SPARTA, NJ - More than 120 votes were cast on Friday night at the GOP convention for two nominees, George Graham and Helen LeFrois, vying for the vacated Sussex County Freeholder seat. Graham's peers chose him for the position, 91 votes to 31 during the convention, which was held at the Sussex County Technical School.
Graham will fill the freeholder seat that New Jersey Assemblyman Parker Space left to take his new position. Space recently took the seat, which formerly belonged to Gary Chiusano, who in turn, was appointed to the spot of Sussex County Surrogate, following the retirement of Surrogate Nancy Fitzgibbons.
Chiusano, Space, and Graham, are all appointed to their respective seats through the end of 2013, and will have to run again in the election, including the upcoming primary on June 4.
For Graham, he has two contenders for the primary, LeFrois, and Gary Larson, former Frankford Township Mayor and a current member of the Frankford Township Committee.
Larson, as previously reported in The Alternative Press
, chose to not participate in the convention, due to commitments he has with Frankford Township. He was not able to attend the convention, due to officiating a wedding for a close family friend. He delivered a message through attendee Julia Lynch, asking fellow Republicans not to nominate him on Friday evening.
"I will await the results of the June 4 primary, and wait out the duties of a Frankford Township Committeeman," Lynch said reading from Larson's statement.
There will be two seats available in the general election, the seat Space vacated, and freeholder Richard Vohden's seat.
Ailish Hambel, who was appointed Convention Chairman, asked for nominees.
Hopatcong Borough Mayor Sylvia Petillo, was the first to nominate Graham.
"Over the years as a friend and neighboring public official, he has held true to the principles of limited government, and conservative spending," Petillo offered.
She said Graham has served three terms on the Stanhope Borough Council, has worked in the public sector, and been actively involved with the Sussex County League of Municipalities, the Friends of Waterloo Village, the Stanhope Chamber of Commerce, and the Musconetcong Foundrymen. She noted how Graham volunteered his time after Superstorm Sandy to help at the shelter at Hopatcong High School, gathering food donations, and providing cheer to help lighten the mood during the challenging post-storm situation.
"I am proud to call George Graham my friend, and I am sure he'll make a wonderful addition to the freeholder board," Petillo said.
Diana Kuncken, the former Mayor of Stanhope, and currently a councilwoman, who has served seven years with him, gave Graham's second nomination.
"He goes above and beyond the requirements of the job," said Kuncken. "He will have the background and experience to hit the ground running."
The second round of nominations came for LeFrois, and the first one to nominate her, was Town of Newton Mayor, Sandra Diglio. Diglio had served with LeFrois on the council, and had been deputy mayor, when LeFrois served as mayor. She further explained LeFrois had been her mentor. Diglio said LeFrois has served additionally on the planning board, the Main Street Newton Group, the Historic Preservation Advisement Commission, and has worked closely with the town's volunteer fire department. During LeFrois' tenure, Diglio noted redevelopment and revitalization projects in town, including Thorlabs, Aberlour, and Meadowbrook.
"We are now continuing those efforts," said Diglio.
"I strongly endorse her," Diglio continued. "I know she'll be an asset as county freeholder."
David Fanale, a candidate for Franklin Borough Council, gave LeFrois her second nomination. He said he did not know LeFrois well, but knew her as a fine woman, who was a great family woman, and who cares greatly about the community. He lauded her work with the New Jersey Battered Women's Service, for which she is Director of Development.
"I wish you the best, you have my second," Fanale said.
There was time for each of the candidates to take to the podium, and Graham was chosen to go first, once the nominations were closed.
"I am glad to be up here tonight," noted Graham. "This is a democracy, this is what our soldiers fight for."
Graham said the opportunity now is great to reduce government, and the components in place, are working towards that as their goal, to transform government into a more manageable form.
"I am dedicated to conservative values, and am focused to attempt to change the direction of government," said Graham. "I ask for your vote tonight."
LeFrois took to the podium next. She explained how she and her family sought to plant their roots in a strong Republican community, and chose Sussex County. She said as a party, Republicans need to continue to work diligently to reduce debt, while increasing ratables, and to achieve greater transparency.
"I was part of a great team of elected officials," LeFrois said.
She explained that during her previous run for freeholder in last year's primary, she and running mate Gail Phoebus, had a listening tour throughout the county, and she planned to continue to listen to the voters.
"The people of Sussex County take care of each other," she said. "Our people make it happen."
There was a slight hiccup in the evening before the voting could begin, when some delegates did not properly sign off on their ballots when initially signing in. Each was given a white and blue ballot, with the white ballot as the one that would be cast first, and the blue if a second round of voting was needed.
Once participants were signed in properly, voting was underway, and then the results were being tallied, there were a couple of speakers who updated those at the convention about activities in their respective sectors of government. One of them was Congressman Scott Garrett (R-NJ5).
"It has been a busy day, and last three months," Garrett said.
Among items approved recently were the Ryan Budget, and the No Budget, No Pay Act.
"We've held firm on all major fiscal issues," said Garrett.
Garrett also said Republicans are working on the issues with immigration and gun control.
"If I had my way, you won't see anything moving in the House," said Garrett, and noted about gun control needing to have "thorough vetting and discussion."
Senator Steve Oroho (R-24) updated the group about things happening in Trenton, including the third year of a five-year phase-in plan for tax reduction, which Oroho said already, the reduction has been $2.3 billion. He also said, before Governor Chris Christie took office, 200,000 private sector jobs were lost, and now 120,000 are back. Before the Governor was elected, he additionally said, 29 percent of residents believed government was on the "right track," and Oroho quoted that number at 61 percent.
Oroho thanked the municipal officials in attendance for their hard work and efforts.
In addition to Garrett, and Oroho, representatives from many of the municipal councils and committees in attendance, as well as members of the public, other dignitaries in attendance were: Assemblywoman Alison Littell McHose, Assemblyman Parker Space, Sussex County Freeholders Dennis Mudrick, Gail Phoebus, Phil Crabb, and Rich Vohden, Sussex County Clerk Jeff Parrott, Former Sussex County Freeholder Glen Vetrano, and Sussex County Candidate for Surrogate, Alicia Ferrante.
Graham concluded the program with a few words, after his win was announced: "I'd like to thank everyone for coming tonight. I'd like to thank Helen for her excellent speech. I'm looking forward to serving with all the freeholders."
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