This “Dapper County Chairman” Has Faced Challenges From The Start And Overcome Them

 Sate Senator Tom Kean, U.S. Senate Candidate Bob Hugin and Cumberland GOP Chairman Michael Testa

Sate Senator Tom Kean, U.S. Senate Candidate Bob Hugin and Cumberland GOP Chairman Michael Testa

Michael Testa, the “Dapper County Chairman” of the Cumberland County GOP, became chairman under, I’ll call them, less than perfect circumstances. And, before Testa friends send me nasty emails for calling him the “Dapper County Chairman,” I get to call him that, I still remember the days of his ponytail. Plus, as I was preparing to write this post, I spoke with him and told him I was going to use the phrase.

One would think I would be the last person to praise Testa in any way. After becoming chairman he chose not to keep the previous chairman’s campaign consultant, the guy who created the messages of that chairman’s winning campaigns, the campaigns that led to a flip of a 7-0 Democrat controlled freeholder board to 4-3 Republican, namely me. Michael knows it angered me, I didn’t speak to him for years, to be fair he didn’t call me either.

But that’s all water under the bridge, we’re on speaking terms again, so much so that he’s scheduled to be the guest on The Bob & Steve Show on September 15 and, since obviously I’ll be in Vineland Saturday, I’ll be attending his party breakfast, for the second time, this weekend.

As much as I hate to admit it, Testa changing consultants was a smart move on his part. Remember, he took over under less than perfect circumstances, so out with the old, he had several factions within the party to think about and had to make decisions that were at least palatable to all those factions.

Another smart decision by Testa was to change the weekly GOP breakfast to every other week. As much as I love the previous chair, my co-host on The Bob & Steve Show, having to go to that breakfast every week was a giant pain in the ass. Also, holding the breakfast on different sides of the county is another smart move, it brings different people to the event and helps build the party and party building is one of the most important parts of the job.

Recently Testa has had to walk something of a political tightrope and has managed to do it skillfully. For example, it was rumored that folks in the Republican party wanted Testa to speak out publicly against the party’s nominee in the 2nd congressional district, Seth Grossman. Despite the rumored pressure, Testa has never publicly uttered a negative word about Grossman and continues to show support for the candidate publicly. Showing public support of the primary winner is exactly what the chair should do, it’s part of partisan politics.

During the screening/convention process leading up to the primary Testa took some heat over the Cumberland GOP convention. We can argue until we’re blue in the face over whether or not he should have postponed the convention until after the snow storm during which it was held, but that was the least of the heat he took. There were many folks across the state who thought Testa should have done something to ensure local congressional candidate, former Assemblyman Sam Fiocchi, won the line at the convention. It didn’t happen, instead Bob Turkavage won the line by one vote.

There were some who claimed Testa rigged his convention. Frankly, if he rigged that convention Turkavage wouldn’t be the guy who got the line. And, remember I was Fiocchi’s consultant in that race, so if I’m saying the convention wasn’t rigged, it wasn’t.

To add insult to the injury of being accused of rigging his convention, Testa then had to deal with Turkavage acting like a complete novice and failing to file the required paperwork with the county clerk to be placed in the organization’s column on the primary election ballot. Harry Hurley called the situation “Disgraceful.”

There was nothing “disgraceful” about it. The paperwork is required. It is and always has been the candidate’s responsibility to make certain all necessary forms are filed appropriately and on time. It was the Turkavage campaign’s responsibility to file and his campaign should have been in constant communication with Testa to be certain things were moving along as they should. On top of that, this wasn’t the first time Turkavege didn’t file paperwork on time. He was going to run for U.S. Senate in 2014 but didn’t file his paperwork because of traffic problems. My point? Turkavage already had a history of screwing up when it came to filing paperwork on time, and like the first time, he refused to accept responsibility. Testa did things properly.

Testa weathered the convention/Turkavage storm, even getting something of an apology from Hurley, who wrote, in part:

“The conversation was entirely respectful and positive. Testa was highly professional throughout and I only feel that it is fair to our readers to follow-up that while I can’t take back my words in total; I can say that I feel differently now about Testa then I did at the time I wrote my stinging rebuke of him a few weeks ago.

The easiest thing for me to do here would be to say nothing. That’s not how I work. The easy way is usually not the right way. Testa takes a great deal of pride in his leadership responsibilities. I owe it to you, our valued readers, to revise and extend my remarks about Testa. It’s the intellectually honest and right thing to do.”

It’s unusual for a county chairman to get a public apology from a member of the press which means Testa was right and handled the Turkavage situation properly.

In short, Testa has faced challenges from his first day as chairman, he’s worked through those challenges with determination and continues to work hard to grow the party. If you’re a Republican in Cumberland County and want to be a part of what Testa is building the next county party breakfast is Saturday, September 8 at the Green Olive restaurant, 610 Shiloh Pike in Bridgeton from 8:30 to 10:30 and the cost is $15 per person. Head on out and meet the “Dapper County Chairman,” Michael Testa, he’s working hard.