Tuesday’s primary election has seen a rare contested race on the Democratic side, as multiple factions of the party are fighting for a chance to go up against incumbents Jack Kelly and Ginny Haines in the November general election.
On June 7th, Democratic and unaffiliated primary voters will have the chance to vote for two candidates to face incumbent Freeholder Jack Kelly – who just recently gave up his quest for a job at the state parole board – along with newly appointed Freeholder Ginny Haines. Neither of the incumbent Republicans are facing a primary challenge, unlike last year, where the “Common Sense Conservatives,” spurned by the phony claims of
decorated war hero Stafford Mayor John Spodofora, ran primary challenges up and down the ballot for state and county office.
Ocean County’s Democrats have had a difficult time trying to win seats on the the freeholder board, with their last victory being in 1989 when Paul Brush and Mark Troncone each won a single term before later being voted out at the end of their term.
We spoke with all three slates of candidates hoping to clinch the nomination, and asked them why they should get the chance to be on the ballot in November. Their responses have been lightly edited for brevity and have been published in the order in which they were received.
Robyn Gedrich & Joni Brennan
“BERNIE SANDERS” DEMOCRATS
Robyn Gedrich and Joni Brennan are hoping to capitalize on the momentum behind Democratic presidential primary contender Bernie Sanders, whom they are bracketed on the primary ballot with. The Bernie Sanders campaign – unlike rival Hillary Clinton – has found enthusiastic support in Ocean County, with Bernie supporters opening a campaign headquarters on Main Street (Rt. 166) in the heart of downtown Toms River after a successful crowdfunding campaign.
The office has become a nexus for both the Vermont Senator’s presidential campaign as well as the Gedrich-Brennan freeholder campaign, as campaign volunteers have been going door-to-door throughout the county. It has even been host to events like “Dinner with the 99%” in addition to phone banking and canvassing operations.
Ironically, the HQ is just blocks away from many of Ocean County’s Republican powerbrokers and campaign donors like George Gilmore, Robert Shea and others, the very antithesis of the Vermont senator’s criticism of a “corrupt campaign finance system.”
Ms. Brennan has worked in the medical field, while Ms. Gedrich offers a background in business and economics. “All too many voices have not been heard by the incumbent Freeholders in Ocean County,” Gedrich said. The two both have roots in Ocean County, with Gedrich’s family moving to Lavallette in 1999 after spending summers there, and Brennan growing up in the county.
According to Gedrich, if elected, their team’s goals are both “…idealistic and practical, with a vision for the future but an appreciation of the limitations imposed by our current economy and the struggles of so many of our citizens to make ends meet.”
Scott Neuman and Tracy Caprioni
Tracy Caprioni, a public school teacher in Asbury Park and longtime resident of Brick is joined by Scott Neuman, a Manchester technology business owner. The two argue that their campaign is about bringing “balance and conscience” to the county government, the wake of corruption scandals and widespread instances pay-to-play being prevalent throughout the county.
Mr. Caprioni said that he and his running mate offer “Balance against the corrupt politically-driven practices that do not serve the good people of Ocean County as a whole and those who would drive a line between receiving justice and being just.”
Caprioni added “Politics today lack a decent sense of conscience. We say our pledge of allegiance as a nation under God, on our currency it states ‘In God We Trust,’ yet there are those who lack even the basic concepts of simply doing what is right.”
The two have also sued the Ocean County Democratic Committee, arguing in legal briefs that allowing party insiders to cast multiple ballots in the endorsement vote was illegal, with federal judge Freda Wolfson declining to nullify the results before the primary. The suit has led to increased tensions between the Neuman-Caprioni campaign and Cooke-Wolff campaign, both rivals for the nomination. The Starkey Kelly et al. firm, who got George Gilmore’s contract in Brick when the Ducey team won, has been retained by the party to defend the suit, which will likely continue at the appellate level after the primary.
Mike Cooke and Ed Wolff
OFFICIAL REGULAR DEMOCRATS
Mike Cooke and Ed Wolff previously secured the endorsement of the Ocean County Democratic organization at its convention in March. The two have campaigned with CD3 congressional candidate Jim Keady and have heavily criticized incumbents Haines & Kelly in the months leading up to the election.
Mr. Cooke, of Toms River, is an attorney primarily practicing in the Amboy area, and Mr. Wolff hails from Point Pleasant, where he held an executive position with Panasonic before retiring.
“With the support of the party and Progressive ideas, we are the best candidates to defeat Freeholder Jack Kelly and Ginny Haines in the general election,” declared Cooke. “We will remove the corrupting influence of Kelly and Haines and the GOP machine on Ocean County and improve the lives of Ocean County residents. “
Polls will open from 6:00 AM to 8:00 PM Tuesday, and you can find your polling place here. According to the New Jersey Division of Elections, Ocean County currently has 110,540 registered Republicans, 72,549 registered Democrats. Voters not affiliated with either of the two major parties take the lion’s share, with 204,069 residents of Ocean County not being affiliated with either party as of May 31st.
Under New Jersey’s primary rules, those who are not affiliated with either party can declare their affiliation at the polls and vote in either the Democrat or Republican party’s primary. Those currently registered with either party can only vote in that party’s primary, respectively.