FORDS, NJ–During the Middlesex County Republican Organization (MCRO) Reorganization meeting on June 22 at Royal Albert’s Palace, Rob Bengivenga, a five-term councilman from South Plainfield, defeated Perth Amboy Republican Chair Sharon Hubberman by a vote of 191-79 to become the next MCRO Chairman.
Bengivenga was first elected to the South Plainfield Council at age 23 and has successfully won five terms to that council, despite the Republicans’ nearly 2:1 disadvantage in voter registration.
Republicans from towns around Middlesex County came to vote for their new leader, who is now the second-youngest Republican County Chair in New Jersey. His allies also won all four of the other positions that were up for a vote.
Members of “Team Bengivenga” are:
- Syliva Engel – First Vice Chair
- Antonia Kulberda – Second Vice Chair
- Bryan Li – Secretary
- Harold Kane – Treasurer
Now that the MCRO has chosen them to lead, they will focus on local strategy “to build our strength from the bottom of the ticket to the top.” Finance is also important, as it takes money to win elections. Over the past 15 years, Bengivenga has raised over $1.2 million for local and state races.
He believes that grassroots organizing is important to his strategy. Training is also important, as the Republican Woman’s Organization provides a campaign school every June. The team says it will also work with each municipal organization to provide training specific to their needs.
Going into the reorganization meeting, Bengivenga, age 38, was the favorite to win since he was endorsed by 22 Republican leaders for the Chair position.These leaders include former Governor Donald DiFrancesco, State Senators Samuel Thompson and Christopher Bateman, Republican State Committeeman Donald Katz, and Republican mayors from Dunellen, South River, Middlesex Borough, and South Plainfield.
Bengivenga succeeds Lucille Panos, who endorsed him for the position. New Brunswick Today first reported that Panos wasn’t running for reelection, right before the June 8 primary election.
During the reorganization meeting, the Hubberman team was the first to make speeches as voters cast their ballots. Hubberman had the support of Councilwoman Anita Greenberg-Belli, the Old Bridge Republican chair.
“She is a good listener, problem solver, with excellent people skills that would bring people together which has been lacking on the county level. Her leadership skills are unmatched, and her positive energy, enthusiasm, and dedication to the party will make a difference. Her tenacity and passion will make the Republican Party proud,” Greenberg Belli said in an endorsement.
The Hubberman team included:
- Richard Revolinsky – First Vice Chair
- John Steiner – Second Vice Chair
- Marilyn Colon – Secretary
- Glenn D’Antuono – Treasurer
Their motto is “Hoping for Change is Not Enough. Make it Happen!”
The team and their supporters came to the meeting prepared with lawn signs and enthusiasm.
During her speech, Hubberman said, “This last year was met with tremendous struggles due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There are many families that were impacted by it.”
She urged attendees to remember those who were lost due to the pandemic and encouraged her supporters with the inspirational quote, “If you build it, they will come.”
“The reason why I love this quote so much is because not only is it hopeful, but it’s about action,” Hubberman said. She then reiterates her motto and urges members of the MCRO to not give up on “Democrat strongholds'” like Perth Amboy, as she is the Perth Amboy Republican Chair who was born and raised there.
“I am voting for her because she is a powerhouse. She is the leader we need right now,” Donna DeMaio, an Old Bridge resident and Hubberman voter, told New Brunswick Today.
While there was a unifying atmosphere to the event, there even came a point when Bengivenga supporters heckled those holding Hubberman signs while they were voting and listening to his team’s speeches.
“You have no respect!” a vocal Bengivenga supporter shouted as she waited on line and saw Hubberman supporters waving their lawn signs.
“I was a life-long democrat, until I got some sense,” Joan Michaels, another Hubberman voter, said. She has been to meetings like this in the past and was shocked at how disorganized and loud the meeting was in comparison to even two years ago.
Complaints about the volume and acoustics of the speakers were voiced by many attendees. Another dramatic moment came when a woman fell off her chair during a speech.
When all was said and done, Panos thanked all candidates who stepped up and urged unity no matter the result.
During his victory speech, Bengivenga said, “Thank you, Middlesex County Republicans. Our team will be there for you. We will work together.”
He reiterated the importance of electing local Republican leaders across the county and is optimistic for the future of the organization.
“I look forward to, beginning tonight, on the next chapter of our organization in a positive way and in a strong way. Thank you,” he said. He adjourned the meeting by slamming the gavel for the first time as Chair.
Haley Cafarella is a passionate journalist and content developer. She is currently creating content for IFPG, a franchise broker network, and writes articles for its franchise news site, FranchiseWire. In addition to contributing to New Brunswick Today, the Rutgers University journalism graduate has also written for The Buttonwood Tree, the Trenton Monitor, and Quo Vadis, Middlesex College's student newspaper.