Listen to audio version of this article
Wall Twp. Democrats hosted a forum tonight for the candidates in CD-4 and it fast turned into a challenging scene for Jim Keady, a progressive male running as a Bernie Sanders-style option for primary voters.
A question: “what specific actions will you take to protect women on your campaign,” opened the doors on numerous yelled comments directed at Keady, a 2018 CD-4 candidate running again for the nomination to go up against incumbent U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-4).
Going back to his past campaigns, Keady has consistently publicly expressed a desire to represent the dispossessed, including sexually harassed women. But some women in the audience tonight were not buying it. Scorn extended to the stage, where an opponent, former state department official Stephanie Schmid, gave her back to Keady during his crack at the question.
At the end of the forum, Schmid said, “There is one person whose support I don’t want, and that is Mr. Keady.”
The candidate later sent a statement to InsiderNJ.
“I am proud to have stood in solidarity with women at the Wall Township Democratic debate tonight,” said Schmid. “As women, we will not be silenced and we will be heard. I believe that the behavior of my primary opponent, Jim Keady, is disqualifying and I call on him to drop out of this race. As of this moment, I refuse to appear on another debate or forum stage where he is given an opportunity to defend what is indefensible. Thank you to the courageous women who stood up tonight.”
The issue – and audience antagonism for the candidate – stemmed from an email Keady sent. The contents of that transmission were not immediately clear, only to surface later in the evening (see below, a portion of the email).
The subject did spill into an occasion for the candidate – in confessional mode – to get painfully detailed about his personal life. “I had an affair,” Keady said. “It ended my marriage. The woman I had an affair with, I had a beautiful 11-year old daughter I love more than anything in the world.”
He hearkened to the email in question when he said, “I stood up for myself a month ago.”
Despite the fact that he’s big (6 ft. 4) and an athlete, “I could be victimized and bullied. I know what bullying feels like. I got my ass kicked in this town one summer. I was hunted like an animal. I had my face smashed in.”
He confessed that he has had numerous relationships with women.
“I had a lot of sex,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of girfriends. All consensual. I’m sorry I copied you on an email. But I stand by calling those people out who were lying about me and I will continue to do that. I will not be bullied.
“I was molested as a nine-year old,” he said, noting that he was a sexual assault survivor and in a unique position to sympathize with women.
“It took me 30-35 years to be able to bring that up in therapy,” Keady said. “I know the impact it has in my life.”
People started yelling, “Fraud.”
“I had to fire an employee at my restaurant yesterday.”
Schmid kept her back turned.
It was an uncomfortable scene.
Keady kept his composure, tried to speak over his tormentors, then patiently waited, and said he would stay all night if he needed to in order to discuss the substance of allegations made against him.
“What’s being said about me is not true,” Keady told InsiderNJ later in the evening. “I didn’t dance around things. We’re in this, rightfully, in the #MeToo zeitgeist.
“That’s why I was so hurt by these things,” added the candidate, referring to what he says are false allegations, initially brought to his attention, he says, by a female campaign volunteer.
InsiderNJ later received a copy of the email in question with “Whisper Campaigns” in the subject line.
The email concerns four women and attorneys are copied on the transmission from Keady.
Here is a portion of the communique:
Keady addresses each woman by name. To the first he writes, “I have been told that you have been saying that I made inappropriate advances towards you via text message. This is patently false. As you can see via the screen shots below, in 2017 you flirted with me, told me you were in an open marriage, we met for drinks on your birthday, and following the drinks we went down by the river…” The rest of the thought is completed with an expletive.