Somerset County Republican Party Chairman Tim Hawes has faced an attempt by local Republicans to oust him and replace him with Vice Chairman Tracy DiFrancesco Zajkov.
A group of Republican insiders is trying to get fifteen percent of the county committee members to call for a special meeting with the intention of holding a vote to oust House, who is running for county chairman in 2020.
The party constitution requires a two-thirds vote of the county committee to remove the county chairman early. Hawes will be re-elected in 2024.
The action against Hawes stemmed from the Somerset County Republican’s failure to file a report with the New Jersey State Election Commission from the fourth quarter of 2020.
“Since then, ELEC has sent 12 letters that were reminder letters about the need to file quarterly reports and annual appointments,” Stephanie Oliva, director of compliance, said in an email sent to DiFrancesco and obtained by the New Jersey Globe. “In addition, there are two reports that do not submit documents. One is mailed and the other is emailed to the designated treasurer.’
Robert Damiano took over as treasurer of the Somerset Republican Party on Thursday, saying he was unable to obtain the financial statements required to file quarterly reports.
“I will not submit reports to ELEC that are not complete and accurate,” Damiano said in his resignation letter.
Supporters of DiFrancesco Zaikov argue that the party has faced fundraising problems and is in debt, suggesting the lack of ELEC reports as an attempt to mask the numbers. They also claim that the rent for their party’s homestead is overdue by six months.
Hawes acknowledged efforts to remove him but declined to comment.
The faction trying to unseat Hawes includes staunch supporters of Jack Cittarelli, though the former gubernatorial candidate is not personally involved in the effort, his supporters say.
DiFrancesca Zaykova, daughter of former Gov. Donald DiFrancesco, is the municipal chair of the Watchung Republican Party.
In his 2022 re-election campaign, Hawes defeated Geoffrey Grant with 91% of the vote.
Somerset has been a Republican stronghold for decades — Luke Gray ran a formidable political machine from his Watchung flower shop for decades — and Democrats won only a handful of freeholder races before Steve Peter was elected county clerk in 2017. Democrats ousted two incumbent freeholders in 2018, one in 2019 to take control, and two more in 2020; they also flipped the sheriff and surrogate positions.