CD11 Flashpoint: Pence Comes to New Jersey

Jay Webber is a clever guy – maybe.

Webber, the Republican candidate for Congress in the 11th District, scheduled a fundraiser Friday with Vice President Mike Pence. This was a pricey affair. Tickets began at $1,000 but rose to $25,000 a couple if you wanted to take part in a “roundtable” with Pence.

The Webber campaign last week gave a perfunctory statement saying how delighted it was to have the VP stumping for the candidate. But other than that, the campaign was pretty secretive.

The location for the luncheon fundraiser was not publicly released, although sources said it would take place at the Baltusrol Golf Club in Union County.

But wait – Friday came and there was no fundraiser at Baltusrol.

Reached by phone, a golf club official said he had no information about a Webber fundraiser.

A group of would-be protesters said they were told by a golf course security guard that the event had been moved to Bedminster.

This group of protesters adopts the red robes and hoods of characters in a “Handmaid’s Tale,” a television show set in an authoritative society where women must wear red cloaks and exist essentially just to bear children.

The activists said the show in exaggerated form, of course, symbolizes the anti-women philosophy of the Trump Administration. The group planned to march in protest in front of the golf club, but the relocation stopped those plans.

Sort of.

Some members of the group gamely traveled west to Bedminster and set up shop at the intersection of Route 206 and Lamington Road, about two miles or so up the road from the presumed site of the Webber fundraiser – Trump National Golf Course.

They held signs criticizing Pence’s anti-gay rhetoric and linked him with Webber, whose votes in the state Assembly often have opposed interests of the LGBT community.

But ah, there was a problem.

The fundraiser turned out to be not in Bedminster either.

What was going on?

The Webber campaign, not surprisingly, did not respond to questions about the event.

As it turned out, the fundraiser took place at a private home in Morris Township, which, at least, unlike the other presumed locales is in the 11th District. Attendees parked their cars at the Washington Valley Chapel on Kahdena Road and were driven to the site of the event.

One man who attended said that the vice president praised Webber as a “man of faith.” He said about 120 people were there, including Kellyanne Conway, a White House advisor and New Jersey native.

So what happened?

Just maybe, the clandestine identification of Baltusrol as the site was a ruse to confuse the public, or more specifically, protesters and the press.

That’s where Webber looks clever.

Then again, the relocation may have been attributed to something more mundane.

Beyond the mystery of the moment, however, is the fact Webber needs money. Democrat Mikie Sherrill had almost $3 million in hand as of the June filing deadline; Webber had about $171,000.

If about 120 people attended, that means at least $120,000 for Webber’s coffers. But that doesn’t take into account how many people paid more for added perks, or on the other end of the spectrum, how many were comped.

The Webber campaign may have been coy about Friday’s fundraiser, but it will need to be more forthcoming in its upcoming FEC reports about how much money was raised and from where it came.

Being clever has its limits.

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