MCDO Member Resigns Seat After Piscataway Rep. Makes Homophobic & Antisemitic Remarks; Old Bridge Progressive Member Says

The Gold Dome.

Piscataway, NJ – Krista Fischer, an Old Bridge resident who was elected to serve as her neighborhood’s representative to the Middlesex County Democratic Organization (MCDO) announced today that she had resigned from the MCDO. Fischer, a six year resident of Old Bridge, said she took the action immediately after the organization’s March convention, during which a Piscataway MCDO member described Democratic Piscataway Mayoral candidate Staci Berger as the person “with the dykey haircut and big nose.”

Fischer stated in an email to Berger that she was waiting on the registration line to check in for the MCDO’s advisory vote in the U.S. Senate race, prior to First Lady Tammy Murphy leaving the race. Fischer was asked by two Piscataway MCDO members, later identified as Joan Stamile (Piscataway 2-3) and Joanne Drennan (Piscataway 2-1) whether she knew Berger, who is also a committee member.

“At first, they were speaking pleasantries,” Fischer said in her email to Berger. “Soon, however, the conversation flowed into them discussing with me… how annoying progressive Democrats are. This conversation was about the local politics in Piscataway and quite suddenly, they asked me if I knew Staci Berger. While I had seen you at an event or two or even at a meeting, I responded I didn’t know you either professionally, or personally…they then started to shamelessly talk about you in front of me.

“The woman’s name, Joan Stamile, then stated, ‘She’s got a dykey haircut and a big nose.’ I was shocked over the two offensive references. First, the obvious hateful comment and anti-homosexual reference of “dykey haircut” and the second, “big-nose” also a derogatory comment often referencing those who are Jewish. My husband is Jewish and a fellow Democrat as well. After hearing this in the conversation, and from that moment I was disenchanted. I am sure that my feeling was expressed in my face, I was no longer interested in engaging in further conversation. Quickly I recognized a familiar face…and walked away.”

Fischer contacted MCDO member Nina Jochnowitz, a long-standing Old Bridge Democratic Committee member, who had recruited her, a younger progressive Democrat, into their committee.

“I was still extremely disgusted and angry at the fact [that] two Democratic women, two elected Committee persons, who were elected to represent their community, spoke the way they did. I expected more from our elected community and would never have expected to hear the descriptions of another person, let alone a local Democrat, who in my research has done amazing things for residents in NJ,” Fischer wrote to Berger.

“From what I’ve learned you were given awards for your work from the governor and clearly a person who stands for the same Democratic values I was raised with. I reached out to Nina [Jochnowitz] to see who these women were. I had taken a photograph of them seated at the convention and it is attached. Ironically they were [sitting] in front of me.” The email was accompanied by a photo of Stamile and Drennan.

“I decided there must be something better than an organization which continues to allow for such hate in its rank and file. I refuse to be a member of the same Democratic Organization that by default, endorses people to remain in elected roles who are both antisemitic and homophobic,” said Fischer.

Jochnowitz said she reached out to MCDO Vice Chair Beatrice Moskowitz to discuss the matter. “I consider her a confidant, colleague, and friend. I also reached out to her, because we have similar roots, we are both of Jewish faith and have both experienced the horrific toxic branding of being Jewish in our youth. Being a member of a minority religion, especially now, post October 7th I am extremely sensitive to the negative and hateful speech which is coming from individuals both in our community and outside of it,” said Jochnowitz.

“I called and explained the situation, what occurred at the MCDO event, asked if she would address this with our leadership in the county and if possible, on a local level. While I never [heard] back from Beatrice regarding any outcome, I have seen no change in the leadership in Piscataway, no public apology was made to Staci Berger, to the LGBTQ+ and to my Jewish community. In addition, my hope was to see a push for changes in the behaviors of our elected committee members,” she wrote.

Berger, who is Jewish and was recently recognized as a “straight but not narrow” LGBTQ+ ally by InsiderNJ, was not at the convention due to a family commitment. She said Jochnowitz reached out to her with a text message to say Piscataway MCDOs were “talking…about you.” Berger responded that she was used to it, and that she was out of town. Berger said she only recently learned the full scope of what was discussed and was appalled but not surprised.

“This is who the Piscataway so-called Democratic Organization leaders are. They have engaged in Islamophobic, racist, and antisemitic dog-whistle attacks for years, and the Middlesex County Democratic Organization has continued to provide support to them nonetheless. Silence is complicity. The MCDO itself prevented non-binary residents from running for Committee until we sued in 2019,” said Berger. She noted that her efforts to have the Township include a menorah and a kinara in the winter holiday display were derided by local officials, including having the public information officer write a taxpayer funded screed attacking her personally.

“We have been warning Democratic Party leaders, and frankly anyone else who will listen, that the people in charge of our local party do not hold the values of the Democratic Party and will harm the future of the Party in Piscataway and across NJ. These horrible, hateful comments have now driven at least one elected official out of office. They must be immediately repudiated. Ms. Stamile and Ms. Drennan must apologize to Ms. Fischer, to me, to Piscataway residents, to the LGTBQ+ and Jewish communities, and resign. They should be replaced by the progressive runners up in the 2023 County Committee races. Anyone who refuses to take action on this matter will be viewed as supporting these homophobic, antisemitic comments,” she continued.

Fischer noted that, “The Democratic Party has prided itself on being a big tent, embracing a diverse range of perspectives and ideals. However, within the party, there’s a growing divide between the older, more established members of Democratic committees and the younger, more progressive faction. This divide is not merely ideological; it’s about a failure to collaborate and embrace the changing dynamics of the party.”

“At the heart of this issue lies a lack of meaningful collaboration between moderate committee members and their progressive counterparts. While the Democratic Party has made strides in recent years to become more inclusive and diverse, many younger progressives feel marginalized within party structures dominated by legacy members. For me, these comments were the last straw in my effort to bridge the divide,” she said.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this press release said the MCDO Chair was notified about the situation, which he was not. 

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