The NJ GOP has gone from rags to riches with U.S. Senate candidates this week. Last week a high ranking party official told me it was "maddening" that the party's efforts to recruit a viable candidate to challenge Frank Lautenberg were not bearing fruit.
This week, to borrow a phrase from Monmouth GOP chairman Adam Puharic, the Republican gene pool got deeper. There are two new candidates in the mix; Andy Unanue, the Goya heir who declared on Easter from his family vacation in Colorado, and John Crowley, who has yet to declare but would seem to have stronger credentials and more money to fund a campaign.
Unanue was "screened" by phone from Colorado and was endorsed by the Monmouth, Ocean and Atlantic county screening committees and conventions. The Mercer County GOP convention withheld judgement, giving their executive committee the power to award an endorsement, in anticipation of Crowley entering the race. Mercer's move makes sense. Monmouth, Ocean and Atlantic's moves are puzzling. The filing deadline for candidates to submit their petitions is not until April 7.
In an interview with the Asbury Park Press editorial board earlier this year, Puharic defended his controversial screening process as one that assures Republican candidates are "bullet proof" from character attacks. Unanue might end up being a great candidate, but he is not "bullet proof" as he as already taken hits in the press from a primary opponent and the Lautenberg sleaze machine.
Crowley has outstanding credentials and a moving life story. He would appear to be "out of central casting," literally. A Hollywood movie about his life staring Harrison Ford is slated to come out this year. Maybe he has some dirt that will come out too. Time will tell, and there is still time.
Would anyone be shocked if Unanue withdraws this week in favor of Crowley? I don't think that would be earth shattering news. If Crowley is a good as his reviews, it wouldn't shock me to see State Senator Joe Pennacchio withdraw either.
If Crowley gets in the race, and indications are that he will, the Monmouth, Ocean and Atlantic GOP organizations will look retarded, to borrow an other phrase from Puharic.
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