STAFFORD TOWNSHIP - Republican County Committee members selected DiAnne C. Gove on Wednesday to fill Daniel M. Van Pelt's vacated Assembly seat, making her the first woman legislator from the 9th District.
Gove, 58, is currently serving her third nonconsecutive term as a Long Beach Township commissioner, once serving as mayor. She is a lifelong Long Beach Island resident, and retired in 2006 after 32 years as a history and government teacher at Southern Regional High School.
"It is a great privilege, and I am truly humbled to serve the 9th Legislative District as assemblywoman," Gove, stressing the second half of the term, said to excited applause from the packed ballroom at the Manahawkin Holiday Inn.
Gove now will campaign with Assemblyman Brian E. Rumpf for an election less than three months away.
Rumpf is running for his third term and said he is excited to be campaigning with Gove, having received numerous phone calls from her former students in support of her selection.
"I know with Dianne by my side, we are going to campaign like you have never seen before," Rumpf said, sharing a stage with Gove and 9th District state Sen. Christopher J. Connors.
It took less than three weeks for the party to choose a replacement for Van Pelt following his arrest July 23 on federal corruption charges and resignation eight days later.
Gove said that because of those charges, and the arrests of other officials, restoring the public's trust will be a major issue for her in the upcoming campaign, along with the economy, health care, infrastructure and senior services.
"Just getting the confidence of the people back into government is important," she said.
Gove is the fifth assemblywoman from Ocean County but the first from the southern half of the county. She is preceded by Lettie E. Savage, Hazel Gluck, Marlene Lynch Ford and, most recently, Virginia E. Haines.
Gluck, Ford and Haines all represented the 10th District in the northern half of the county. Savage served before the state divided the county into separate legislative districts, representing the entire county from 1941 to 1960.
"You want the best-qualified candidate, but it's also good to have a woman who can bring a different perspective," Gove said. "I'm honored, and I think it will be a great thing for the 9th District."
Gove, whom insiders pointed to as a front-runner for the seat immediately after Van Pelt's resignation July 31, was unanimously selected in a verbal vote.
Shortly before her selection, several of the other candidates who submitted their names for consideration withdrew their candidacy and endorsed Gove, whom they praised as a highly qualified candidate who would win in November.
"I don't like the trend, it's not pretty, and we need to make sure that our assemblyman, Brian Rumpf, gets in and we need to make sure that our assemblywoman, Dianne Gove, gets in," said Republican organizer Sharon McKenna.
Gove and Rumpf's Democratic opponents in the campaign, Robert Rue and Richard Visotcky, issued a statement shortly after Gove's selection saying they were not concerned about the Republican selection.
"While the Republicans are trying to clean house after Van Pelt's arrest and subsequent resignation from his N.J. assembly seat, we have been focusing on the issues and our efforts to bring about a much-needed change to the 9th Legislative District," they said in the statement.
Earlier in the day, Rue said he and Visotcky both know Gove fairly well and "welcome her into the fray."
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