Upper Township Republicans back challenger over incumbent for June primary

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UPPER TOWNSHIP – The local Republican County Committee has selected a challenger to incumbent Republican Committeeman Tony Inserra for a spot in the party’s column for the June primary.

The Upper Township Republican County Committee met Wednesday, March 5 to nominate a candidate for inclusion in the regular Republican column on the June 3 primary ballot. Jeffrey Pierson of Marmora won the vote 12-5.


Inserra said he plans to run in the June primary against Pierson to get the party’s nod for the general election, when his seat will be up for a vote.

Inserra defeated then-committeeman Frank Conrad in the 2011 Republican primary campaigning against a tax increase that year. Conrad was backed by the regular Republican party. After his primary victory, Inserra ran unopposed in the general election.

He has been a thorn in the side of the regular Republican party ever since. In 2012, he organized candidates to run for seats on the Upper Township Republican County Committee, with his slate winning two of 30 seats, including one for himself. In 2013, he backed independent Republican challengers John Coggins and Hobie Young in their successful run against longtime Republican committeemen Curtis Corson and Jay Newman.

Mayor Richard Palombo, who has served as Republican leader over the past two years, said Pierson’s nomination has been sent to the county GOP, which will set the ballot at its convention later this month.

He said the local county committee sought letters of interest and resumes from Republicans starting in January. Inserra and Pierson were the only ones to submit applications, he said. After a presentation and question and answer session, committee members held a vote using secret ballots, he said.

But Inserra said he plans to contest the nomination. He said Pierson did not submit a letter of intent and resume by the local county committee’s deadline of Monday, Feb. 17.

“He didn’t follow the rules and they didn’t follow their own rules,” Inserra said.

He said he will formally object to the nomination at the Cape May County Clerk’s office later this week.

Palombo said the Feb. 17 date for applications was included in a press release seeking potential candidates. Inserra placed a one-line letter of intent in his front door while he was away over Presidents Day Weekend before Monday, Feb. 17 but did not submit a resume at that time, he said.

The Feb. 17 date was included so that a single packet including all applicants could be mailed to county committee members for review, he said.

“It wasn’t a drop dead date,” Palombo said. “We just wanted to have all the resumes together so we could send them at the same time.”

Pierson submitted his letter of intent and resume later in February and it was sent to county committee members. When Inserra sent his resume in, a separate packet was mailed out a day later, Palombo said.

Palombo said he was surprised Inserra sought the local county committee’s nomination considering he has backed candidates running against regular Republicans in the past.

“He supported candidates who were running against us the past few years and now he expects the committee to back him,” he said.

Pierson serves on the Upper Township zoning board and is a Deputy Chief for Safety for the Marmora Volunteer Fire Company. He was also an assistant safety coordinator for the township until last year.

Pierson did not return repeated calls for comment for this story.

Palombo said he plans on stepping down as Republican leader this year. He has asked the county committee to schedule a meeting to select his replacement in the next few months.


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