Gloucester County Republicans had their hackles up Friday over a United States Senate candidate who they say is confusing voters by appropriating their name without consulting them in crafting his slogan for the June primary ballot.
Joe “Rudy” Rullo, an Ocean County-based Republican, is running under the slogan Republican Party of Gloucester County, but in reality has no connections to or endorsement from the county's Republican Party, local party officials said.
“I've never heard of the guy,” said Dave Ferrucci, who runs campaigns for the Regular Organization Republicans—the formal title for Gloucester County's Republican Party.
But he said nothing can stop Rullo—or any other unendorsed, unconnected Republican—from slapping something that looks official in their slogan line, like “Republican Party of Gloucester County.”
“It doesn't exist—that's a colloquialism for us,” Ferrucci said.
While the county party has considered a name change in the past to try to head off that confusion before it starts, Ferrucci said the dilemma then reverses—a candidate could simply claim to be running under the old name, which would be familiar to voters.
“There's nothing the county clerk can do about it,” he said. “It's a lose-lose.”
Rullo, for his part, said he hadn't sought an endorsement and didn't mean to infer an endorsement from the county party prior to selecting that slogan, which he said is owned by Congressional candidate Michael Cino.
In fact, Rullo claims a similarly-styled slogan in every one of the 21 counties in the state, while his opponents either run on the same slogan statewide or are on the official local Republican slate.
The self-styled rogue Republican did rattle off a list of others—mostly North Jersey Republicans, including Union County freeholders Stephen Kozlovich and Christopher Nowak, Garwood councilman Jim Mathieu and Cino—who had actually endorsed him, though.
He also claimed he has unspoken support from various Republican elected officials around the state who have donated to his campaign, but Rullo said those people are staying on the fence for the primary.
Pulling a name-grab to infer a connection to the county party is something that's happened in primaries in the past, Ferrucci said, to the point where party officials have grown somewhat immune to the practice.
“That doesn't mean every voter knows how it works,” he said. “It's unfortunate.”
Officially, state Senator Joe Kyrillos is the county Regular Organization Republicans' endorsed candidate, Ferrucci said.