On the day Anna Little won the endorsement of the Middlesex County GOP, she became the favorite to win the 6th congressional district nomination. Despite that all of the candidates, Democrat and Republican are from Monmouth County, the new 6th is a Middlesex County district.
With no presidential contest on the top of the ballot and the U.S. Senate race uncompetitive, turnout is likely to be very low. 13,000 voters decided the 2010 primary race between Little and Monmouth County GOP Vice Chair Diane Gooch by less than 90 votes. This time out, I’ll be surprised if there are more than 6000 votes.
Based on name recognition, Little should be considered the favorite. She scored an upset in the last primary. She was the general election candidate in 2010 and she was a countywide candidate for Freeholder in 2006.
Coming into the race, Ernesto Cullari, the Monmouth County GOP endorsed candidate was a complete unknown, except for readers of the triCityNews where he was the token conservative columnist. The nomination in both Middlesex and Monmouth Counties was his for the taking because no one else wanted it. Little was running for the U.S. Senate nomination against Joe Kyrillos.
Little has been once again running against the Republican establishment who turned her away for the congressional nomination twice and never wanted her as freeholder candidate. She won the office of Freeholder by one vote at a raucous January 2006 convention and was denied the nomination for reelection in 2007.
But it was during a meeting with Kyrillos in early March, before the Monmouth County screening/candidate selection and after Cullari announced his candidacy, that Little give up her Senate bid and decided to make another run for Congress. Kyrillos did not want a primary challenge from the pesky Little. Little did not want her career to end with a primary loss to Kyrillos. The independent minded elected officials and municipal chairs of the Monmouth GOP were not going along with the deal. They knew Little was no more of a threat to Kyrillos than Badar Qarmout.
Despite her anti-establishment rhetoric, Little relied on establishment support to secure the Middlesex GOP line. Kyrillos prevailed on Middlesex GOP Chair Sam Thompson to support Little in securing the line in order to keep her from changing her mind again an running for Senate.
Having secured Middlesex, the deck was stacked for Little and cleared for Kyrillos.
Ernesto Cullari didn’t get the memo. If he did, he didn’t care. He set out to win. He just might.
Unlike Diane Gooch in 2010 who ignored Little and ran the primary race as a prelude to a general election race against the author of ObamaCare, Congressman Frank Pallone, Cullari has run his campaign against Little.
Little has run with the Gooch strategy…count on the history of primary voters voting the line and ignore her opponent. Cullari has taken the race to Little and has run a superior campaign. He’s been attacking her record as mayor of Highlands and the record of her legal career.
Cullari has raised the money necessary to get his ads on television. His GOTV robo calls are more frequent than Little’s. With the Tea Parties divided with infighting, neither campaign has the ground game that Little had in 2010, Little has relied on emails, facebook and left over campaign materials from 2010.
The Cullari campaign is counting on Monmouth Republicans coming out tomorrow in greater numbers than Middlesex Republicans who are not used to their votes making a difference in the end result. The Little campaign is hoping to win 1 of 4 Monmouth votes, thinking that she will prevail with a significant Middlesex turnout if that happens.