There will soon be a second Republican Party in Galloway Township, Mayor Don Purdy confirmed following the council meeting Tuesday night, Oct. 23.
“There is a group of people dissatisfied with our current leadership,” Purdy said, stating there are about 50 people involved in the creation of the yet-to-be named club. “We’ve been very unhappy for a long time with the direction that the club is headed in. The direction of the club does not align with my beliefs as a conservative.
“Terry Lucarelli at one point was the kingmaker, but she is not the kingmaker anymore.”
Lucarelli is the chair of the Galloway Township Republican League (GTRL), and has held that position for five years. Under her leadership, the league has financed the campaigns of five of the six Republicans currently on council, and is backing Councilman John Mooney in his bid for election this November. Mooney was nominated to the seat he currently holds in August by the county committee following former councilman and Republican Dennis Kleiner’s resignation in June.
“I’m always aligned with the mayor whenever he’s doing something that I think is right,” Deputy Mayor and fellow Republican Tony Coppola said.
Councilman Brian Tyrrell is a board member for the GTRL, and said he has heard the rumblings, but didn’t comment on his status. Councilwoman Whitney Ullman said she didn’t have enough information to make a comment at this time. Mooney, a GTRL member and past president, had no comment.
“I’m not in favor of it, and I wouldn’t join it,” Councilman Tom Bassford said.
“This is nothing personal against Councilman Tom Bassford,” Purdy said. “I’ve had a long relationship with Councilman Bassford and a good relationship. It’s nothing personal against him.”
Purdy said his problems have been with Lucarelli.
“After the election last year, I was scrutinized for putting (Democrat) Jim McElwee on the Planning Board,” Purdy said. “I try to put parties aside and work together. I try to put parties on the backside.”
Lucarelli denies that she scrutinized the selection on Tuesday night.
“I wish him a lot of luck,” Lucarelli said of Purdy's decision, referring further comments to GTRL President Jennifer Heller.
Attempts to reach Heller for comment Tuesday night were unsuccessful. Purdy stated there was no problem between himself and Heller.
The problems within the party came to the forefront once again following Kleiner’s resignation when the committee put forth Council couldn’t come to a decision on one person to nominate, and the choice was given back to the committee, which appointed Mooney.
At the council meeting on Oct. 9, Mooney proposed cutting the salary for current council members down to $1 and down to $1.50 for the mayor. It’s a motion that no council member seconded and that Purdy believes was inspired by Lucarelli.
Mooney denied his proposal was politically motivated.
This is the second consecutive mayor Lucarelli has clashed with. The problems between Lucarelli and former Galloway Mayor and Republican Keith Hartman prompted Hartman to state in an interview with Galloway Patch: “Purdy and myself no longer consider ourselves to be Galloway Republicans.”
Later in the year, Hartman was removed from council by state statute when he missed eight consecutive council meetings when he said he was being threatened. Hartman stated he believed Kleiner, who he described as "Lucarelli's lapdog" and Roy Foster were behind the threats.
Per its policy, the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office never commented on the possible investigation into threats against Hartman.
At the time, members of Galloway Council, including Purdy, said they believed there were no threats against Hartman. Purdy, who Hartman described as his best friend, reiterated that he never saw any evidence to support Hartman's claims on Tuesday night. He also said Hartman was not part of the movement to start a new Republican Club.
“This is something that’s needed to change for a long time,” Purdy said. “I continue to fight and fight and fight. Council is doing a great job, and something needs to change (in the party).
“The county committee is a good group. It’s just one individual lady I don’t see eye to eye with. My problem is with Mrs. Lucarelli.”