AOC Arrives in a GOP Primary

AOC gets around.

Oddly enough, New York City Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez has popped into the Morris County Republican primary for county commissioner.

A recent mailer on behalf of incumbent Tom Mastrangelo says that Sarah Neibart, one of his opponents, just like Ocasio Cortez, “supports indoctrinating our children with drag queens.”

The mailer from “Friends of Tom Mastrangelo” prompted an immediate response from county GOP chair Laura Ali, who called it “reprehensible.”

Before we dig in, let’s set the table.

Three seats are up on the all-Republican board and the GOP county committee has endorsed a three-person slate consisting of Neibart, a Mendham Township committee member and former mayor, incumbent Doug Cabana, a veteran freeholder/commissioner whose tenure goes back to the late 1990’s, and Christine Myers, a former board member.

Mastrangelo is on the outside looking in. He was not endorsed by the county committee. Also in the race is Joseph Coppola who doesn’t seem to be a factor.

Despite losing the party’s endorsement – and coveted ballot position – Mastrangelo is forging ahead with his reelection campaign.

And his campaign is targeting Neibart.

His mailer says Neibart can’t be trusted, because she supports pushing a “woke” agenda on children.

It refers to a Gay Pride event last year in Mendham Township featuring, according to the township, a  “special Drag Queen Story Hour” described at the time as “100 percent family friendly and suitable for all ages.”

This was the first event of its kind in the township and Neibart, who was mayor at the time, attended.

As she said in a statement today:

“I have seen the flier. … It vastly misconstrues the event and my role in the event and takes a statement I made completely out of context. As mayor, I attended every event that my community was hosting especially throughout the pandemic, regardless of my personal viewpoints or beliefs. This specific event was an event to celebrate Gay Pride Month which was organized by the Recreation Committee and some local non-profit organizations. When the recreation director told me about his idea for the event, I said it could not be paid for by taxpayer dollars; he agreed. That evening, right before the event started, he asked me to welcome folks to Mendham Township, which I did.”

Generally speaking, recognizing LGBT rights has become very mainstream. However, in recent months, Republicans all over the country have seized on sex and gender education in public schools as out of step with traditional family values.

Many GOP primary voters tend to be quite conservative, so there may be some political logic for Team Mastrangelo to raise this issue. At the same time, the observation that children are being “indoctrinated” is absurd. Awareness is not indoctrination. No matter, political mailings are not big on subtleties.

Ali, the county chair, is not amused by the Mastrangelo campaign mailer.

“It seems that Tom Mastrangelo has forgotten President Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment – Thou shalt not slander another Republican.  The attempt to smear and malign Sarah Neibart is reprehensible.  Facts are only facts when they are told in their entirety. Sarah is a wonderful human being with conservative values, an excellent mayor and an exceptional candidate for commissioner. Our local county committee members – the grassroots, volunteer members of our party obviously agree since they voted overwhelmingly to endorse Sarah.”

Ali added, “Mayors have to be at all kinds of different local events, because they represent all the people and all of their constituents, whether they align with them politically or not. We have spent the last two years uniting our Morris County Republican party and it is shameful that Tom has resorted to these terrible campaign tactics.”

In fairness, Mastrangelo is feeling some campaign heat as well.

A digital aid put out this week by a group called Stronger Foundations, which officially supports “the construction industry and its workers”  goes after Mastrangelo.

It brings up the fact that a few months ago the county commissioners asked the state to investigate Mastrangelo for an ethics violation. That refers to him allegedly threatening a county employee in a dispute over what voting machines to buy.  This, the ad asserts, is a sign of “corruption.”

For the record, Mastrangelo has called any investigation a “witchhunt.”

Bruising primaries have long been a staple of Morris County Republican politics. One premise for breaking with tradition and creating a “county line” last year was to tone down intra-party fights.

But that didn’t happen in last year’s LD-26 Assembly primary and it doesn’t seem to be happening this year either.

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