On Wednesday, Barnegat Democrats hosted candidates for local, county, and congressional office to lay out their platforms for the 2016 campaign and take questions from local residents.
Overall, the message delivered by the candidates was a resounding critique of the way things are currently being handled by incumbent elected officials, both in the township and within Ocean County as a whole.
Quiroz Rips “Backdoor Deals” Between Politicians And Realtors
Barnegat Township Committee candidate Armando Quiroz claimed that despite rising taxes, the level of services received by the residents of Barnegat has degraded – such as the condition of the township’s parks – and for that he placed blame with the current all-GOP township committee’s previous decisions.
“I want to see an end to those political backdoor deals that are made at the expense of people like you and me,” Quiroz said.
“We will send a message that the vision for Barnegat’s future will not be determined by politicians or realtors,” he added.
Mr. Quiroz’s running mate, Craig Kleinfield, a 38 year resident of Barnegat said that after being retired for the past 5 years he began to notice that despite local taxes increasing, residents aren’t getting enough in services – such as road maintenance – to justify the increases.
Barnegat Development Criticized
Mr. Kleinfield took issue with several of the controversial development projects occurring in the township. “Our current governing body is allowing three major building projects all within a short period of time,” he said. In 2015 outraged residents launched petition campaigns to fight proposed apartments near the Settler’s Landing development.
The township committee candidate also took issue with the promises made by township officials that additional development would help offset the property tax burden facing residents.
“Does anyone really believe that the retail stores projected to be occupied will help reduce taxes?” Kleinfield questioned.
Could Barnegat GOP Be In Trouble?
Last year, incumbent Barnegat Republicans Susan McCabe (who was originally elected as Democrat) and Frank Caputo won with a slim margin over independent challengers Bill Cox and Denise Pilovsky. The size of that margin has led many to question if the GOP is losing its hold on Barnegat. If the GOP is to maintain their hold over the town this year, they’re not going to have it as easy in comparison to neighboring Republicans in towns like Waretown or Lacey, where Democrats have struggled to launch a viable opposition campaign.
Freeholder Candidates Rip Kelly Patronage
Ocean County Freeholder candidate Ed Wolff, of Point Pleasant, made mention of incumbent Jack Kelly’s antics during his tenure as a county freeholder.
He criticized Kelly’s attempt to create a new position for a relative in the Ocean County corrections department, a move which Kelly made without the knowledge of his fellow freeholders until it blew up into a public scandal.
“The main reason I really want to fight the battle is the lack of leadership, accountability, and the absolute arrogance of the current group of freeholders,” Wolff said Wednesday night.
Wolff mentioned the six-figure patronage appointment to the state parole board that Jack Kelly was in line to received, courtesy of Governor Chris Christie. The appointment, which was derailed by the lack of a state senate confirmation, would have seen Freeholder Kelly appointed to a seat on the state parole board despite having no background in criminal justice. If Kelly got the job, Lacey committeeman and Gilmore loyalist Gary Quinn was in line to get Kelly’s seat on the freeholder board.
Wolff and running mate Michael Cooke will be facing “Ocean Anti-Corruption Democrats” Scott Neuman and Tracy Caprioni in the June 7th primary election, with the eventual nominees to face GOP incumbents Jack Kelly and Ginny Haines.
The Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders has been unanimously Republican since 1992, with the last Democrat to hold a seat on the board being Paul Brush, who later had a stint as the mayor of Toms River. Cooke and Wolff said that Mr. Brush has been advising their campaign.
Keady: MacArthur Represents “Oligarchy”
CD3 primary candidate Jim Keady also spoke at the Barnegat event and had some harsh words for incumbent Congressman Tom MacArthur, along with his colleagues on Capitol Hill.
“In Congress right now we have more than enough people that are fighting for the billionaires and the corporate class,” an energetic Keady told attendees.
The owner of the Lighthouse Tavern said that if elected to the House of Representatives, he would not be representing the same special interests that he alleges MacArthur supports.
“I’m a middle class guy who runs his family tavern in Waretown going up against a guy who’s worth $27 million dollars, owns 3 homes, and had enough pocket change laying around that he wrote five $1 million dollar checks to self-finance his campaign.”
“That’s not democracy, it’s oligarchy,” he said.
A resident questioned Keady on his residency, since he currently resides outside of the third district. To that charge, Keady responded that as soon as he is finished constructing a cottage behind his family’s tavern, he will be living in the district. There is no constitutional requirement that members of congress actually reside in the districts they represent.
CD3’s two counties have endorsed two different candidates in the primary, with Burlington opting for LaVergne and Ocean backing Keady, respectively
Keady’s Democratic rival Frederick LaVergne was not in attendance Wednesday night. LaVergne’s freeholder running mates Scott Neuman and Tracy Caprioni also did not attend.
Be sure to view OCP’s full video coverage of the entire event and candidate speeches above!