Manasquan Republican Councilwoman Patricia Connolly this week announced she will not be running for another term in November, which GOP leaders said will most likely result in an uncontested June primary.
Connolly, who in a release cited a lack of fiscal responsibility and compliance with the electoral process among rival council members as her reasons for bowing out of the race, would likely have had to fend off members of her own party this spring as GOP Chairman Riche Dunne said the Republicans were looking for "fresh faces" in this year's election.
While candidates have until April 2 to file petitions to enter the primary, Dunne said he expects the spring elections to be uncontested and the party should have their two candidates by 4 p.m. Monday. Two council seats -- Connolly's and Conservative Don Grasso's -- will be up for grabs in November.
Connolly said that her decision had nothing to do with not receiving an endorsement from party leaders, but Dunne said that the GOP had been looking to move in another direction.
"As the chairman, I would have to admit (the Republican Party) has not done as well the past two years in our elections," Dunne said.
Connolly for mayor against incumbent Democrat George Dempsey by a 2-1 margin last fall.
"We've been trying to reach out to other Republicans and Republican-leaning independents to try to be a more open Republican club and a more open party and see if we can find more candidates that might have better connections and a better rapport with their peers in the community," Dunne said.
Lou Cocozza, vice president of the Manasquan Republicans Club, said Connolly did not discuss her plans with club members until she notified them of her decision, but added that if the councilwoman had kept her hat in the ring, it would have likely been a contested race.
"As an incumbent, if she indicated she was going to run it would have only been under the auspices of an open primary contest," Cocozza said.
But neither Dunne nor Cocozza would say who they thought would get the party's backing just yet. The GOP held a candidate screening process last Sunday, Dunne said.
The Republicans, Dunne said, are trying to get younger and more involved community members to run for elected office in town.
Dunne said he was grateful for the work Connolly gave to the party and the borough.
"I’d like to thank Pat for her service. It’s often a thankless job. It’s not easy to balance the needs of the community and one’s personal goals," Dunne said.
Connolly said she will continue to support her party's goals once out of office.
"The Republican mission is something that I will be upholding. I strongly agree with it," Connolly said.
Nevertheless, it appears the party had planned to move on with or without her.
When asked if the GOP had concerns about Connolly as a party representative, Cocozza said he couldn't dismiss the notion.
"I’m not disagreeing with that, but as a sitting incumbent councilperson she was owed some respect, but she would have had to put her name in the ring just like everyone else," Cocozza said.