everything is a battle of wits with Kathy. Yes Kathy–I am insignificant. I have said that many times in the past. So what’s your point??

    E-mails??? whatever you have from me please post!!

  19. TR said at 1:56 pm on December 1st, 2011:

    Going off the rails on a crazy train!

  20. Hey Baratta said at 2:43 pm on December 1st, 2011:

    Kathy, why the snarky remarks against Walsh?? Did he pass by your son on the police promotional list??????

  21. Lois said at 9:02 am on December 2nd, 2011:

    i would like to know how Kathy sharpens her tongue—on a leather strap as in days of old? or on a grinding stone. Whew. Sharp…biting…slicing….dicing…. i don’t even know her, but all i get when she writes here is cutting remarks-to “cut others down to size”? But anything positive, helpful, able to enlighten? Hardly. Or maybe it is the chosen style that obfuscates any meaningful points she is trying to make…

  22. hey, fellow "RB Rep": said at 12:04 pm on December 2nd, 2011:

    first, Giannell hasn’t been chair for several years, but was the one who had the few, hard-fought wins of Curley, Ernst, Beck, Cangemi.. why don’t YOU step forward, find candidates who are willing to actually go out,knock on a door, and raise some money for themselves, and even TRY to beat the McKenna $40 grand or so per year the guy still raises and spends for/on the local Dems??.. (the sound you now hear, folks, is crickets chirping!!)

  23. exactly: said at 12:08 pm on December 2nd, 2011:

    so many critics, so FEW who will open their wallet/ volunteer thie free time for ANY cause.. and, in this holiday season, especially feel sad for such an unhappy, vicious person who needs to really do something positive and kind with their life, for once- pronto!!!!

  24. MoreMonmouthMusings » Blog Archive » Winners and Losers From the Freeholder Election said at 4:24 pm on January 14th, 2012:

    […] Giannell. The Kingmaker’s winning streak has been broken.  After his candidate, Walsh, conceded, Giannell graciously passed […]

  25. MoreMonmouthMusings » Blog Archive » The Chairmanship and Conflicts of Interest said at 7:14 am on June 10th, 2012:

    […] friend Jim Giannell  asked that I write a short piece about conflicts of interests and the County Chair, as it relates […]