Longtime Township GOP Chair Resigns Amid Efforts To Oust Him, New Leadership Team Elected

FORMER CHAIRMAN – Bob LaCorte, left, longtime leader of township Republicans, resigned in the middle of an effort to oust him from his position. (File photo.)

The longtime chairman of the Franklin Township Republican Municipal Committee earlier this year resigned in the midst of a bid by dissatisfied committee members to oust him.

Bob LaCorte, who served as the Municipal Committee’s chairman for more than 20 years, resigned during an attempt by the dissident group to hold a “no confidence” vote on him, according to a person who was at the meeting.

The effort initially failed because the group was not able to get enough valid signatures on the petition calling for the vote, according to the person.

“Bob said let’s have the meeting anyway,” the person said. “It turned into a Bob’s a piece of s**t kind of meeting. He doesn’t do this, he doesn’t do that, he‘s not supporting candidates.”

“It was relentless,” the person said. “He tried to make it, you guys have a problem, we’re here to fix it. That faction turned it into hey, you’ve gotta go and here’s the reason why.”

That led to a second meeting, the person said.

“They foisted another petition on him with more signatures on it in the middle of the meeting, then he resigned,” the person said. “He was just fed up with that.”

LaCorte had one more year to serve as chairman, and was planning to step down at the end of his term, according to the person.

LaCorte said he had no comment for this report.

In a March 8 meeting, the Committee elected Michele Petersen as their new chairperson. Beverly Lawson remained as 1st Vice-Chairperson.

At that meeting, Santhosh “Sam” Velu was elected 2nd Vice-Chairman, Patricia Stanley was elected Secretary and Ravi Kolla was elected Treasurer pro tem, according to a press release from the Municipal Committee.

The person said one of the reasons the dissident group wanted to oust LaCorte was his support of the Board of Education candidacy of his wife, Nancy LaCorte, over candidates supported by the dissidents.

“She’s his wife, for one thing, she had just gone through surgery, for another thing,” the person said. “The whole point was, he was putting up her campaign signs and not supporting the Republicans running, even though it’s a non-partisan election.”

The picture painted of the Municipal Committee by the member who attended the meetings – and who wished to remain anonymous – is of a group in disarray and split into two camps.

“The whole thing was kind of disappointing, I guess,” the person said. “If there is going to be a leadership change of anything … there are ways to do it to keep the group cohesive, and there are ways that just run it into the ground. And this, in my opinion, is running it into the ground.”

The person characterized the group moving for LaCorte’s ouster as “the January 6ers,” a reference to supporters of former Pres. Donald Trump who rioted at the Capitol Building on Jan. 6, 2020 in a bid to stop the certification of the Electoral College’s vote.

“There was a coup to oust the leader, and whatever’s left is the remnants that’s at least trying to find their footing,” the person said.

The person said attendance at Committee meetings has diminished since LaCorte’s resignation.

“I think there are people that see the trajectory of the leadership, and they saw what a complete fiasco and a divisive mess the last couple of meetings have turned into, that they don’t want to be involved,” the person said. “That’s my take on it.”

NEW GOP LEADER – Michele Petersen, right, speaks after she was elected to lead the township Republicans. (Photo: Franklin Township Republican Municipal Committee.)

Petersen said in emails that she was not involved in the move to oust LaCorte.

“As for the ‘ousting, I am thankful to have been left out of most of that, so I really can’t comment on motives,” she wrote.

Referring to the characterization of the faction as “January 6ers,” Petersen wrote, “I’ve never been referred to as a ‘Jan 6-er’ and, to be honest, haven’t heard the term before.”

“To the best of my knowledge, Donald Trump is not discussed at our meetings now or when Bob was chair,” she wrote. “We’re talking warehouses and public safety, and believe me – that keeps us busy enough given the current issues in town.”

Petersen also denied that the township party is divided.

“To the best of my knowledge no one has come forward to say the FTRMC is split,” she wrote. “We haven’t held a regular FTRMC meeting since I have become chair due to a family emergency on the Petersen end, so I can’t attest to the fact that there is less attendance. Shortly I will try to schedule regular meetings, then perhaps we can revisit your question.”

“Having said that, people do seem to be very engaged right now,” she wrote. “I’ve received many calls and emails welcoming me as Chair and I am grateful for the wonderful support so far.”

“There’s a great energy and excitement in Franklin and throughout the county for new leadership,” she wrote. “Similar changes recently in Watchung and Montgomery have shown that new leadership creates opportunities for more people to get involved.”

Petersen said she was “looking forward to building upon the foundations laid by” LaCorte.

About LaCorte, Petersen wrote, “Bob is a friend and I enjoyed working with him. It is my hope that he will continue to serve as a committee person.”

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