A Very Bad Night for South Jersey Democrats

Sweeney

Four years ago, he and his organization fended off a multi-million dollar challenge by a concussive margin. This year a non-union truck driver with no money and only a Republican spot on the ballot expunged him from the legislature. Senate President Steve Sweeney lost (unofficially) in LD3 as a Republican tsunami in South Jersey deprived him and his running mates Assemblyman John Burzichelli and Assemblyman Adam Taliaferro of a return to the chambers.

Republicans also grabbed two seats in Cumberland County.

Despite massive spending by the George Norcross-connected American Democratic Majority, Republicans swept in LD2, won the senate seat outright in LD8 and appear to have won the two assembly seats in LD8 as well.

It added up to a very bad showing for South Jersey and a senate president who had wanted to pick up a seat in LD2 and defend LD8, as blue collar towns around the state of New Jersey went with Republican Jack Ciattarelli over incumbent Governor Phil Murphy.

A loss by state Senator Vin Gopal in Monmouth County to  Republican Lori Annetta would knock another senate seat out from under the Sweeney-led caucus.

“South Jersey is dead,” a source told InsiderNJ at around 5 p.m. on Election Day.

It was for Democrats.

But Election Night 2021 proved another crackling victory in the south for the GOP, who had already supplanted former state Senator Jeff Van Drew with Republican Mike Testa (whose mother picked up a council seat in Buena last night) in LD1; and then welcomed Van Drew into their ranks in CD2.

Ocean was energized and counties controlled by Democrats – built on Building Trades muscle over the last 20 years – took countywide hits.

The wave crept into longtime-Republican Monmouth County.

Right now, if Gopal loses as Mazzeo has, the balance of power in the state senate would go from 25-15 to 23-17. Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D-16) leads Republican challenger Mike Pappas in LD16, but it is a close contest.

He could lose.

For Sweeney at the heart of it all, the irony was that the progressive wing of his party championed by Murphy appeared to alienate so-called moderate working class white voters, who went in droves to Ciattarelli.

Murphy at the top of the ticket in South Jersey proved the kiss of death for Sweeney’s allies.

The senate president’s Path to Progress agenda specifically prioritizes and addresses many of the campaign concerns of Ciattarelli. In addition, Sweeney’s Building Trades base would benefit from the federal infrastructure package stalled in Congress by progressives advancing the interests of that wing of the party Murphy has attached himself to, as demonstrated by his 11th hour general election event with socialist Senator Bernie Sanders.

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  • Joe

    GOD DONT LIKE UGLY! Sweeney has spent his years abusing people, destroying lives and interfering in State, local and County jobs. Peoples lives have been left in ruins behind this Bully Bitch. An immediate federal, state, county, municipal and international investigation must be done on Sweeney and his operatives. Their offices need to be raided by the US JUSTICE DEPARTMENT. Those who have been wronged must be made whole again. Sweeney should never be able to serve in public office ever again.

    They need to reopen the sexual harassment case that Sweeney had covered up. If Bill Cosby had to go to jail for sexual harassment from decades ago, so should Stephen Sweeney

    https://law.justia.com/cases/new-jersey/appellate-division-unpublished/2010/a2152-08-opn.html

    The facts, allegations and relevant procedural history underlying plaintiff’s appeal are lengthy. Because we are reviewing a grant of summary judgment, we review such facts and allegations in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, i.e., plaintiff. Brill v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 142 N.J. 520, 540 (1995)’ Prudential Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co. v. Boylan, 307 N.J. Super. 162, 167 (App. Div.) (applying the same standard to our appellate review), certif. denied, 154 N.J. 608 (1998).

    Plaintiff began her employment with the County of Gloucester in 1974. In 1986, plaintiff began working as a part-time volunteer for the Democratic Party. In the early 1990s, plaintiff met Stephen Sweeney, who was then a County Freeholder. Plaintiff alleged that Sweeney sexually harassed her. Plaintiff has since dismissed these claims, but we review them briefly because they relate to defendants’ initially successful motion for sanctions.

    By plaintiff’s account, Sweeney made three distinct sexual remarks to plaintiff. Standing at the bar during a 1998 political fundraiser, Sweeney allegedly remarked: “Dianne, get naked for me.” Two years later, Sweeney indicated that it would be nice to get into a hotel Jacuzzi with plaintiff. Plaintiff responded that she had no bathing suit, to which Sweeney quipped: “You wouldn’t need a bathing suit with me.” Lastly, when plaintiff asked if Sweeney was being kept up after he yawned during a nighttime political meeting, Sweeney stated that plaintiff “could keep him up any time.” Plaintiff rejected Sweeny’s salacious invitations.

    As a result, Sweeney allegedly “became very distant and quite rude” between 2003 and 2004. On certain occasions, Sweeney allegedly grabbed materials from plaintiff’s hands and refused to allow plaintiff to participate in political meetings. Plaintiff even began to notice some of Sweeney’s staff adopt the same attitude. After plaintiff became a Democratic party employee in 2005, Sweeney accused her of disloyalty and of misappropriating confidential information.

    Plaintiff was dismissed from her position with the Democratic Party in 2006. Based on conversations with superiors at the party headquarters, plaintiff allegedly learned that Sweeney procured her dismissal in retaliation for plaintiff’s romantic rejections and for her failure to support Sweeney’s candidate for sheriff. Plaintiff alleges that Sweeney demanded that plaintiff be fired from her County position as well.

    In 1989, plaintiff began full-time work as a secretary to former Freeholder Stephen Salvatore. In the same year, plaintiff met defendant James B. Cannon, the County Personnel Director. Plaintiff, who was going through a divorce at the time, confided in Cannon about her marital problems, her brother’s and father’s alcoholism, and drug-related problems in her family. Cannon helped plaintiff paint and move into her new condominium, establish her son’s college fund, and obtain a job transfer.

    In 1990, Cannon attended a Christmas party at plaintiff’s home. On a separate occasion during the 1990 Christmas season, plaintiff and Cannon attended a party and drank together. Plaintiff and Cannon returned from this party to plaintiff’s home, where Cannon expressed his romantic interest in plaintiff and kissed her. The kiss allegedly made plaintiff feel uncomfortable, and so she asked Cannon to leave her home.

    However, their relationship continued such that plaintiff and Cannon would analogize themselves to the main characters in the romantic comedy of the 1980s, “When Harry Met Sally.” Plaintiff and Cannon continued attending social functions together and exchanging gifts through 1991. In 1992, plaintiff and her friend took Cannon out to celebrate Cannon’s birthday. In the same year, Cannon accompanied plaintiff and her son on a one-day trip to Washington, D.C. And in 1993, plaintiff and Cannon left a Democratic Party event for a local bar, where plaintiff kissed Cannon.

    Nevertheless, plaintiff alleges that Cannon sexually harassed her from 1991 to 1992. Cannon asked plaintiff on dates roughly fifteen times, despite plaintiff declining each invitation. Cannon falsely led plaintiff’s coworkers to believe that plaintiff and Cannon were dating. On one occasion, Cannon followed plaintiff in his car to her apartment complex. Lastly, Cannon continuously sent flowers, cards, “inspirational booklets,” and notes.

    Regarding the cards and flowers, plaintiff acknowledged that these items were only offensive as a result of their multiplicity, and not because they were sexual in nature. Although plaintiff asked Cannon to stop sending her flowers after receiving the first bouquet, she never refused or returned them. Cannon stopped sending flowers in 1991 and stopped sending cards in 1992.

    In 1993, Cannon discovered that plaintiff was dating the man whom plaintiff would later marry. Cannon and plaintiff argued on the phone until plaintiff hung up. On the very last time they were together in 1993, Cannon told plaintiff that he would never forgive her. This precipitated a “falling out” that lasted until 2002, punctuated only by semi-annual, work-related contact.

    In 2002, plaintiff and Cannon saw each other in pubic, prompting the two to speak personally for the first time since 1993. Plaintiff offered to listen if Cannon needed someone to talk to about his recent arrest for driving while under the influence of alcohol. Cannon hugged plaintiff and said that that he still loved her.

    Despite this apparent make-up, plaintiff alleges that Cannon held a grudge and retaliated against her on several different occasions during her employment with the County. When plaintiff’s father passed away in 1993, two days went by before his body was discovered. Because plaintiff’s father was also a County employee, Cannon told plaintiff that her father’s estate would be charged for two days of vacation plus the uniform plaintiff’s father wore when he passed away. After plaintiff discussed this with Freeholder Salvatore, Cannon instructed the department to issue full payment, and the estate was not charged for the uniform.

    Once in 1992 and once again in 1993, plaintiff requested reimbursement for courses that she attended at Gloucester County Community College. Cannon give plaintiff “a hard time accepting these classes.” This prompted plaintiff to ask Freeholder Salvatore for assistance. Cannon ultimately approved all of the courses and the reimbursement without further incident.

    In 1994, plaintiff alerted Cannon that her personnel file incorrectly listed her first working year as 1978, whereas the correct year was 1974. In 2000, plaintiff discovered that Cannon never corrected the error. Plaintiff contacted the personnel department and the error was corrected without any resulting financial harm.

    In 1998, plaintiff was promoted to Division Head of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program within the Department of Economic Development. In 2002, plaintiff decided to take advantage of the opportunity to work a compressed schedule, i.e., four ten-hour days per week. This option was afforded to all union employees, which included plaintiff.

    However, plaintiff met objections from Cannon and former defendant Chad Bruner, the Deputy County Administrator. Cannon and Bruner did not want plaintiff, a division head, to work a compressed schedule. However, Cannon ultimately approved the request. Plaintiff ceased working a compressed schedule only when the option was eliminated for the entire division.

    Lastly, plaintiff alleged that Cannon retaliated against her by suspending her for thirty-two days, without pay, for misconduct relating to a CDBG conference in Atlantic City. This last example of alleged retaliation by Cannon is perhaps best explained in the context of plaintiff’s allegations against her former supervisor, defendant Lisa Wesen-Morina, the Director of Economic Development.

    Morina assumed that post and became plaintiff’s supervisor in July 2004. Plaintiff alleges that Morina retaliated against plaintiff because Morina did not approve of the CDBG program. Plaintiff also alleges that Morina discriminated against plaintiff, who was the only female division head. Such retaliation and discrimination took the form of hostile treatment that began one to two months after Morina began her position.

    Around this time, Morina began yelling, screaming, “barging into my [plaintiff’s] office,” “pounding her hand and fists,” “not being discreet,” and “flying off the handle.” Morina humiliated plaintiff by doing this in front of plaintiff’s staff. However, plaintiff witnessed Morina display the same hostility towards all others in plaintiff’s division – including plaintiff’s staff. Morina was neither less hostile nor more friendly towards those other individuals.

    During their first meeting together, Morina told plaintiff that she should be “ashamed” for “diming the County” by receiving compensatory time and travel reimbursement for attending a real estate course at Gloucester County Community College. Plaintiff quelled this particular dispute by informing Morina that Cannon had approved the courses. Morina soon moved on to accuse plaintiff of throwing Director Bob Broughton “under the bus” by not “keeping him in the loop of what was going on in CDBG.”

    Plaintiff believed that Morina’s accusations of plaintiff “diming” the County and crossing Broughton were the direct result of Cannon and Bruner supplying Morina with “information” about plaintiff. When plaintiff mentioned Bruner, Morina revealed that Bruner instructed Morina to check attendance and “come down hard” on those abusing compensation time. Morina therefore also criticized plaintiff for accumulating too much compensation time, a practice that Morina felt did not “look good” for a division head.

  • Jim

    Perhaps voters who have been frightened of Trump are also frightened of the radical left.

  • mfmsj

    Durr has spewed lies and he is not even in office. One reason he ran is because he was mad he was denied a permit to carry a concealed weapon. Anyone that obsessed with carrying a concealed weapon shouldn’t be allowed to carry a concealed weapon.

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