Oroho on Gottheimer Side-by-Side Appearance in Hate Crime Aftermath: ‘Not Political’


Vandals seldom strike the same house twice.

But the unusual happened in Sussex County last weekend when a Hampton Township family was the victim of an apparent politically-connected hate crime for the second time.

The two attacks against the home of Adam Stolarsky and Colleen Murch prompted a huge response Tuesday from a bipartisan group of lawmakers, educators, religious leaders and law enforcement officials.

Michael Strada, the Sussex County sheriff, told about 100 people gathered at Sussex County Community College in Newton that “somebody” has to know who attacked the couple’s home.

And to persuade people who know something to come forward, the sheriff said the Crimestoppers’ program is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

The incidents occurred over the last two weekends.

In the first incident, someone spray-painted a swastika on the couple’s garage and their campaign sign for Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer. The next weekend, bigoted messages were found spray-painted on the street in front of their house, one of which read “I am a Jew.”

Gottheimer, who is seeking reelection to his second term in the fifth Congressional District, is Jewish.
The congressman joined Republican state Senator Steve Oroho, of District 24, Sussex County Prosecutor Francis Koch, Sheriff Strada and others at a rally to denounce the vandalism and to make a larger point – this type of thing is not symbolic of Sussex County.

Oroho pointed out the many organizations in the county that help veterans and serve the needy. He said that represents what the county is really about.

The criminal acts are being investigated by the State Police and the county prosecutor’s office. Koch, the prosecutor, said only that an active investigation is ongoing.

With Gottheimer running for reelection, it’s impossible to ignore the politics of the day. It was, after all, a campaign sign that was defaced. Moreover, Gottheimer’s Republican opponent, John McCann, at least initially, partly blamed the vandalism on incendiary comments made by such Democrats as House Leader Nancy Pelosi and California Rep. Maxine Waters.

Nonetheless, all on hand tried to play down political implications.

Gottheimer said hate speech and politics are two different things.

“It’s not political,” Oroho said as he arrived for the event.

Nationwide, hate crimes are on he rise, according to FBI data.

That’s a fact, but the controversy centers on why. Liberals and Democrats are prone to blame Donald Trump for insensitive and divisive tweets and comments. Republicans, as we just saw with McCann, blame Democrats.

Clearly, this was not a debate anyone wanted to have today at Sussex County Community College.
Speaking figuratively to the vandals, Gottheimer said they are not welcome in Sussex County, New Jersey, or for that matter, anywhere in the United States.

But he said he was “inspired” by what the victims said to him in a phone conversation after their Gottheimer campaign sign was defaced.

He said they asked for another sign.

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