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.




Will Monmouth Democrats tolerate this? Welle deletes offensive tweet as Zipprich endorses him

welle original screen shot condensed(Note from triCityNews Publisher Dan Jacobson: The following is my Message from the Publisher in our Feb. 22 issue.  We never post content from the paper on-line — unless it’s of critical public interest. That’s the case here.)

“Wanna use an automatic weapon? Join the Marines,” tweeted a Congressional candidate after the tragic school shooting in Florida while retweeting a New York Times story about the tragedy.

A right-wing wacko running against, say, Speaker Paul Ryan in a Congressional Republican primary?

Wrong. This is actually a Democrat, one of the candidates seeking the Monmouth County Democratic nomination to run against Republican Congressman Chris Smith, whose district the national Democrats just announced they are targeting.

That Democrat is Josh Welle. And he’s a jerk off. This fraud is acting like he’s some conservative Democrat to win over Republicans in a very difficult race. Welle has come out of nowhere, a mystery man who just moved up here from Virginia because this political mutant decided it’s now his time to run for Congress.

Tell you what. I’m politically right-of-center, who’s voted for more Republicans than Democrats over the years, and Josh Welle is sure not convincing me. I live in Asbury Park, just outside of Chris Smith’s district. But if I lived across Deal Lake in Ocean Township, I would never pull the lever for this clown after his offensive and inappropriate automatic weapons tweet, which he’s since taken down. I’d simply not vote for either candidate, even though I’m ready to vote straight Democratic this year.

I’m utterly disgusted by Donald Trump. And we need a Democratic House of Representatives to investigate this fraud to truly expose him to the American people for what he is. The end goal, for this voter, is for Trump not to be on the ballot again, so people like me can vote for a normal Republican if we so choose — in other words, so the country has a sane choice. In the meantime, there must be a Democratic House as a check on Trump’s power.

That means contesting every Republican House seat where there’s even an outside chance of victory, including Chris Smith’s now that national Democrats are targeting it — although it’s still an almost impossible race for Democrats to win. The question today is whether the Monmouth County Democrats will go along with Welle’s bullshit and nominate him.

I’m backing former Asbury Park Councilman Jim Keady for the nomination, who, by the way, I disagree with on most issues, as he’s from the Progressive wing of the Democratic Party. He’s the real Bernie Sanders deal, spouting off leftist economic nonsense long before anyone around here ever heard of the Socialist from Vermont. This newspaper even opposed Keady in his two runs for Asbury Council. Still, I’ve always liked Jim personally and have watched him mature into someone, if I dare say it, I actually respect.

The Democrats best shot against Chris Smith is to nominate a known figure from the progressive wing of the party like Keady to activate their most passionate base, especially newly-energized young people. You only beat Smith with a record Democratic turnout in his district. Meanwhile, Josh Welle is acting like some conservative Democrat in a red state Congressional race thousands of miles away. Because he was in the military and tries to talk like a Republican, Welle thinks he can win Republican votes. He’s a fool. It won’t work here. Welle ought to have stayed down in Virginia, spared us his ego and pursued his ambitions there.

Here’s the problem with Josh Welle. If this right-of-center voter won’t support him in the wake of his offensive gun comment, just imagine what a mainstream liberal or progressive Bernie Sanders Democrat will do. They’ll abandon him and get involved in the two highly competitive Congressional races just north of here where the Democrats could flip the seats. In the effort to push back against Trump, that would in fact be the right thing to do. Josh Welle and his ego are a waste of time.

What’s so offensive about Welle’s automatic weapons comments is that they’re meant to be a dog whistle to conservatives and NRA members to show he’s not that bad for a Democrat, in that he can talk the slang of those who are OK with powerful weapons and support the military. In the wake of the Florida school shooting, his tweet with its bogus macho tone about firearms and the military is offensive, gross and inappropriate. There’s just been a horrific school shooting and this asshole is trying to use it for bullshit political reasons. Welle should get out of the race.

Welle touts his military background, saying on his website that he led missions in Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf and east Asia for the Navy. Although it’s not clear what type of missions he led, I’ll give him the benefit of assuming they were in actual combat or potentially dangerous situations.

But while Welle may have been brave in uniform, he’s a political coward here on the ground in Monmouth County. If he had any balls, he’d put his offensive tweet back up and stand behind it. Or he’ll apologize and take the heat for it, knowing that it would jeopardize his political ambitions. He’ll do neither. Coward.

On top of all that, Welle’s first endorsement last week by a Democratic leader in our area was from Red Bank Democratic Chairman Ed Zipprich, whom this Publisher has repeatedly hammered for his antics as both party leader and a Councilman.

In Red Bank, they can’t stand Zipprich from all sides, as he’s done more than anyone else to rip that town apart. As a party leader he’s also a disgrace. Last year we called him out for shitting on Democratic Mayor Pat Menna. Zipprich issued a late night press release using an old quote out of context without Menna’s consent to make it sound like the Mayor was with Zipprich and his idiot council allies on the controversial parking garage issue. He tried to trap Menna, but the mayor publicly rebuked Zipprich in these pages for it.

If the Democrats follow the likes of Ed Zipprich and nominate Welle, Jim Keady should absolutely run in the primary. Why not? Welle can’t beat Smith anyway, especially after his gun comment (and another offensive moment at a forum when he snapped at a woman that it’s “none of your business” after she legitimately questioned where Welle really lives).

If Keady pulls off a primary victory, he’ll only further burnish his credentials nationally with the progressive wing of the party and fire them up even more, which just increases the odds of victory in this especially tough district. And should he lose the Democratic primary, he’ll at least expose Welle to the left as a pandering embarrassment, which will really ensure he can’t beat Smith — and Monmouth County will be rid of this carpetbagger who’ll go back to Virginia. That sounds like a win-win to me.

God, that automatic weapons tweet from Welle fired me up. Disgusted me, quite frankly. I’m so sick of the enablers of Donald Trump, including the NRA. After this particularly upsetting Florida shooting, to see a Democratic candidate try to talk in such a bullshit macho way about firearms and the Marines to make him sound palatable to Trump enablers in order to neutralize them gets me sick.

People who meet this Publisher for the first time are surprised at how calm and easy-going I am compared to my fiery rhetoric in these pages. The reason is simple. This column is therapy. When I’m furious, like I am about this Josh Welle jerkoff, I get it all out in my writing, which I do pre-dawn.

So, yes, I feel much better now, thank you. I can go about my day in peace.

At least until I hear some other jackass comment from some other jerkoff politician.



No TV on Tuesday! Vote in AP Board of Ed race for Joe Grillo and his running mates

No TV on Tuesday! Vote in AP Board of Ed race for Joe Grillo and his running mates

An election in April? With polls open from noon to 8 pm?

Yup, welcome to the Asbury Park Board of Education. It’s the last vestige of wackiness in Asbury Park, and hopefully we can end that distinction this Tuesday, April 25.

There’s an excellent ticket running for the Board — Joe Grillo (above), Eric Pinckney and Carol Jones. Vote for them on Tuesday.

Grillo is, of course, a liberal voice with his twice-a-month column in the triCityNews. He may also be the most open-minded person in Asbury Park, willing to talk and listen to anyone and everyone. The guy brings people together. He’s a civic leader and small business owner. Grillo is the Chairman of the Asbury Park Democratic Party, as well as a member of the city’s Zoning Board. He’s also the development director for the New Jersey Audubon Society, one of the leading environmental groups in the state.

grillo lawn sign SCALEDPut an alert on your phone. Put notes all over your refrigerator. Whatever it takes. Make sure you get out and vote for Grillo and his running mates Pinckney and Jones on Tuesday. (Did I say polls are open from noon to 8 pm?) These Board of Education elections can be decided by a handful of votes as usually no one turns out. Write down their names as everyone is in one column on the ballot, but all the candidates are mixed together, without a designation of who’s running together.

Grillo’s running mates are also of distinction. Eric Pinckney is a journalist, as well as a leader in the LGBT community. Carol Jones worked for decades in the Asbury school system as a nurse before retiring. She’s a knowledgable incumbent on the Board of Education.

The ticket is also reflective of the diversity of our city: African-American and white, gay and straight, male and female.

If everyone who knows and likes these three gets out to vote, they will win hands down. Don’t blow it and forget to vote because you got sucked into some daytime television. That’s no excuse.


On the brink in Asbury Park: A-Team driving toward Council majority, putting city in uncharted territory

On the brink in Asbury Park: A-Team driving toward Council majority, putting city in uncharted territory

(Note from triCityNews Publisher Dan Jacobson: The following commentary written by me appeared in our November 3 issue. We never post content from the paper on-line — unless it’s of critical public interest. That’s certainly the case here.)

So your political organization gets soundly beaten twice, the last time by a 2-1 margin.

What do you do?

The answer is easy: Change your name.

That’s the story of the A-Team slate in this council election. With Asbury Park voters distracted by a train wreck of a Presidential race, they don’t realize that a majority of city council seats are up for grabs on Tuesday. Nor do most know that A-Team candidates are running under a new name this year — and they’re poised to win control of City Hall.

A shift to A-Team control puts us in uncharted territory. In the past two elections, all their council candidates were rejected by voters — people sensed that if they ran the city the way they conducted their campaigns we’ll have complete chaos. These guys have absolutely no idea what they’re doing.

The relative political stability this city has enjoyed for the past 15 years is now taken completely for granted. Political stability may be the second biggest factor in Asbury Park’s remarkable comeback, after the influence of this newspaper. People forget how crazy past city councils could be. Fortunately, through the efforts of the triCityNews, and tons of other concerned citizens throughout the city, the past few elections have gone the right way — but it’s been a hell of an effort and at times a very close call.

So if Asbury Park wakes up the day after this election with the A-Team suddenly in control, don’t say this newspaper didn’t warn you. Of course, we’ll start with a clean slate with them. We’ll judge them on what they actually do. But I say it will be chaos, with legal problems left and right.

The incumbent council members up for election are Amy Quinn, Yvonne Clayton and Eileen Chapman — three progressive, pragmatic and intelligent women. Probably the best council slate I’ve seen in following Asbury politics for over 30 years. Their two council allies — Mayor John Moor and Councilman Jesse Kendle — face reelection in two years.

The A-Team candidates this year are Kenneth Saunders, Jr., who ran on the A-Team council slate in 2014, Stephen Williams, who ran on the A-Team Board of Education slate in 2014, and Dan Harris who ran on the A-Team council slate in 2013.

Hey, I didn’t tell them to run with that organization, yet they’re pissed that I’m calling them the A-Team candidates. They’d rather we all forget. You shouldn’t. This year they’re running under the slogan Citizens for Asbury Park.

Of course, with the A-Team being the A-Team their campaign tried to pull a fast one with that new name. Asbury Park has non-partisan elections, which means you don’t run under a party banner and the name you select to appear on the ballot can’t have a party designation.

In overwhelmingly Democratic Asbury Park, the A-Team in the past two elections have sent out mailers and put up lawn signs falsely making it sound like they’re the candidates of the Democratic Party, which they’re not. Just another one of their underhanded moves in our non-partisan elections. So when it came time to select a new name to put on the ballot this year, they submitted the designation “Democrats for Asbury Park” at the last minute. That’s illegal — what a shock — and just before the city clerk drew the ballot positions for the candidates, they had to change it to “Citizens for Asbury Park.”

My biggest problem with the A-Team is well known, and I’ve been vocal about it since their first run in 2013 — their out-of-control abuse of the absentee ballot system demonstrates to me their lack of restraint with the law. Their campaigns in both 2013 and 2014 literally took custody and control of hundreds of absentee ballots — now known as vote by mail ballots — getting them from the county clerk and bringing them to voters.

In what democracy does a political campaign take control of the ballots? It was crazy. Sure enough, the bipartisan Board of Elections — made up of two Democrats and two Republicans — barred the counting of over 300 of these ballots in each of the last two elections, and they were upheld by a Superior Court Judge both times. Appeals by the A-Team went nowhere.

Like they always do, the A-Team cried racism. They’re like Donald Trump saying everything is rigged when things don’t go his way. But the abuse of these ballots was so bad in Asbury Park that it was a major reason the Democratic-controlled state Senate and Assembly in Trenton voted unanimously — 120 Democrats and Republicans — to dramatically tighten the law so the A-Team could never abuse the absentee ballot process again. When do Democrats and Republicans unanimously agree on anything?

I guess all 120 legislators are racists, if you go by A-Team thinking. The Governor signed the law in 2015 so this year you don’t see the spectacle of A-Team campaign operatives bringing hundreds of vote by mail ballots directly to voters’ doors — an invitation to fraud and coercion that the law never intended.

Sure enough, when I looked at the rejected and unopened A-Team ballots from the 2014 elections, I saw about 70 with my own eyes where the signature of the person filling out the ballot didn’t even come close to matching the signature of the real voter on file with the county. In other words, somebody in the A-Team campaign committed blatant ballot fraud.

Yet the A-Team candidates ignore what was done in their name. They still don’t get it. And this inability to restrain their campaign from ill-advised activity that obviously risks legal trouble — not to mention taint a whole election if it were closer — shows the risk of putting them in office. That’s my big problem with them. I don’t care if they’re white, black, purple, green or polka-dotted. I just don’t think they know what the hell they’re doing.

It’s a shame. Because they actually have valuable insights about the city they could bring into the government, particularly about improving the west side. But that’s more than offset by the antics of their past campaigns.

In fact, I saw a video recently released by Dan Harris, one of the A-Team candidates this year, during which he still complains about the rejection of those vote-by-mail ballots. Harris also was the plaintiff in the lawsuit in the first A-Team election trying to get the rejected A-Team ballots opened. That’s my problem with him. He still doesn’t get it.

Here’s the story: What their campaign would do is approach a voter, tell them they could bring them a ballot and have that voter fill out the form requesting a ballot — but leave blank where you designate the person who’d bring the ballot to you. The A-Team would later fill in that name with one of their operatives — which I say is illegal right there. The law was designed for shut-ins who need someone to bring them a a ballot. Not for a campaign to take custody and control of hundreds of ballots and bring them to voters. It was crazy.

For obvious reasons — like potential fraud and coercion — I say a voter can’t let someone else designate who will bring them a ballot by leaving part of their ballot application blank. And ultimately that’s why no Judge was ever going to let the A-Team have those ballots counted. Yet A-Team candidates — including the three running this year — refuse to accept there was something wrong with what their campaign was doing. Dan Harris in particular continues to defend it to this day, even though the state law was changed to finally settle the matter.

And there’s more. In the 2014 election, when this year’s A-Team candidates Saunders and Williams were on the A-Team slate, their mayoral candidate actually sent out a mailing the weekend before the election with a completely made up statement from U.S. Senator Cory Booker that Booker was supporting him — which the Senator quickly took to Twitter to condemn. Fortunately, both this Publisher and even the idiots at the Asbury Park Press were able to use social media to get the story out — and again demonstrate the lack of restraint by the A-Team. That was the year voters rejected their council candidates by a 2-1 margin.

But the A-Team candidates running this year didn’t disavow the leader of their ticket or ever criticize him for that bullshit with Cory Booker. And they will never accept that perhaps their decision to join that ticket, with a candidate like that leading it, is a poor reflection on them.

A-Team mailer from 2014 with made-up Booker endorsement

Last minute A-Team mailer from 2014 with made-up Booker endorsement (click to enlarge)

So are they suddenly different this year? It sure didn’t look that way from the very beginning when they illegally tried to use the name “Democrats for Asbury Park” as their ballot slogan in this non-partisan election.

I will give them credit for one thing — since their attempted bullshit with that ballot slogan a couple months ago, they and their campaign have not done anything underhanded or ethically-challenged in past A-Team fashion. Of course, after this paper hits the streets I won’t be shocked if their campaign puts out lawn signs and/or campaign literature a day or two before the election falsely making it sound like they’re the Democratic candidates in this non-partisan race, just as the A-Team campaign has done in the past two council races.

Hey, just telling it like it is. After all, we’re the triCityNews. We’re here to help.

Wake up Asbury Park! A-Team candidates on Board of Education ballot this year

Last year, Asbury voters decisively rejected the A-Team slate for Mayor and Council by a landslide 2-1 margin. The repudiation was throughout the city. And it was well deserved. That crew is completely out of control.

Yet on the same ballot, two out of three A-Team candidates for the Board of Education won, giving the A-Team majority control of that board. No wonder it’s completely dysfunctional.

How could they win? It’s simple.

Board of Education candidates don’t have slate designations next to their names. So unlike the mayor and council race, voters didn’t know who was from the A-Team and who wasn’t. If they had, the A-Team board of ed candidates would have been trounced last year by margins as large as their running mates for mayor and council. Instead, they won a majority that now controls the Board of Education.

So don’t be asleep on Tuesday, November 3. There are three A-Team candidates running for Board of Education. Write down their names, and vote against them: Christian Hall, Kenneth Saunders, Jr. and Sheila Etienne.

Their victory — and continued control of the Board of Education — depends on voters not knowing their affiliations and not knowing they’re running. That’s how they won last year. The electorate obviously doesn’t want this group in office, as evidenced by the A-Team’s landslide defeat in the race for mayor and council. [And their defeat in the council race the year before that, for that matter.]

Board of Education candidate Saunders was one of the A-Team council candidates who was defeated last year. That should automatically disqualify him from holding office. Hall is one of their leaders on the Board of Education. I’m not familiar with Etienne, but I’m not impressed with the political company she keeps.

There are only three candidates running against the A-Team seeking the three Board of Education seats. I’m not going to even confuse you with their names. But they seem normal. Well, at least normal as far as Asbury Park standards. I’ll leave it at that. Vote for them.

My problem with the A-Team? Where should I start?

Their campaign violated election law in 2013 and 2014 in how they took custody and control of hundreds of vote by mail ballots through the use of so-called messengers who were A-Team supporters and operatives. A Monmouth County Superior Court Judge agreed with me in each of those two elections, and he refused to open about 300 ballots controlled by their campaign in those years.

It gets even worse. I went out to Freehold and looked at rejected unopened vote by mail ballots controlled by the A-Team from last year’s election and about 70 of them were clearly fraudulent. The signatures of the person completing the ballot and claiming to be the voter clearly did not match the real voter’s signature in the voter registration records. It was absurd. Actually, it was an outrage. What is this? Jersey City in 1933?

Who committed that crime? I don’t know. But I know that someone did it in the name of the A-Team — such as for Saunders last year who now seeks reelection to the Board of Education. Saying you didn’t know about it isn’t good enough. All A-Team candidates should be held responsible for these excesses.

The conduct of the A-Team campaign with these messenger ballots was one reason the state Senate and Assembly voted unanimously [meaning all Demcrats and Republicans from all corners of the state] to change the law to stop campaigns from taking custody and control of large numbers of ballots like the A-Team would do it. As a result, they won’t have that advantage this year. Thank God.

I could go on about the A-Team. Like their completely falsified endorsement by Senator Cory Booker of their mayoral candidate just before last year’s election. Fortunately, this blog was here to blow the whistle on that.

Yeah, I can hear it now. I’m a racist because I oppose the A-Team. That’s all they can say when people criticize them. And I guess so are all the Asbury Park voters — from all over the city — who decisively rejected the A-Team last year in the mayor and council race. They must all be racists too. What else could they be?

Those reading this post should go do their civic duty and defeat the A-Team candidates for Board of Education — Christian Hall, Kenneth Saunders and Sheila Etienne.

Mary Pat Angelini is a hypocrite. Dump her on Election Day, Nov. 3

Mary Pat Angelini is a hypocrite. Dump her on Election Day, Nov. 3

It’s our rule not to publish content from the triCityNews on-line. It’s what every other newspaper did in destroying themselves. We’re not idiots. But sometimes, when the public interest demands it, we’ll break that rule. That’s the case with my Publisher’s Message scheduled to appear on Thursday — two days after the election. But I can’t stand the idea of voters not seeing it before they vote on Tuesday. So I publish a version below. Here’s your advance reading of my commentary: 

This story is about one of the biggest hypocrites in Monmouth County — long-time Republican Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini. The woman is completely full of shit. It’s unbelievable.

Yes, of course, she’s so nice in person. Hell, she even wrote me a lovely note when my dog died. That’s not what this is about. It’s about her actions as a politician. In that regard, she’s a disgrace.

Angelini and her 11th District GOP running-mate Asssemblywoman Caroline Casagrande [shown above center and right] found themselves this year in a competitive race — a rarity for Republicans in Monmouth County. This column’s deadline is just before the election on Tuesday, November 3rd.

As an Independent and economic libertarian, I’d normally vote for Angelini and Casagrande. Not this year. I want them cleared out and replaced by Republican candidates in two years who will conduct themselves like serious adults in office.

Here’s the story of Angelini’s obnoxious hypocrisy:

An independent Super PAC organized by South Jersey Democrats has thrown a political lightning strike into her race — completely out of the blue and unexpected — by launching attacks on radio and cable television against Angelini, questioning her ethics in connection with Prevention First, the non-profit she runs that combats substance abuse. They were nasty attack ads. Oh well. What goes around comes around, as you’ll read below.

The ads questioned Prevention First getting state grants while Angelini’s a state Assemblywoman. That’s quite fair, actually. I’ve wondered about that myself. The ads also inferred that too much of the funds for Prevention First go into staff salaries and her salary. That’s not so fair, given that substance abuse counseling services are labor intensive. Hey, Karma’s a bitch.

Angelini, of course, was indignant about the ads. How dare anyone question such a fine organization and its work, she thundered!

Prevention First will be unaffected by all this, which will be forgotten after the election. What scared Angelini and her running mate Casagrande are that those ads threatened their political careers.

Boo hoo.

Four years ago, Angelini and Casagrande approved an even more vicious attack by the state Republican Party smearing their opponent, then twenty six year old Vin Gopal, whose strong campaign looked like a threat. [He's now the Chairman of the Monmouth County Democratic Party.]

The attack against Gopal was probably the most outrageous one I’ve seen in my over 30 years of involvement in politics. The mailers said that campaign funds corruptly obtained by a crook who was Mayor of Perth Amboy went into Gopal’s pocket, inferring Gopal’s complicity — but at the time, Gopal was only a twenty year old college intern on the guy’s campaign! The vicious attack trying to destroy young Gopal was condemned by prominent conservative columnist Bob Ingle and the Asbury Park Press editorial board.

I hammered Angelini back then too. She was expected to be the adult in the room. Instead, she betrayed her own addiction — no pun intended, for it is an addiction — to being in power, no matter what it takes.

With the Gopal smear, a real adult would have told the Republican Party that if they sent those mailers out she’d publicly condemn them — just as she wants the Democrats to condemn the attack ads against her now. And if the Republicans sent them anyway, a real adult would have make good on that threat and gone public, attacking her own party and apologizing to Gopal. Assemblywoman Casagrande also never said a peep, although I never expected better from her. Angelini I did.

So now enjoy the show as Angelini demands her Democratic opponents Eric Houghtaling and Joanne Downey do what she and Casagrande failed to do four years ago:

“If Houghtaling and Downey had an ounce of character they would denounce these untruthful attacks immediately,” Angelini said, in a report on “Sadly, based on how they have ran this campaign into the gutter, my opponents will do and say anything to get elected, including lying about a non-profit dedicated to providing mental health, substance abuse and anti-bullying programs.”

How sweet it is. Here’s more from Angelini:

“My opponents and their special interest allies have hit a new low,” said Angelini, who, the website reported, fired off a letter to the station manager of 94.3 The Point about the ads. “Their disgusting lies about a charity that provides mental health, substance abuse and anti-bullying programs to more than 10,000 children and families a year shows how heartless and sinister my opponents truly are.”

Although Angelini threatened legal action to get the ads off the air, the Super PAC paying for them, which is completely independent of the local Democrats, wasn’t budging.

“The Angelini campaign does nothing to dispute the facts,” a spokesperson for the PAC told “Specifically, that the funds raised by Angelini went to her staff salaries, or how much of that went into her pocket. And then finally, the almost $400,000 of taxpayer dollars she’s received as a member of the Assembly. She’s been in Trenton so long, she might not like it, but the facts and manner in which she runs a charity are an important consideration for New Jerseyans to make on Tuesday.”

Even better, let’s replay the condemnation of Angelini and Casagrande four years ago for their own smear and destroy tactics. The best was from veteran conservative columnist Bob Ingle, who writes for Gannett newspapers and published a book on New Jersey corruption called “The Soprano State.”

Ingle said the attacks on Gopal went “beyond acceptable ethical standards, even for The Soprano State.” He cited the mailing against Gopal featuring “a $100 bill and a newspaper report with only the headline readable ‘Aide to former Perth Amboy Mayor Joseph Vas pleads guilty to money laundering.’ The text says some of that laundered money ended up ‘in an account that was used to pay Gopal’s salary.’”

But that aide who pleaded guilty to money laundering wasn’t Gopal. Yet the Republicans dragged Gopal’s name into it, and a confused voter would think it was him

Here’s Ingle:

“The real story is Gopal was 20 and majoring in political science at Penn State when he worked on maybe 10 campaigns in Pennsylvania and New Jersey for class credit, including the one for Vas. He had nothing to do with any crime.”

“But, readers could be misled to believe Gopal did something wrong. Horse feathers. Gopal is being dragged into the gutter by Republicans. They should be ashamed of themselves for being a part of this smear tactic.”

“It is a 100 per cent bald-faced lie.”

And the Asbury Park Press editorial board condemned the Republicans for trying to destroy Gopal: “The mailer lacked a complete sense of decency and fair play, further contributing to voters’ cynicism and disgust with politicians who will do anything to win election.”

Oh well. Voters don’t care. They’re asleep. They’ll get bamboozled by Angelini’s always friendly and pleasant manner

But this is why nothing changes. While I’d hope to report that Angelini and Casagrande will go down on Election Day, defeating an incumbent legislator in New Jersey, or in Congress for that matter, is almost as hard as defeating a member of the Politiburo in an election in the old Soviet Union.

Whatever. At least I get my frustrations out about the hypocrisy of politicians like Mary Pat Angelini. Thank God I have a column like this to vent.

Yes, I feel much better now. Thank you.


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