The chairs of the respective parties in Somerset County yanked off the gloves this week and went after each other as Somerset Democrats attempt to pick off a freeholder seat, or displace a clerk, even as sources say Republican Chairman Al Gaburo is not messing around, deprived as he is this year of one of his reliable stars.
Bankable Gaburo stable presence Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R-16) decided to run for governor in the GOP Primary, reaffirming the respect of a lot of his peers and turning some insider heads before getting expunged from the field by Republican nominee Kim Guadagno.
Now with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy riding a double digit lead over Guadagno, Gaburo – and state Senator Kip Bateman (R-16) – want to prove they don’t have to skip a beat in mildly rough weather, even with Ciattarelli gone.
But Somerset County Democratic Chair Peg Schaffer’s not getting that message, and insists on seeing opportunity as she once again attempts to scale the sheer ramparts of the Somerset Hall of Records with a new team of challengers.
“The Somerset County Republicans have decided to campaign using the Trump and Christie strategy of lies, misleading accusations and divisive innuendo to hold on to their power, unable to defend their record of overseeing the nation’s 7th highest tax rate,” said Schaffer’s Somerset Dems’ Executive Director Nathan Rudy. “Over the past week the campaign for [incumbent Republican Freeholder Brian] Levine and [Freeholder candidate and Somerville Mayor Brian] Gallagher for Freeholder and Brett Radi for County Clerk have sent out at least three separate attack pieces against Basking Ridge resident and Freeholder candidate Alex Avellan intended to suggest the Ridge High School graduate is not from Somerset County.”
Rudy said the Trumpian spin alleges that Avellan, “doesn’t own a home in Somerset County, nor does he pay property taxes here.” According to their own literature, the Republican Party apparently thinks the 25 percent of Somerset County who live in a home owned by someone else* “put Somerset County’s special quality of life at risk.”
“It’s not surprising that the Somerset County Republicans discount a quarter of the population just for not owning their own home,” said Avellan. “Their priorities have always been to focus on certain parts of Somerset County while the needs of most residents are ignored.”
The truth, Rudy said, is that Avellan grew up in Basking Ridge, and went to college out of state. He attended Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania where he played varsity soccer, and Cardozo Law School in New York City. After graduation in 2015, he moved back home with his parents as he worked to reduce his college and law school debt.
But Gaburo – still irritated that Ciattarelli lost and trying to get hip to Guadagno as a gubernatorial candidate, but warmed by what he and the others see as a pattern of Murphy missteps, is hardly in a mood to digest that without a fight.
“It must be three weeks until Election Day but it feels more like Groundhog Day as every year, at about this time, and without fail, the Somerset Democrats whine about the current freeholders race,” said the GOP chairman. “Unfortunately, their accusations this year, as in the past are completely baseless. I guess if my candidates supported Sanctuary cities, a proposed $1.3B tax increase and numerous other tax increases I’d be trying to change the subject too. The facts are the facts. In this case the facts are the current county crop of Democrat candidates simply aren’t qualified for the jobs they are running for. They want to ‘change’ Somerset County and the fact is that voters in the county like where they live, like where they are raising their families and like the excellent services they receive.”
Schaffer shot back.
“He can’t talk about our candidates, so he has to attack Phil Murphy, and me,” said the Democratic chair.
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