Ciattarelli Sends Endorsement Letter in Support of Belleville Mayor Melham

Melham and Ciattarelli

In an intensifying political atmosphere, incumbent Belleville Mayor Michael Melham backed Republican Jack Ciattarelli for governor last year, and now Ciattarelli backs Melham’s reelection.

Ciattarelli just fired off a letter on behalf of Melham, who faces a May 10th challenge from Councilman Steve Rovell in the scheduled May 10th election.

The letter hit the addresses of 2,700 hard Republicans in the blue collar town at the edge of Newark, as Melham – an independent and former Republican – seeks reelection in an Essex County town that Governor Phil Murphy, a Democrat, won 2-1 in 2017, compared to his narrow 200-vote margin over Ciattarelli in 2021.

To date, Essex County Democratic Committee Chairman LeRoy Jones – who doubles as state party chairman – hasn’t gotten involved in the Belleville contest.

Melham says they get along. “I have a great relationship with LeRoy; we go to breakfast two to three times a year,” the mayor told InsiderNJ. “He owes me nothing.”

That’s because Melham doesn’t have a public job, he notes.

He added that he has an okay relationship with Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo. “He does a great job with the parks,” Melham said. He said he’s also a strong backer of state Senator M. Teresa Ruiz (D-29).

But he doesn’t and didn’t approve of Murphy, a relationship that soured during the lead lines crisis, and didn’t mind saying so when he endorsed Ciattarelli.

“I’m a principled person; I raised the guy some money,” the Belleville mayor said. “I had a fundraiser. He came to Belleville two or three times. Murphy never did. I did one social media post [for Ciattarelli] and said for many reasons I’m going to support Jack. I did not send one letter, canvas or knock on doors.”

Rovell, a self-described conservative Democrat, said, “It’s supposed to be a nonpartisan election. We all know Mike Melham’s not really an independent. He’s a Republican – and a pretty radical one. He’s misrepresented himself. The bottom line is the focus should be Belleville.”

For his part, Melham did say he gave Jones about the direction of the Democratic Party.

“‘Chairman,’ I told him after the election, ‘where are you taking this party?’ Joe D and LeRoy are moderates. ‘I know you guys don’t believe in half this stuff.’ He insinuated the pendulum I coming back. I said, ‘Let me know. I could be okay with moderate Democrat.’”

Melham said he opposes Democrats on parental consent, mandating vaccines, what he calls the proposed “sexual curriculum” in schools, and bail reform. “They just go way too far,” complained the mayor, who once worked for the late Rush Limbaugh’s television show. “I assert to have broad support among both Democrats and Republicans,” the incumbent mayor added, “and at a local level, I’ve supported and endorsed far more Democrats than Republicans. That’s what makes me an independent.”

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