“We’re not the same breed of social conservative Republicans of the national party,” he said during a recent interview. “We’re more in line with the kind of people that are moving into Hudson County, people who are socially moderate but fiscally conservative.”
A resident of Bayonne, Beckelman was elected chairman earlier this month in a reorganization of the Young Republicans in March that also saw the reelection of Edith Jorge as vice chair, part of an effort to take advantage of what is possibly a banner year for Republicans statewide, as popular Republican Governor Christopher Christie seeks reelection.
The Young Republicans are a relatively new group in Hudson County. Founded in 1999, it has grown from about 30 voting members to several hundred scattered throughout Hudson County with officers that included Treasurer Fernando Villar of West New York and Secretary Rose Pasqua of Hoboken.
This diverse geographical reach gives Beckelman hope for future growth. He sees a potential for like-minded people, who might find the group’s moderate Republican agenda more appealing than the national social agenda. These people include both new residents moving to Hudson County from other parts of the state as well as conservative Democrats who live in places like Bayonne, Secaucus, North and West Hudson. “We’re more moderate than what you will find on the national level,” he said.
Seeking to advance a moderate Republican agenda
Originally from Bergen and Essex counties, Beckelman moved to Jersey City in 2010, and later to Bayonne. He has a degree in political science and journalism from The College of New Jersey (TCNJ). Calling himself a moderate conservative in ideology, Beckelman was vice president of the New Jersey College Democrats.
But in summer of 2006, he joined the GOP. Beckelman was active in campaigning for Tom Kean Jr. and victorious Ewing Mayor Jack Ball. He was elected treasurer of TCNJ’s College Republicans in 2006 and is the only person in the school's recent history to have served on both the Democratic and Republican e-boards during his college career.
In 2008, Beckelman served as campaign manager for Roland Straten in New Jersey’s 8th Congressional District. In 2009, he was co-coordinator of the campaign in Belleville Township for Gov. Christie. After moving to Jersey City in 2010, Beckelman was appointed co-executive director of the Hudson County Republican Organization.
He said he knew of the group and started to work with them when he first arrived in the county.
Beckelman, an auto industry professional, is excited about taking leadership of the Young Republicans organization at a time when Republicans are looking to build up their urban base and when Gov. Christie is at record popularity.
Edith Jorge is the Northeast Regional Coordinator for the New Jersey GOP. She has managed several Republican campaigns and believes her re-election to a third term shows that her leadership is working, and the club has a bright future.
“I think people in Hudson County will be more sympathetic with local Republicans because we do not have extreme views the way some in the national party do,” Beckelman said. “Obviously, having someone like Christopher Christie on the top of the ticket in November will help us here.”
As chairman of the Young Republicans, Beckelman said he will be working closely with the Hudson County Republican organization to get candidates elected.
“We’re working on the same page,” he said.
But the Young Republicans won’t be actively campaigning for particular candidates until after the June primary, and will not back one faction of the Republican Party against another. The Young Republicans, he said, will focus their attention in Hudson County, and not be part of a statewide campaign.
“We’re interested in building locally; we want people to run for the Assembly and the state Senate, as well as sheriff,” he said. “We’re looking to build an organization that will help local government.”
He said he believes that Hudson County will be receptive to this effort, that there are people who are looking to make government run more efficiently, and that a large part of his effort will be to target like-minded people and bring them into the party.
“There are pockets of people who believe like we do,” he said, noting that in Jersey City’s Ward E, Republicans garnered around 40 percent of the vote in a recent election. He said he sees similar sympathy in Bayonne, Secaucus, and Kearny, and after the primary, his group will be reaching out to organize in those areas, holding public events that will be issue oriented and will make people aware of the Republicans’ positions.
While the Young Republicans have held their meetings in Hoboken at the Hoboken Bar & Grill, he said he has plans to hold events in North Hudson, Jersey City, and Bayonne.
“Half our meetings will be around some social event,” he said.
While membership for the group is between the ages of 18 and 40, many members are in college or just out of college, and some are students in local colleges, resulting in an influx of new members around ages 22 to 23.
“It is very important for us to have a home brand of Republicanism,” Beckelman said. “We are an urban brand, something focused on efficient government and improving the quality of life here.”
Though many people can find access to information about the group through its Facebook account, Beckelman said, “We will be out more in the public raising awareness.”