Faced with the challenge of being the minority party during an election year, members of the Union County Republican Committee gathered in Cranford Saturday for their annual county convention.
The county GOP spent the day at , where they endorsed their picks for candidates in the upcoming federal, state and county elections. Among those who received overwhelming support from Republicans was Rep. Leonard Lance, R-7. The 59-year-old Hunterdon County resident, who represents a disctrict that includes portions of Union County, defeated David Larsen by a vote of 139 to 16 to earn the county GOP nod in his bid for the Republican spot on the congressional ballot for the 7th District.
Lance’s victory at the Union County GOP convention comes on the heels of his Thursday night victory at the Somerset County Republican convention in Manville where the 7th District lawmaker garnered 83 percent of the vote. Lance has won both conventions by a combined 281 to 46 vote.
“I am honored to have the Union County Republicans overwhelming support and endorsement,” Lance said after the vote. “I believe my conservative record is in line with Republicans throughout the congressional district and I hope to continue to represent the people of the 7th Congressional District with ethical integrity, fiscal responsibility and certainly wholeheartedly and to the best of my ability.”
Lance served in the New Jersey General Assembly for 11 years from 1991–2002. In 2002 he was elected to the New Jersey Senate and held the position of Minority Leader from 2004 to 2008 before being elected to Congress in 2009.
In a speech during the convention, Lance discussed his voting record in Congress, saying his goals are to "reduce spending, lower taxes, cut the debt, provide energy independence and spur economic growth so that we can create jobs so desperately needed."
Lance has visited Cranford several times in the past six months. He toured the flood-damaged township in the wake of . In addition, he has met with members of the Army Corps of Engineers to discuss funding and projects involving flood remediation on a local and regional level. Three weeks ago, Lance conducted a press conference during which he announced that Cranford would received a for $3.1 million to elevate in Cranford that are located in flood-prone areas along the Rahway River.
In addition to suporting Lance's campaign for the 7th District spot, members of the county GOP also gave their collective nod to a number of candidates on the federal, state and county level. In a straw poll, Mitt Romney garnered was the "overwhelming favorite," according to UC Republican Committee Chairman Philip Morin, who has served as the GOP chairman since 2004.
Republicans also endorsed the candidacies of 12th Congressional District Candidate Eric Beck as well as 13th District Sen. Joe Kyrillos.
During the convention Morin said the GOP Committee also endorsed their picks for three candidates to run against the Democrats in the race for the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders. Diane Barabus of Westfield, Chris Nowak of Cranford and Stephen Kozlovich of Union received the collective nod from the Republican Committee. The three candidates will vye for the seats against former Springfield Township Attorney Bruce Bergen, whose office is located in Cranford. Morin said Freeholder Mohamed Jalloh, of Roselle, and Freeholder Chairman Alexander Mirabella, of Fanwood are also up for re-election.
Freeholder Deborah P. Scanlon will not be seeing another term on the freeholder board. Citing a desire to spend more time with her family, Scanlon she will retire at the end of the year, ending her fifth term in office.
Asked about the perceived weakness of the GOP in Union County and the uphill battle the Republican freeholder candidates face in the upcoming election, Morin pointed to the Democratic majority among voters in Union County
"It's a matter of numbers. When you look at the registration totals, the Democrats have a 2 to 1 registration advantage," Morin said, adding that the Democratic Committee also tends to have more campaign funds in its coffers each year.
The Democrat-controlled board has not had a Republican seated on the dias in 15 years.
"We're gonna compete and talk about the issues." The demographics are against us, but I think we'll run a strong race this year."
According to Morin, the GOP candidates on the federal, state and county levels also face the challenge of running for seats during a presidential election year in which President Barack Obama is running for re-election.
April 2 is the deadline for candidates on all levels to file for candidacy in the June primary.