LD-24 Uproar

Dawn Fantasia is a Sussex County commissioner and a candidate for the state Assembly in LD-24, a very Republican part of New Jersey covering Sussex and parts of Warren and Morris counties.

That’s happening now; the Republican primary is June 6.

But as Fantasia candidly acknowledged in a message Wednesday to Republican voters, her life was quite different some 16 years ago. She put it this way:

“In one horrific night – that started with state troopers knocking on the door of our family home, with my young children asleep in their beds – my world crashed down around me.

The scandal became state and national news.

My marriage was destroyed and I filed for divorce.

I became a single mom to three young children.

I lost my home, and was forced to declare bankruptcy.

I was embarrassed, scared and broken.”

The referenced scandal was the arrest of her then-husband, a high school teacher, for having a sexual relationship with a female student. He was subsequently sentenced to three years in state prison. Her former husband, James Cunneely, is now out of prison and has joint custody of the couple’s children.

This may have been a dark, but now somewhat distant, period in one’s life.

But not when acrimonious politics is involved.

Two state Assembly seats in the district are open this year and five candidates are seeking the two party nods with the winners virtually assured of victory in November.

Most of the attention is focused on the team of Fantasia and Mike Inganamort, the mayor of Chester Township.

Their main competition is the partnership of Josh Aikens, a Lafayette school board member, and Jason Sarnoski, a Warren County commissioner.

Throughout the campaign, the Aikens-Sarnoski team has been supported by a website/blog called the “Jersey Conservative.”

A political consultant by the name of Bill Winkler has been identified in social media posts as the man behind the website, although stories generally appear under a pseudonym. A popular byline is Rubashov, who is a fictional character in a novel, “Darkness at Noon,” centering on the Stalinist show trials and purges of the late 1930’s.

It was Rubashov who “authored” the relevant piece in a recent post on the Jersey Conservative site.

The gist of it as far as Fantasia is concerned is the following statement:

“Like Jim Cunneely, Dawn Cunneely (Fantasia) believes he will never commit a similar crime. She calls him a good father and she has granted him joint custody of the children.”

A bit later one reads the following:

“Fantasia’s statement certainly suggests that she might be open to policies that allow registered sex offenders, convicted of sex crimes against children, to be granted custody of minor children. That is why we asked her for a clarification of her statement from 2014. So far, she has refused.”

In her response, Fantasia says she did not grant custody to her former husband, pointing out that such decisions are made by the court.

More broadly, she lashes out at the overall theme of the recent attack, saying in part, “The idea that Aikens, Sarnoski and Winkler would suggest that I am sympathetic to sex offenders and would grant them custody of children is slander on another level and I will no longer let it stand.”

Contacted, the Jersey Conservative blog supplied the former quote from the Star-Ledger (November 10, 2014):

“Like Jim Cunneely, Dawn Cunneely (Fantasia) believes he will never commit a similar crime. She calls him a good father and she has granted him joint custody of the children.”

 

Here is Fantasia’s statement in full:

Dear Fellow Republicans:

If you read, listen to, or watch anything about the Republican Primary campaign for 24th District State Assembly, please make it this. I cannot stress how important it is both to your vote – and to maintaining decency in our elections.

In recent weeks, many of you have received emails from the so-called “Jersey Conservative” or “Sussex Watchdog” – both authored by the same man, Bill Winker, my former political consultant.  He is not a journalist and what he sends you is most certainly not news. Most of his missives are paid political communications intended to damage or defame the target. After growing weary of his tactics, I did not enlist him for my current campaign. As such, I am his current target.

Mr. Winkler is now working for my opponents, Josh Aikens and Jason Sarnoski. They, as much as he, deserve the blame for the false and vile attacks they send on a near-daily basis. I ignore most of it, trusting that Republican Primary voters are smart enough to know nonsense when they see it.

But there is one attack – one so personal and hurtful – that I cannot and will not ignore, because it re-victimizes my children and me in the most despicable and dishonest way possible. The idea that Aikens, Sarnoski and Winkler would suggest that I am sympathetic to sex offenders and would grant them custody of children is slander on another level, and I will no longer let it stand.

I hope when you are done reading this, you will realize what a sick and twisted “campaign strategy” this is, and that you will hold Josh Aikens and Jason Sarnoski accountable for peddling this smut. Both of them should be ashamed. Neither deserve your vote.

In early 2007, my ex-husband, who was a teacher at Kittatinny Regional High School, was arrested for having criminal sexual contact with a 15-year-old female student. Our family was blindsided and devastated. You can read the articles HERE and a longer version HERE and HERE, if you are so inclined. And contrary to my opponents’ lies, the names of my young children were NEVER printed by the media, nor shared by me at the time.  The only people who have dragged my children back into this mess are my opponents.

In one horrific night – that started with State Troopers knocking on the door of our family home, with my young children asleep in their beds – my world crashed down around me.

The scandal became state and national news.

My marriage was destroyed, and I filed for divorce.

I became a single mom to three young children.

I lost my home, and was forced to declare bankruptcy.

I was embarrassed, scared, and broken.

It took me years to rebuild a life for me and my children. Yes, I struggled financially for a time and the aftershocks are still felt, but I’ve done my best to put my life back together. I put myself through graduate school, became a middle-school principal, raised three great kids, and was elected to both local and countywide political office, and am now a candidate for State Assembly.

Does any of this matter to Josh Aikens, Jason Sarnoski, and their political consultant? No. They just see this devastating circumstance as a political opportunity to smear me, and in doing so, re-victimize me, my children, and most horrifically, the young victim of the crime.

As for their allegation that I somehow support allowing Megan’s Law sex offenders to retain custody of their children – what they are referring to is as per the final judgment of divorce, a judge – determining that my ex-husband was not a threat to our young children or at risk to reoffend – granted joint legal custody, and granted me primary physical custody of our children.  This was not my decision; it was up to the judge, according to the law.  The decision was never mine to make. And THAT is the official, legal record. Not a newspaper. And certainly not a political blog.

My apologies for the long and tortured email. I did my best to ignore their attempts at character assassination. I wanted to spare my children and me from reliving this nightmare. That said, the truth is now out there. I hope this clarifies the issue for those with any questions and – even more so – I hope you join me in repudiating these vultures – Aikens, Sarnoski and Winkler – who would seek to hurt my family like this. They do not belong anywhere near the place that laws are made that impact childhood victims of sexual abuse.

Thank you for your time, and God bless,

Dawn Fantasia

 

Both Aikens and Sarnoski responded to Fantasia’s statement: Here they are:

Dawn Fantasia has attempted to say that the Aikens & Sarnoski campaign revealed her own comments to the Star Ledger in 2014, in which she suggests being open to giving custody of children to registered sex offenders.

That information was disclosed by “blogs” NOT affiliated with Aikens & Sarnoski for Assembly. Our campaign does not operate any of these blogs, and it does not participate in “blogging.”

According to Dawn Fantasia, the person behind these blogs was her political consultant for years. At the direction of Senator Steve Oroho, that consultant interviewed and vetted all candidates for the Legislature in LD-24 at the end of last year. We took part in that vetting process.

Fantasia should take up her issues with the consultant himself. After all, according to NJ ELEC Campaign Finance Reports, she paid this individual to be her own attack dog for years. As did Parker Space, Steve Oroho, and other elected officials supporting her candidacy.

Will Dawn Fantasia admit to being responsible for the attacks launched by the “blogs” directed at her former opponents for Sussex County Commissioner, Jonathan Rose and Carl Lazzaro?

We want no part in this nonsense. Our campaign is laser focused on the issues that matter: opposing new taxes, removing sexualized content from our schools, and stopping the liberal, woke agenda of ESG that is destroying our economy.

We would like to be left out of the infighting between Gas Tax Dawn, and the man she hired, for years, to advise & protect her.

Josh Aikens

 

Dawn Fantasia has attempted to link the Aikens Sarnoski campaign to the disclosure of her (former) husband’s statutory rape of his minor student and the events that followed.  This was disclosed by blogs that have been around for many years, sussexwatchdog.com and Jerseyconservative.com.

Josh and Jason want to be clear. Our campaign does not operate a blog or participate in blogging or have a relationship with those blogs.

Dawn states that these blog posts are written by her former paid political consultant. They had a long time relationship but she claims to have ended it. That consultant was paid by Senator Steve Oroho to vet every candidate for the legislature in LD24 at the end of last year. We know the consultant did research on every prospective candidate for the Assembly because we were asked questions about it.

Josh and Jason suggest Dawn Fantasia take this issue up with her former consultant and not with them.

The record of the paid relationship between that political consultant and Dawn Fantasia, her running mates, and most of the elected officials who are supporting her is recorded in the campaign finance reports filed with NJELEC.

Dawn Fantasia did not have an issue when these blogs put out statements about Freeholders Rose and Lazzaro when she was running against them and paying this consultant.  Nor did she have an issue when sussexwatchdog.com and jerseyconservative.com were going after Assemblywoman Gail Phoebus’ family. To play the victim now is hypocritical.

Josh and Jason want to be clear, their campaign is about Opposing the Gas Tax, protecting our children from the Murphy sex ed curriculum, and Fighting against the woke ESG agenda, not some personal infighting between Dawn Fantasia and her former paid political consultant.

Jason Sarnoski

(Visited 1,953 times, 1 visits today)

7 responses to “LD-24 Uproar”

  1. What this article shows is that far right Republicans will eat their own to win power.
    I sincerely hope that the voters in LD 24 reject out right the candidates of Aikens Sarnoski, they are NOt fit for office, or any public appointment.

  2. What this actually shows is how low Republicans will stoop to win an election. Both sides are at fault as they both dealt in the same thing, as usual: SMEAR, SMEAR, SMEAR

  3. This is pathetic. Ms. Fantasia lost just about everything except her will to carry on and make a future for herself and her children. That is to be congratulated.
    Most everyone knows Sarnoski and Aikens are supported by this out-of-state political operative and I can tell you personally that trying to destroy a person at any cost is exactly how this operative does business. If Sarnoski and Aikens are paying him, they are paying him to do exactly what he was told…do or say what ever the cost to win. Follow the money…

  4. The Dope from New Hope, Wee Willie Winkler, has an unhealthy–I would say sick–obsession with Dawn Fantasia’s past.

    Of course, since he’s the leading apologist for the insurgent Assembly pairing of Josh Aikens and Jason Sarnoski–who are, in my view, destined to lose the June 6 Republican primary in LD24–you expect him to sling mud.

    But his repeated focus on the past sex crimes of Fantasia’s ex-husband have become worn-out, tripe, and perverted. Just like “Rubashov” (Winkler’s cowardly, Soviet-inspired pseudonym), along with his BFF and benefactor, Sussex County Commissioner and noted bigot Cowboy Billy Hayden.

    In his most recent “Jersey Constipated” blog, Winkler obsesses once again about Fantasia’s ex-husband, Jim Cunneely, who in 2007–long before Fantasia entered public life–was arrested and subsequently imprisoned for having a sexual relationship with a then-15 year old girl. Definitely a criminal offense, and one for which he continues to pay the price for as a registered sex offender.

    But Wee Willie sees it a different way. Fantasia divorced Cunneely after the latter’s conviction and has been a single mother ever since. She entered politics in 2014, first as a councilwoman in Franklin and then as a Sussex County Freeholder (now known as Commissioner). Winkler seems to think that, just because her ex-husband was convicted of a sex crime, she somehow owes the public an explanation on laws that have been long established. Take, for example, “Megan’s Law”, which was enacted in New Jersey in 1994 and subsequently codified as federal law in 1996.

    Back in 2008, after Jim Cunneely was convicted of his crime and while Fantasia was divorcing him, she made a statement that, while not condoning his actions, still called him a “good father” and unlikely to re-offend. That’s her opinion, and her right as an American citizen. Somehow, though, Rubashov-it equates that to some kind of intention by Fantasia to advocate for the repeal of Megan’s Law, and to change laws regarding sex crimes, child custody and mabdatory sentencing guidelines. None of which Fantasia has even hinted at, nor has any member–Democrat or Republican–of the New Jersey Legislature, or any New Jersey governor or United States President. In short, Winkler is trying to create an issue where none exists.

    To reiterate: Megan’s Law is now federal legislation, which supersedes the bill previously passed in New Jersey. Even if Dawn Fantasia were inclined to change the law–and nothing she has said indicates that–as a County Commissioner, soon to be a member of the State Assembly, she would have no way of doing so.

    Winkler seems to think he’s entitled to some kind of explanation. I don’t think he is. But since you’re looking for explanations, Willie, maybe you might want to justify your boy Hayden’s associations with subversives, including Stephanie Hazelton, who is scheduled to be sentenced on June 1 for her role in the January 6 insurrectionist in Washington, DC. And his friendships with other convicted domestic terrorists. Don’t try to lie, Winkler, we have pictures.

    And finally, I didn’t realize the Dope from New Hope was venturing into comedy. He’s actually trying–read his blog, if you must–to draw a parallel between Fantasia and–get this–Tucker Carlson. Now, as I’ve said previously, I would never vote for her. But as much as I abhor Republicans, I detest lying hypocrites, which Carlson clearly is, and Winkler seems to be following in his demented footsteps.

    And Winkler calls himself a “journalist”. I’ll put my writing skills–not to mention my IQ–against this lying, misogynistic dirtbag every day of the week. Because this column, unlike the Jersey Constipated, has credibility.

  5. She only divorced Cunneely after it was clear he was going away and supported him by sitting with his family during the proceedings. I’m sure this is public record. She will do and say anything to get elected. She dishes it out too but cries victim when someone comes back at her. She would do the same thing if her opponent’s teacher-spouse had sex with a 15 year old. How dare she utter a word on sex ed in schools!

  6. She only divorced Cunneely after it was clear he was going away and supported him by sitting with his family during the proceedings. I’m sure this is documented as well as when she filed for divorce. This hypocrite will do and say anything to get elected. She dishes it out too but cries victim when someone comes back at her. She would do the same thing if her opponent’s teacher-spouse had sex with a 15 year old. She didn’t care about the girl and wanted this whole thing covered up. What’s her take on sex ed in schools again???

  7. Campaign commentary on Fantasia’s husband’s conviction is of course perfectly fair. But Aikens & Sarnoski seem like weasels when they hide behind some pseudonymous blogger under their employ. If they’re weaselly about this, will they have the strength to do what’s right when in office?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

News From Around the Web

The Political Landscape