By Art Gallagher
Burlington County Republican Chairman Sean Earlen has some explaining to do.
According to a December 21, 2019 article in the Pine Barrens Tribune, the Burlington County Republican Screening Committee put Kate Gibbs, a former Burlington Freeholder, through a “thorough vetting process” prior to endorsing her for the CD-3 nomination to challenge freshman Congressman Andy Kim at the December 7, 2019 nominating convention.
Earlen is a former mayor of Lumberton, Gibb’s hometown.
A “thorough vetting process” is time consuming and expensive. It is one of the most important roles of Party leadership. Voters, donors and other leaders alike depend on Party leaders to put forth candidates with the records and character worthy of the offices they are seeking.
Did Earlen’s committee know about Gibb’s convictions for shoplifting, possession of a controlled dangerous substance and disorderly conduct prior to endorsing her to unseat an incumbent congressman? Did Earlen know about the numerous law suits against Gibbs for failure to pay rent? If Earlen and his committee knew of Gibbs’ legal troubles, why did they endorse her over John Novak, the other candidate seeking the nomination last December? Novak is a former state trooper and an attorney. What did the Burlington GOP’s “thorough vetting” of Novak reveal that disqualified him for the nomination? His address in Ocean County, perhaps?
Did Earlen think no one would find out about Gibbs’ issues?
Or did they lie about doing a thorough vetting?
Holding a nominating convention 5 months before the candidate filing deadline has proven to be a stupid and expensive stunt. Earlen’s gambit for relevance, and his failure to vet Gibbs has put the majority of the House of Representative at risk and will very likely cost CD-3 Republican donors several hundred thousand dollars, maybe a million or two, in money spent in a primary that would be better spent against Congressman Kim in the fall.
Earlen still has time to correct his failure. He can hold another nominating convention this month before the deadline.
The members of the Republican State Committee and the other County Chairs, all of whom are meeting this weekend in Atlantic City, should prevail upon Earlen to hold a new convention and allow the Burlington Republicans to really vote to endorse thoroughly vetted candidates.
Art Gallagher does not work for David Richter for Congress