As many who are new to politics, Antony Ghee comes across with much idealism and a sincere desire to make a difference.
An attorney and major in the Army reserves, Ghee, 47, has taken a leave of absence from his job as a director in the chief investment office at Bank of America to seek the Republican nomination for Congress in the 11th District.
“For the last 10 to 15 years, it’s been pulling at me when I see what this country is going through,” he said over breakfast Monday at an IHOP near his home in Totowa.
By that, Ghee means the nation’s ever-growing $21 trillion debt and a budget deficit of about $440 billion. The deficit actually is less than it has been, but still, $440 billion is a lot of money.
Ghee was born in Trenton and spent some of his early years about an hour outside Richmond in rural Virginia before eventually settling in Passaic County in 2005.
He may be relatively new to the region, but he brushed up on the history.
For example, Ghee talked about 1984 when the late Dean A. Gallo defeated Democratic incumbent Joe Minish to win a seat Republicans have held ever since. Ghee fears that if Republicans lose the seat this fall, Democrats may retain it for the next 40 years or so, just like they did before Gallo beat Minish.
This is not an exact correlation because district boundaries change every 10 years, and, in fact, redistricting after the 1980 Census propelled Gallo’s victory. But Ghee’s point is clear.
“As a Republican, you want to make sure your candidate has a chance to win,” Ghee says.
And he is convinced that as a newcomer – or as he says, a “fresh face,” – he is better suited to win than his GOP primary competitors are. They are in no particular order, Jay Webber, Martin Hewitt,, Peter DeNeufville and Pat Allocco.
He also is embarking on what is a moderate course.
Ghee wants to stop illegal immigration, but says those already here should not necessarily be targeted unless they commit crimes. On guns, Ghee wants to bridge the gap between both extremes. He talks about an individual’s right to own weapons, but also about the fact so much crime is committed by those who obtain guns illegally. Trying to square that circle is no easy task.
Ghee is African-American, so one can’t ignore the political reality that blacks normally vote Democratic in overwhelming numbers.
Ghee says that’s because many African-Americans, himself included, were raised in Democratic households. He also said that many African-Americans vote Democratic because they think that party is better on civil rights issues. Without minimizing civil rights, Ghee wants all voters to think of economic issues and managing the government efficiently, And if that happens, he’s convinced they’ll vote Republican.
Left unsaid is a belief by some observers that a black Republican running in a district more diverse than it was a decade ago (partly due to redistricting) can bring in more votes for the GOP than a more traditional Republican would.
Ghee, who says the public has grown weary of “petty politics,” is hoping for an issue-based campaign. He offered no negative comments about any of his opponents.
That’s all well and good, but politics often intervenes with the subtlety of a punch in the face.
Soon after he said he was running, Ghee, who acknowledges he recently registered as a Republican, was asked at a GOP meeting who he voted for in the last three presidential elections. He declined to say, arguing that as an active military officer he must keep his voting history private.
One of his opponents, Webber, was not impressed.
His campaign circulated a video of Ghee’s refusal to answer and followed that up with a press release suggested that in the last three presidential elections, Ghee voted twice for Barack Obama and once for Hillary Clinton. The point was obvious. Ghee is not a real Republican.
Ghee said Monday that Webber’s presumption was incorrect, but he still declined to identify his votes.
More recently, an anonymous electronic mailing complete with purported copies of voter registration forms identified Ghee as a “Brooklyn Democrat.”
Ghee said he only lived in Brooklyn for two years and that most recently, he had been unaffilited before registering as a Republican.
“I believe I have a tough skin,” he said.
That’s probably going to be tested.