State Committee Members Set To Face Off
Former Senate President John O. Bennett, III, a present State Committee Member and Christine G. Hanlon, Bennett’s colleague in representing Monmouth County in the State Republican Party are readying for what is likely to be a heated race for the Monmouth County GOP chairmanship.
With Chairman Joe Oxley’s nomination to the Superior Court all but official, both would be chairs are busy lining up support from elected officials and municipal chairs, both with the caveat that they would support Oxley for another term should Governor Chris Christie’s “intent to nominate” notification to the State Senate not become an actual nomination. There is typically a 10 day period before the Governor notifies the Senate of his intent to nominate a judge and the actual nomination being received by the Senate. Christie’s Notice of Intention regarding Oxley was filed on May 3.
By statute, the Chair must be elected on June 12, the first Tuesday after the June 5 primary. County Committee members elected in the primary will cast their votes at a convention.
Bennett vs Hanlon will be a battle of the sexes and a battle of generations. Bennett, 63, represents the senior generation of the Monmouth GOP’s good and bad “old days”. Hanlon, 44 and a mother of four, who has served as Oxley’s unofficial assistant chairperson for the last four years, represents the recent success of the Monmouth GOP. Both candidates expect a bright future.
“That must have been one of my partners,” Bennett said when asked about the donations by MMM. When told that his firm’s ELEC report attributed the donations to him, Bennett said, “Well, I am the chair of the firm’s Goverment Affairs Department and a lobbyist.”
Why Bennett, who has served as Senate President, Senate Co-President and Acting Governor for three and a half days, would want to be County Chairman has some Republicans scratching their heads. Others say its all about money. That Bennett is fearful of Hanlon and her law partner, Brian Nelson, poaching his legal fees in Monmouth County. Bennett’s firm, Dilworth Paxson, LLP, earned $1.1 million in legal fees from NJ government entities in 2011 and made $48,125 in reportable campaign contributions, according to the firm’s Business Entity Annual Statement filed with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission. Nelson, Supko & Hanlon, LLC earned $614,000 and made reportable contributions of $8,300.
Bennett scoffed at the notion of using the chairmanship for his business. “I don’t need to build my practice any longer. I’m running because its an important job and I could do it well. I want to expand participation in the process, bring back conventions, give everyone who wants to participate an opportunity to do so.
Prior to September 11, 2001, Hanlon was not involved in politics. She was a part time lawyer raising a family and involved in her community of Ocean Township through the Chamber of Commerce and the PTA.
“It all goes back to 9-11,” said Hanlon went asked why she wants to be chair. “I had to get involved to keep our country safe and electing Republicans became my passion.”
Hanlon went on to start the Ocean Township Republican Club and served as its president until becoming the municipal chairperson. In 2008 she served as the Monmouth County coordinator for the McCain campaign took on the same role in the Christie campaign in 2009. She’s worked closely with Oxley to successfully reverse the Democratic trend Monmouth County was facing when he took office in 2008. She serves as the municipal prosecutor in Atlantic Highlands, the Deputy Township Attorney in Tinton Falls and as a Commissioner of the Monmouth County Board of Elections. Governor Christie nominated Hanlon to serve on the NJ Turnpike Authority. The nomination is pending.