A dogfight for an empty legislative seat in New Jersey contains its own drama in any weather, but throw in the wretched, frightening atmosphere of a pandemic and an attempted coup de ta, and you get a more surreal collision than usual.
In this case, East Brunswick Council President Sterley Stanley and Edison Councilman Joe Coyle want the chair most recently filled by Assemblywoman Nancy Pinkin (D-18), who now serves as the Middlesex County Clerk.
Ahead of a scheduled Jan. 12th convention, Stanley tried to speak to county committee members in a tone Coyle decried as unnecessarily militant and fractious given the temper of the times.
it started with Stanley a “call to arms,” which more than vaguely suggested Rudy Giuliani’s noxious “trial by combat” comment issued within the auspices of Donald Trump’s mob bubble right before the twittering tyrant’s followers laid siege to the U.S. Capitol.
Stanley was talking to presumably politically more astute committee members:
Coyle was unamused, and indeed found the appropriate inappropriate and concerning.
The Edison council fired off a missive of his own:
Dear fellow Middlesex County Democratic Committee Member,
Many of you have reached out to me with dismay about the inflammatory tone of an email several of you recently received from Councilman Sterley Stanley yesterday evening, in which he issued a “call to arms” with respect to the upcoming Middlesex County convention to fill the vacancy created by Nancy Pinkin’s move to County Clerk. In his email, he called this election “a fight defend against a takeover.”
I share your concern.
Words invoke emotions and have consequences. Belligerent and divisive language has no place in politics, especially during this moment in history when we saw firsthand similarly incendiary language used by President Trump to incite a mob in Washington D.C. and which led to the loss of at least five individuals. Moreover, the aggressive language chosen by Councilman Sterley, at this sensitive time in our nation, shows poor judgment and a message that is out of touch with Democratic values.
Let me be clear, our candidacy is not a “hostile take over” nor is there a need for a “call to arms.” Let’s not resort to overdramatic language for votes. Regardless of who wins, we are all from the 18th legislative district, we are all New Jerseyans, and most importantly, we are all Americans bound in common purpose.
Let us as Democrats unify with our words, not divide.
We must stand above the rhetoric created by President Trump, not adopt it. I ask that all those who support my candidacy, or any other candidate refrain from anything that would oppose unity. We are One Team, One Party, One Vision.
Please feel free to reach out to me to discuss any ideas you may have on how we can improve our district.
Very truly yours,
Joe Coyle, Candidate for Assembly
The two local elected officials face a contentious contest for the open seat, with Stanley burnishing establishment support (including the backing of Pinkin) and Coyle enjoying popularity in the district’s biggest town.
Presumably South Plainfield – helmed by local towering figure state Senator Patrick Diegnan (D-18) will back the party’s choice, but sources say Stanway may not be able to tiptoe through without arousing the district’s 800 pound gorilla otherwise known as Edison.
Stanley, who is South Asian American (but not from Edison), made the rounds last week, and left a trail of mild grumbling in Edison, home to roughly 150 committee votes out of 350 – enough to tickle the political fancy of local heavyweight, two-time Councilman Coyle.
Coyle has to be looking at the raw numbers and salivating a little.
East Brunswick only has 70 committee votes.
Then again, as mentioned at the outset, the county party organization will lean into this for party guy Stanway, in part alert to an imbalance if Coyle joins to other white males (Diegnan and Assemblyman Rob Karabinchak) to represent a district losing Pinkin, which numbers 15,693 South Asians, second only to Northern European Americans at just over 20K).
But the fact that the party didn’t recruit a woman created its own wrinkle of bewilderment over Stanley.
Will it be enough to catapult an Edison-galvanized Coyle to victory? And will Stanley’s perceived mistep with the letter impact the committee people?