Vote NO on all three Asbury ballot questions, says Quinn in LGBT column

Amy Quinn is a member of the Asbury Park City Council. She was guest columnist in this week’s LGBT Rainbow Room in the triCityNews. The following is her commentary: 

Luanne Peterpaul has kindly offered me her column this week to communicate about two of my favorite topics, gays and Asbury Park!

Asbury Park has one of the most diverse city councils in Monmouth County, and also a majority of women. That’s no accident. Before we sat together up on that council dais we created a ticket and campaigned together, walking door to door and engaging voters about their concerns. We spelled out clear goals and priorities that we would pursue as the council. The voters approved of us and our priorities and elected us by 2 to 1 margins in both 2014 and 2016. We have since worked tirelessly every day to fulfill our promises and raise this city up.

Asbury Park’s long and rich history with the gay community goes back decades. Whether it was the gay and lesbian bars in the early years, the annual Jersey Pride event, or our local officials risking jail time to marry gays way back in 2004, this city has been not only inclusive of the gay community, but downright welcoming.

When putting together tickets for City Council, we consciously assembled a group that would represent our various communities, i.e. gay, African American, old time Asbury, music, arts, etc… We only have 5 people to try to do this. Maintaining such diversity around a unified vision is why I am asking you to vote NO on all three municipal ballot questions on November 6th. Because the ballot questions amount to a recall of both our council and its priorities.

Ballot question #1 proposes dividing the City up into wards. Presumably the Petitioners believe a ward system would benefit the southwest of the city with one council seat beholden only to that part of the city. But I believe a ward system would be disastrous both for the southwest and the city as a whole. The current council takes all parts of the city into consideration before making every decision. A ward system would splinter the basic attitude of the council. Elections would become more divisive than ever, as there’d be little incentive for ward candidates to pursue or declare a united vision for the whole city’s future.

Ballot question #2 proposes partisan elections. This proposal is so strikingly wrong for our city that I hardly know what to say. Of all the things we need it certainly isn’t local issues getting mixed up with party loyalties and our perennial national bickering. What we have now is candidates for office getting rewarded for agendas that unite rather than divide. Partisan elections would disenfranchise independent voters (nearly 3000 of them) and hand our future over to the two party system. So wrong for Asbury Park.

Ballot question #3 proposes a complete rejection of the council’s painstaking approach to short-term rentals. We got out in front of this issue after noticing next to no yearly rentals and our planning department getting weekly calls from out-of-town developers looking to buy up properties for the SOLE purpose of short-term rentals. Our ordinance strikes a careful balance between locals making some extra income and preserving the character of our neighborhoods. We did a lot of homework and reaching out before arriving at a reasonable framework. You can short-term rent your primary residence, a room in your home, a multi-dwelling unit where you live next door, or if you previously got a short-term rental license. We did this to ensure you live next to neighbors and not frat houses. The ordinance is not yet perfect and we plan further tweaks. But overturning it altogether would be a huge mistake. It would create a free-for-all of unlicensed hotels

Our city council has looked to create a climate which helps flourish Asbury Park’s uniqueness and diversity. We are asking you, Asbury Park, to vote “No” on the ballot questions. Let us continue on the journey of making Asbury Park the best, most inclusive city it can be for everyone. We are just getting started.

 

Quinn in LGBT guest column: Vote NO on all three Asbury ballot questions

(Editor’s Note: Amy Quinn is a member of the Asbury Park City Council. She was the guest columnist in this week’s LGBT Rainbow Room column in the triCityNews.)

Luanne Peterpaul has kindly offered me her column this week to communicate about two of my favorite topics: gays and Asbury Park!

Asbury Park has one of the most diverse city councils in Monmouth County, with a majority of women. That’s no accident. Before we sat together up on that council dais we created a ticket and campaigned together, walking door to door and engaging voters about their concerns. We spelled out clear goals and priorities that we would pursue as the council. The voters approved of us and our priorities and elected us by 2 to 1 margins in both 2014 and 2016. We have since worked tirelessly every day to fulfill our promises and raise this city up. 

Asbury Park’s long and rich history with the gay community goes back decades. Whether it was the gay and lesbian bars in the early years, the annual Jersey Pride event, or our local officials risking jail time to marry gays way back in 2004, this city has been not only inclusive of the gay community, but downright welcoming.  

When putting together tickets for City Council, we consciously assembled a group that would represent our various communities, i.e. gay, African American, old time Asbury, music, arts, etc… We only have 5 people to try to do this. Maintaining such diversity around a unified vision is why Asbury Park should vote no on all three municipal ballot questions on November 6th. Because the ballot questions amount to a recall of both our council and its priorities. 

Ballot question #1 proposes dividing the City up into wards. Presumably the Petitioners believe a ward system would benefit the southwest of the city with one council seat beholden only to that part of the city. But a ward system would be disastrous both for the southwest and the city as a whole. The current council takes all parts of the city into consideration before making every decision. A ward system would splinter the basic attitude of the council. Elections would become more divisive than ever, as there’d be little incentive for ward candidates to pursue or declare a united vision for the whole city’s future. 

Ballot question #2 proposes partisan elections. This proposal is so strikingly wrong for our city that I hardly know what to say. Of all the things we need it certainly isn’t local issues getting mixed up with party loyalties and our perennial national bickering. What we have now is candidates for office getting rewarded for agendas that unite rather than divide. Partisan elections would disenfranchise independent voters (nearly 3000 of them) and hand our future over to the two party system. So wrong for Asbury Park. 

Ballot question #3 proposes a complete rejection of the council’s painstaking approach to short-term rentals (commonly arranged through websites such as airbnb). We got out in front of this issue after noticing next to no yearly rentals and our planning department getting weekly calls from out-of-town developers looking to buy up properties for the SOLE purpose of short-term rentals. Our ordinance strikes a careful balance between locals making some extra income and preserving the character of our neighborhoods. 

We did a lot of homework and reached out to many before arriving at a reasonable framework. You can short-term rent your primary residence, a room in your home, a multi-dwelling unit where you live next door, or if you previously got a short-term rental license. We did this to ensure you live next to neighbors and not frat houses. The ordinance is not yet perfect and we plan further tweaks. But overturning it altogether would be a huge mistake. It would create a free-for-all of unlicensed hotels 

Our city council has looked to create a climate which helps flourish Asbury Park’s uniqueness and diversity. That’s why the full city council is asking Asbury Park to vote no on the ballot questions. Let us continue on the journey of making Asbury Park the best, most inclusive city it can be for everyone. We are just getting started. 

 

Threat to Asbury Park! Democratic leadership steps up against divisive and dangerous ballot questions

While Asbury continues to move forward in most ways, there are three ballot questions facing city voters this November that could have catastrophic consequences if passed. If you give a shit about our city, this should alarm you.

One ballot question would divisively divide our little city into three wards, with a council person representing each. Another would change our non-partisan elections to partisan, which is an invitation to machine politics. And the third would repeal the current ban on outside investors coming into Asbury Park to buy up housing for use as airbnb-style short-term rentals — a problem cities around the world are moving to stop.

Two different groups got enough signatures on petitions to get these divisive and dangerous questions on the ballot. Fortunately, civic and political leaders are stepping forward to oppose this typically Asbury Park political chaos. All five council members have announced their opposition. And now so has the leadership of the city’s Democratic organization.

Dem Chair Joe Grillo

Dem Chair Joe Grillo

Democratic Chairperson Joe Grillo, Vice-Chair Angela Ahbez-Anderson and Chair of the Young Democrats Jess Alaimo all say they’re opposing the three ballot questions. Grillo already issued a statement last week against wards, and Ahbez-Anderson and Alaimo plan to take on the partisan and airbnb ballot questions with statements in opposition in the coming weeks.

These are serious people. Grillo and Ahbez-Anderson are experienced members of the Asbury Park Board of Education. (Ahbez-Anderson is president of the board.) Alaimo is an up-and-coming progressive activist. Together they represent the diversity of Asbury Park: gay and straight, African-American and white, female and male.

I’ll let them do their own talking against the three ballot questions because this Publisher sometimes gets a bit out-of-control when I see threats like these to our beloved little city. This week I’ll attempt to be somewhat sane in explaining why these ballot questions would be a disaster for Asbury Park. Here goes.

With the ward ballot question, the city would be split into three wards with a council person representing each. Only the remaining two council members would be elected citywide. It’s madness. The city is way too small for this, and it would rip us apart. You’d have three of five council members just interested in their own little section of the city. I can’t think of any other municipality this small who does this. Meanwhile, every city with a ward system I’ve seen has a strong directly elected Mayor who runs the city day-to-day, and like a President or Governor, theoretically looks out for the interests of the city as a whole. A council with wards serves as the check-and-balance to such a strong mayor as the legislative branch of government. Asbury Park is nothing like that, with a five member council which includes the mayor as an equal member. Our council sets policy and oversees a professional city manager who runs the city. The council should continue to be elected citywide so there’s unity in Asbury Park.

If approved, the ward ballot question would also cut short the four year terms of the current council members, and make them all run next year. More madness. Obviously, this is a recall election in disguise — and that’s what I suspect is the real motivation of the political faction behind this, who’ve been unsuccessful in winning elections the old-fashioned way: by convincing a majority of their fellow citizens to elect their candidates.

The same political faction is behind the ballot question to make our city’s elections partisan. Right now, candidates all run in one column without party affiliation. But in a partisan system, they’d run as Democrats and Republicans. In overwhelming Democratic Asbury Park, the Democrats would always win, which means a handful of Democratic politicians who control the nominating process will control the city — the very definition of machine politics. Talk about disenfranchising. That the Democratic leadership in place right now opposes this tells you something: they’d initially be the power brokers. But they know that partisan elections are bad for the city, and eventually the faction behind this ballot question will start waging bitter and divisive battles for control of the city’s Democratic Party.

Here’s the mysterious part to this whole thing. There’s a five-member “committee of petitioners” listed on the one petition that got both the ward and partisan questions on the ballot. Yet two of the five say they oppose partisan government — even though they’re sponsors of this petition that got it on the ballot! Don’t expect the other three to tell me whether they also oppose the partisan ballot question they sponsored. So where is this partisan nonsense coming from? You got me. So excuse me for doubting the sincerity of those behind all this as partisan machine politics is about as disenfranchising as it gets.

A completely different group got the question on the ballot that would allow outside investors to come into the city, buy up existing rental housing and single-family homes and use them for short-term airbnb-style rentals. This is now a problem around the world, and the city council property responded to it. They enacted an ordinance limiting airbnb-style short term rentals to the homes of residents who live here — which was the original intent of airbnb. The council also grandfathered in all second homeowners who had been doing short-term rentals so they wouldn’t get hurt.

This ballot question would repeal the city’s short-term rental ordinance, which is meant to protect us from investors coming in and converting our housing stock into short-term airbnb-style rentals. The problems with such investor-owned airbnb housing are obvious.

First, it takes existing year-round rentals off the market, making rentals scarcer and thus drives up rents. Anyone concerned with affordable housing should vote no on this ballot question. Same with young residents who want to continue to rent here. The more that investor-owned airbnb housing takes rentals off the market, the less options there will be for current renters to stay.

And as a quality of life issue, residents should be against this ballot question. Outside investors using a house for just airbnb-type rentals takes away what makes a neighborhood — neighbors. Plus, this is an invitation to rowdy behavior as investors seeking a financial return are going to have less of an interest in who uses their short-term rental than a resident, who’d likely want to keep their home in good shape and have good relations with their neighbors.

The ordinance regulating airbnb-type short-term rentals in Asbury Park is now working. Residents and grandfathered-in second homeowners can use their properties for short-term airbnb-style rentals. We hear few complaints from homeowners that the restrictions are excessive. We hear few complaints about bad behavior from neighbors.

I say this ballot question making Asbury wide open to investor-owned airbnb housing only passes if there’s confusion among voters — the only people for it would be those who’d directly benefit from it financially, few if any of whom are Asbury Park voters. It’s inconceivable to me why most any Asbury voter would support this.

So that’s this Publisher’s sane take this week on the potential mess of all three ballot questions getting approved. Asbury voters should vote no on all three, and everyone else who cares about our city should hope they all go down.

Grillo: Wards will bring political instability and chaos back to Asbury

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Joe Grillo wrote this column which appears in the Oct. 4 issue of triCityNews. Grillo is the chairperson of the Asbury Park Democratic Organization.)

We know how important these midterm elections are for our country, our state and our region. We have the opportunity to vote in a Democratic bulwark against a White House whose disposition and politics build walls to further divide us. As Democratic municipal chair in Asbury Park, I’m committed to electing Democrats up and down the line to resist Trumpism in all of its forms.

But I’m also asking Asbury Park to fight back locally against permanent divisions that threaten us via three questions for city voters on this year’s ballot. I’m voting no on all three. But I’m most concerned with Municipal Question No.1, which looks to dissolve the current city council and draw up wards each represented by a single councilperson who would run in another (another!) city wide council election next year.

A vote for Municipal Question No. 1 is a vote to bring the political instability and chaos of the past back into Asbury Park.

In theory, the arguments for a ward system are supremely valid, and rooted in genuine and tragically real grievances. It goes like this: With the influx of new residents, rising living costs, and seemingly unfettered gentrification, the historically African-American quadrant in the southwest of the city is shrinking, its community is slowly being pushed out and thus, the argument goes, its political voice must be protected, conserved, and empowered by creating wards. In theory, a ward system would provide institutional representative equity by forcing the city to have a seat on the council just for that quadrant. It’s a valid argument. But creating wards does nothing to address the grievances that threaten the west side, and would create permanent divisions in a city struggling to create unity.

The reality is this: when you look at cities throughout New Jersey, wards become like little fiefdoms. Like Mafia territories. Mini-political bosses emerge. And residents are compelled to kiss the boss’s ring in order to get things done.

You want that pothole fixed? Go see your ward councilman. And, be nice, because if you get on their bad side, good luck with that pothole.

Because other ward councilpersons don’t represent your particular ward, they are less apt to concern themselves with your problems. Over time, wards create permanent divisions between different neighborhoods. Wards are the exact opposite of what we are trying to accomplish in Asbury Park, which is political unity, civic empowerment and social equity.

The second reason I am voting no is because there has always been council representation from the southwest. On every single winning ticket in the past two generations, whether it was Mayor Butch Saunders, Mayor Kevin Sanders, Mayor Myra Campbell or Councilwoman Yvonne Clayton.

I’ll go even further: a ticket without African-American representation from the southwest cannot, and should not, win in Asbury Park. Period.

So let’s keep it real – this is essentially a recall election. And the reason the petitioners are looking to recall the current city council is not because there isn’t enough “west side” representation on the council – it’s because Yvonne Clayton and Jesse Kendle don’t take orders from the petitioners’ small clique, who, in turn, take orders from power bases outside of the city and the county.

The third reason I am voting No is that neither Asbury Park, nor the petitioners, have control over how these wards are going to be drawn up. The county draws up those lines. Wards are drawn based on voter population. Because of low voter turnout in the southwest over the years, its proposed ward will surely also encompass other parts of the city. What happens if the county draws up a ward that includes both the southwest quadrant and parts of the northwest quadrant? How about a south ward that encompasses both the downtown central business district and the southwest quadrant? Not only is that possible, it’s probable. There is absolutely no guarantee that the petitioners looking for permanent representation from a shrinking demographic will get that with a ward system — we have little to no control over how these wards are drawn up.

The final and most important reason I’m voting no is because creating wards does not address or resolve the specific grievances that the petitioners, and the rest of us, are concerned about: comprehensive affordable housing, equitable workforce development, common-sense controls on unfettered gentrification and greater representation from people of color on the city’s numerous committees, boards and commissions.

I support representative equity, which is what a ward system attempts to address but fails miserably. Creating wards does not create equity. Not by burning the whole house down. The way to do it is to support city council tickets that best reflect our growing diversity and then push those representatives to go deeper in identifying and resolving the city’s clear, present and urgent issues of inequity.

These municipal questions are an attempted power grab. Plain and simple.

As both Americans, and as residents of one of the most progressive small cities in America, I believe that we are all tired of political divisions. We’ve come a long way in Asbury Park, and still have a long way to go. But we go it together, not divided.

Instead of building more walls to divide us, let’s keep Asbury Park united.

Vote “NO” on Municipal Question No. 1.

Making Asbury ungovernable: Ripping apart a proposal that would rip our city apart

The following is the Message from the Publisher that appeared in the Sept. 27 issue of triCityNews:

If you’re an Asbury Park resident — or anyone who’s interested in our city — sit back and listen to a tale of typical political idiocy that routinely plagues our tiny metropolis. This week I rip apart a proposal that would rip Asbury apart.

A political faction that can’t win an election collected enough signatures on a petition to get a question on the November ballot that’s as divisive as it gets. I don’t think most people even understood what they were signing.

Asbury Park has five council members (the mayor is a member of council) who represent the whole city. The ballot question would divide our city into three wards with one council member each. Only the remaining two council members would be elected citywide. It’s crazy.

How divisive can you get? Talk about an ungovernable city. Each ward council person will only be interested in their own little section of Asbury Park, trying to get reelected in it, and not care about the rest of the city. This would tear us apart.

Oh, and did I mention that if it passes, the five-member council is dissolved and they all have to face election next year? That’s the real motivation here. This is a recall election in disguise. Those pushing this include members of the now defunct A-Team political organization that lost 13 of the 13 council seats they contested in the last three elections. How about just gaining power the old fashioned way? Like by winning an election fair and square.

A ward system is absurd for Asbury Park. We’re way too small. Large cities have wards — in such cities Asbury Park could be a ward itself. Wards are appropriate for cities with hundreds of thousands of people. You can’t expect a five member city council to represent that many constituents. So you divide up a much larger city into wards.

In addition, a ward type system is almost always found with a directly-elected powerful mayor running a city day-to-day. Like Bill de Blasio in New York. Or Cory Booker when he was mayor of Newark. That type of mayor is similar to a President or Governor. They look out for the whole city. A city council with wards acts like the legislative branch.

That’s not even close to what we have in Asbury Park. We have a five member council elected citywide that sets policy. Our city manager runs the city day-to-day. That’s completely appropriate for Asbury Park.

I certainly don’t want my own ward councilperson. I live in northeast Asbury Park, and we’re doing just fine here, thank you. In contrast, the southwest quadrant of our city faces tremendous challenges — and I want every member of council focused on that section of the city as a top priority. With this ward proposal, two of the five council members’ attention will automatically be directed away from the southwest (assuming that section of the city gets its own ward, as proponents are expecting). In fact, those two other ward council members are supposed to be focusing on their own wards, not the southwest. That’s how the system is supposed to work.

God, this is so stupid. Our city is small enough where you can reach a council member with a problem. Residents call Mayor John Moor all the time and he responds. That’s one reason why he’s running unopposed this year. Councilman Jesse Kendle is also running and is expected to win. They would get new four year terms.

If passed, the ward ballot question will cut short their four year terms after a year, and force both to run again next year. It will also cut short the four year terms of the three councilwomen — Yvonne Clayton, Amy Quinn and Eileen Chapman — and force them to run next year. Total chaos. Some of our council members may find themselves in the same ward, and they just won’t run again as they’re all politically aligned.

That’s what the organizers of this thing are after. Chaos, so they can finally win an election. Excuse me for doubting their sincerity. The petition that got this ward question on the ballot also included a second question, now also on the ballot, to switch our council elections from non-partisan, where all candidates run without party affiliation, to partisan where candidates run as Democrats or Republicans.

In overwhelmingly Democratic Asbury Park, whoever gets the Democratic Party nomination will win. Thus whoever controls the Asbury Park Democratic Party will control the city — the very definition of machine politics. It doesn’t get much more disenfranchising than that. Even current Asbury Democratic Party Chairman Joe Grillo says it’s nuts. But those behind these two ballot questions obviously see a fight to control the Democratic Party as their best ticket to power, since gaining it the old-fashioned way — again, by winning an election fair and square — hasn’t worked out.

There is a five member “Committee of Petitioners” listed on the petition that got both the ward and partisan questions on the November ballot. Interestingly, two of the five Committee of Petitioners say they’re against partisan government, even though they were sponsors of the petition that placed it on the ballot! I’ve yet to hear from the other three if they support partisan government. I suspect I won’t. So just where is this coming from?

The only way the ward and partisan questions pass is if there’s confusion on the ballot itself, as the wording on this stuff can get pretty convoluted. Hopefully, people will just vote no and we can move on from this typically Asbury threat of political chaos.

Otherwise, our city will rip itself apart with wards, while partisan machine politics will increase the risks of corruption, infuriate people who are disenfranchised and trigger brutal fights to control the local Democratic Party.

Of course, the triCityNews wins either way. If these questions pass, man will we have a ton to write about!

 

 

Asbury coup attempt: Ballot question would force new elections, bring machine politics to city

(NOTE: This commentary from triCityNews Publisher Dan Jacobson appeared in the Aug 9 edition of the paper. Since then, the Asbury Park city clerk announced that the ballot question will go forward in November.)

Hey, if you can’t win an election the old fashion way — by earning the trust of a majority of your fellow citizens — why not just throw the system into chaos, and then rig it to win?

And that’s exactly what a faction who oppose the city council want to do. It appears they’ll have enough signatures on a petition — you only need 273 — to put a question on Asbury’s November ballot that amounts to a mini coup d’etat.

Their ballot question would dissolve the current five member council, cut short their terms and force all five to run again next year. Keep in mind that in the last two elections, those council members won big mandates citywide in landslide victories.

Here’s the outrageous part: The ballot question would change our non-partisan system of government to a partisan one, where a handful of people in the Democratic Party will decide who gets the party’s nomination — and thus wins in our overwhelmingly Democratic city. Right now in Asbury Park, all council candidates run in one column without party affiliation. In a partisan system, you’d have Democrats and Republicans on the ballot.

Coup target: Mayor John Moor

Coup target: Mayor John Moor

These coup plotters actually want to establish machine politics in Asbury Park. Normally, the battle is to get rid of that. Opponents of the council can’t win with the level playing field of non-partisan elections. Instead, they want a partisan system where they could move to take control of the Democratic Party — and thus control who wins elections in Democratic Asbury Park. Even worse, those elected would be beholden to the machine that nominated them.

The coup plotters behind this say they want to enfranchise people. Bullshit. It doesn’t get much more disenfranchising than machine politics where a few party leaders, or just one chairperson, hold the power.

Even Joe Grillo, the current chairman of the Asbury Park Democratic Party, thinks this is nuts.

“Not only do I think that Asbury Park should be non-partisan, but I think all municipalities should be non-partisan,” Grillo said.

The city actually elected a charter study commission to recommend the best form of government for Asbury Park. After an exhaustive study and a ton of public meetings, voters overwhelmingly approved the current non-partisan system the commission recommended. That was only four years ago! Now the coup plotters want to overturn that.

Our open non-partisan system is the opposite of machine politics. All five council seats are elected citywide. No party machine dictates who wins or who has a leg up with a Democratic nomination. Anyone can run, with an equal shot at winning. All candidates run in one column without any party affiliation.

If there’s a crowded field of candidates, and no one gets over 50 percent of the vote for a seat, a second run-off election is held of the top two finishers. That guarantees every winner eventually gets the mandate of a majority vote. That’s important. By requiring all winners to get a majority vote, you unify a city like Asbury Park. It ensures that candidates seek support citywide.

Part of the coup attempt on the November ballot is to create three wards, each represented by a council person. So three of five council members would each represent a third of the city. Yeah, that sounds really unifying. The coup plotters will say that switching to three wards ensures that every section of the city, in particular the southwest, will have a representative. I’ll grant that’s a valid point — when made by someone without a hidden agenda.

But this isn’t about wards — otherwise switching to the machine politics of partisan government wouldn’t be a part of this. Partisan government is the real goal of someone, or some faction, behind this nonsense. Establishing a partisan political machine isn’t about enfranchising the people — it’s about disenfranchising them, by putting power in the hands of a few. It’s about finding a way to take power when you can’t do it with a fair vote on a level playing field.

Meanwhile, the immediate aim of the coup plotters is to dissolve the city council and force new elections, which would happen under their ballot initiative.

That means popular Mayor John Moor, who is favored to win a four year term this coming November, would be forced to run again a year later. Same with his running mate, Councilman Jesse Kendle, who’s up this year.

Meanwhile, the four year terms of the three councilwomen — Amy Quinn, Yvonne Clayton and Eileen Chapman — would be cut short, and they’d run again next year. It’s also possible two or three of these councilwomen would be in the same ward, meaning that one or more won’t be able to run. The coup plotters would love that. Yup, that’s really enfranchising too.

This has nothing to do with empowering sections of the city, as proponents hypocritically claim. This is the opposite. This is a game to reverse the last two elections which the council won by 2-1 margins — and to establish a political machine to control our city government and take power away from the people in every section of Asbury Park.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seeds of an upset? Ex-Asbury Councilman takes on Dem establishment

Seeds of an upset? Ex-Asbury Councilman takes on Dem establishment

(Note from triCityNews Publisher Dan Jacobson: The following is my Message from the Publisher in our Mar. 8 issue.  We never post content from the paper on-line — unless it’s of critical public interest. That’s the case here.)

Now this could get interesting.

As this Publisher expected, the Monmouth County Democrats at their mini-Convention on Saturday endorsed a boring establishment candidate — a carpetbagger who just moved up here from Virginia — to run against Republican Congressman Chris Smith.

Fiery progressive Jim Keady, a former Asbury Park Councilman, came up short. Yet he still showed significant support among the delegates. Now he will take on the machine by running in the June Democratic primary against organization-backed candidate Josh Welle, a mutant who’s decided this is his time to be a Congressman.

(Hilariously, this Publisher was barred by the Monmouth County Democratic Chairman from voting at the mini-Convention, even though I was eligible to do so as a former Democratic Assemblyman back in 1990-91. Apparently, I haven’t been a loyal enough Democrat, as — shocking! — I’ve publicly endorsed some Republicans in these pages, while skewering some assholes who are Democrats. Hey, now I know how the Bernie Sanders people felt!)

Although conventional wisdom says Smith is unbeatable in this Republican district, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee added it to its list of targeted races. For there is an outside shot to win.

At least for now, I am a Democrat in good standing — as the Monmouth County Democratic Party by-laws would describe me since I voted in the last two Democratic primaries over my revulsion at our Jackass-in-Chief. In reality, though, I’m a right-of-center voter. I tend to vote a bit more Republican.

Not now. I’m not voting for any Republicans. We need at least one house of Congress in Democratic hands to investigate Trump and expose him for the fraud he is. The end game for this voter is for Trump not to be on the ballot again, so people like me can vote for a Republican if we so choose. In other words, so the country has a sane choice.

That means contesting every seat in the House of Representatives with even a remote chance for the Democrats. That now includes Chris Smith’s seat. On social issue, I agree with Keady on everything, but on economic issues we part ways. He was a Bernie Sanders guy before people around here even knew who Bernie Sanders was. I think all that left-wing shit they espouse — while wonderful if it could work — is economic nonsense. Just ask the next Venezuelan you meet.

But that’s not important now. It’s all about stopping Trump. And Keady is clearly the best choice for this long-shot race precisely because he is a Bernie Sanders progressive. The best way to beat Smith is for an unprecedented turnout among Democrats. Keady can fire them up. Meanwhile, organization-backed candidate/carpetbagger Josh Welle says flat out that his strategy is to win over moderates and Republicans. I say it won’t work. Welle may be a Navy veteran — thank you for your service — but he’s a pretty lackluster campaigner. Seems like a typical ambitious politician to me, who’s typically uninspiring. Too canned.

Keady is a total animal who’s been consumed with progressive social justice issues since I first met him almost 15 years ago. He’s the real deal. By running in the primary, Keady will now get to put his theory to the test about his ability to uniquely boost Democratic turnout.

In New Jersey, it is extremely rare to win a primary without party organization backing. Josh Welle will now appear in the “organization” column on the Democratic primary ballot. The few people who bother to vote in such primaries blindly go down the organization column, as there’s rarely a serious challenger.

Keady, though, has some things going for him. This is a Republican district which means there’s even less Democrats there than usual. The turnout will be particularly light with no other high profile Democratic primary fights on the ballot, like for President or Governor. Keady can potentially reach this relatively small number of voters. And as a rule, the relatively few Democrats in a heavily Republican area like this tend to be the more hard-core believers in the party.

A Bernie Sanders progressive, running against a triangulating moderate like Josh Welle, can appeal to those true believing Democrats who’d vote in a primary. I’m not saying Keady can pull it off. Right now, it’s likely he won’t.

But it’s also not impossible. In fact, I’ve always thought Keady’s path to victory — and flipping this seat for the Dems — is to indeed lose the Monmouth Democratic Party convention, and then beat the party organization in a stunning primary upset.

That would be a big deal in the political community in the state, and the national progressive movement. That will attract Jim Keady a lot more attention and support than just winning the party endorsement and cruising though the primary. Local supporters will be even more fired up. In other words, if Keady’s theory is right that his brand of progressive politics can trigger an epic Dem turnout in this district, he has the chance to prove it by winning a huge upset in the Democratic primary.

keady sized for insert foto overhearAfter Keady lost the Monmouth Convention he was exhausted and a bit dispirited about continuing. But at a long-planned small-dollar fundraiser that night in Western Monmouth his supporters at right (or shown above if reading on a phone) wouldn’t hear of him backing out. These lefties — interestingly, the photo of the event shows they were an older crowd, with pretty much everyone over 50 and many older than that —totally reenergized Keady and got him back on track. It’s like the wise elders stepped in after his convention setback. I’d normally think of Keady’s progressive supporters as newly-energized young people. It’s interesting to see the age range.

And also the political range, which now includes this politically right-of-center Publisher — who is persona non-grata at Monmouth County Democratic Conventions in violation of the organization’s own by-laws. What a bunch of idiots. My one vote that day wouldn’t have made a difference. You’d think the response of Democratic Chairman David Brown would have been to say “Glad to see you back” instead of barring me for publicly endorsing a Republican. That I’m also a vocal supporter of Keady probably didn’t help.

Of course, I also endorse lots of Democrats and promote them, as well as social causes totally in sync with the party. Over the past 20 years, I’ve built a bit of a voice with this crazy paper, which I hope will be the deciding factor in beating the idiotic Monmouth Democratic machine in Keady’s primary.