CAPE MAY — Cape May County Republicans on Monday night selected Susan Adelizzi-Schmidt to take on incumbent Democrat Jeff Van Drew in the 1st District state Senate race in November.
The Cape GOP Convention, held at The Grand Hotel, also resulted in Cape May County Freeholder Kristine Gabor and Cumberland County Freeholder Sam Fiocchi being chosen to run for state Assembly.
The delegates, as expected, voted unanimously to endorse Gov. Chris Christi, who will lead the Republican ticket.
Adelizzi-Schmidt, 46, of Upper Township, outpolled Downe Township Mayor Bob Campbell, 64, in a 113-30 decision as Republican committee members cast their ballots on voting machines.
Gabor, 46, of Upper Township, garnered 126 votes while Fiocchi, 60, of Vineland, received 110. Peter Boyce, 63, of Millville, came in third in the race for two seats with 35 votes.
Gabor and Fiocchi will likely take on Democrats Nelson Albano and Robert Andrzejczak in November. It isn’t a done deal because Republican committee members in two other counties still must meet. The convention was the first in the district, which also includes most of Cumberland County and three towns in Atlantic County, but the slate is not expected to change.
“We have two-thirds of the committee people. Whoever comes out of here has a pretty good head start,” said Cape May County GOP Chairman Michael Donohue.
Republicans in Cumberland County will convene on March 21, followed by Atlantic County Republicans March 27. If the race becomes closer, the three organizations could meet to decide the final outcome.
The evening included speeches by the new and old guard of the party. Tom Rotondi, chairman of the Cape May County Young Republicans Organization, gave a speech and so did retired former state Sen. James Cafiero.
“We are the party that believes in the Constitution and the freedom it provides,” said Rotondi.
Cafiero got the crowd laughing with his jokes but also reminded the GOP faithful of his upset victory in 1990 over heavily favored Democrat Ed Salmon. Cafiero introduced Adelizzi-Schmidt, a businesswoman who has never run for office before, as “articulate, great, charming and feisty.”
Adelizzi-Schmidt said the GOP must send a team to Trenton to “undo the damage” the Democrats have done. She promised to work for economic growth and job creation.
“If we don’t act now our quality of life is in jeopardy. Our district has the highest unemployment in the state and we are losing population. It will be my No. 1 priority as senator,” Adelizzi-Schmidt said.
Gabor, who served on the governing body in Upper Township before winning her freeholder seat, promoted economic development and jobs.
“Here’s the deal: The governor has worked in his first term to bring life back to this dying state. We need to put the right people in Trenton to help Gov. Christie fulfill his mission,” Gabor said.
Fiocchi, who ran for Assembly in 2011 and lost, cited his small business background and work he has done as a freeholder in Cumberland County. He said the board has cut wasteful spending, held the line on taxes and worked in a bipartisan way to balance the budget.
“As a small-businessman, I understand the struggle. I will fight for good-paying jobs and lower taxes,” said Fiocchi.
The convention also included a speech by Donohue as he tried to fire up the base.
“You will pick a team that will go out and get our seats back. These are our seats,” Donohue said.
They have actually been the Democrats’ seats in recent years, but Donohue noted how close the races were in 2011 when David DeWeese lost a squeaker to Van Drew, a longtime incumbent.
“Dave showed it could be done. He put everybody in Trenton on notice it could be done down here,” Donohue said.
The Republicans also selected Rotondi and Lynda Pagliughi to run unopposed for the state GOP Committee.
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