BRANCHVILLE – Mike Inganamort had a question Wednesday evening for the 50 or so people who congregated in the local firehouse for a “candidates night.”
How many of you, he asked, are fans of MSNBC?
No one raised their hand. Not at all surprising for a Republican gathering – especially one in Sussex County, a place local leaders like to say is the most conservative redoubt in “blue” New Jersey.
Then Inganamort, who is involved in a combative LD-24 Assembly primary, got to his point.
When his primary opponents criticize him for his alleged support for a non-financial business practice known as ESG, just think of the talking heads on MSNBC.
“It’s a lot of BS,” Inganamort said, referring to both the network and his opponents.
ESG stands for Environmental, Society and Governance. In simple terms, the idea is that corporations should care about how their activities impact the environment and society in general. This may seem somewhat benign. After all, there ain’t nothing revolutionary about a corporation trying to be a good neighbor.
Opponents decry the idea as a “woke” initiative that encourages businesses to spend money on political agendas like climate change.
Guess which camp holds sway in the LD-24 primary?
We digress. The playing field is as follows.
Inganamort, the mayor of Chester Township, is running with Dawn Fantasia, a Sussex commissioner.
Their main opponents are the team of Josh Aikens, the school board president in Lafayette, and Jason Sarnoski, a Warren County commissioner. Also in the race running unaffiliated with anyone else is Robert Kovic of Sparta.
The two Assembly seats are open because both incumbents are departing. Harold Wirths is not running again and Parker Space is running for the state Senate in a district that covers all of Sussex and parts of Morris and Warren counties,
Inganamort’s alleged association with the ESG initiative has been a constant theme of the Aikens-Sarnoski team. It shows, they say, that the Chester Township mayor is not a genuine conservative.
They say that Inganamort promotes ESG policies through his employer – ASG Advisors. Its website says ASG provides “deep-dive strategic planning” and program design to build stakeholder engagement and impact assessment for clients.
The firehouse event was not a debate, but a forum with candidates speaking for about 10 minutes without interruption. There was no back and forth.
Inganamort brought up the criticism when he spoke.
“False would be putting it mildly,” he said before using his MSNBC reference.
Inganamort said his role with the company is limited to marketing and communication and has nothing to do with ESG policies.
Referring to Sarnoski, he said that if he really cares so deeply about ESG, he would not be employed by JCP&L, which adheres to that dreaded policy.
Sarnoski had already spoken, but he said there’s a difference between working for a large company and owning one.
Asked about that, Inganamort said, “I don’t own the company.”
Other than this topic simmering “off-line” so to speak, there was little policy disagreement among the speakers.
Space, who is running with Inganamort and Fantasia, said they would join him in having the most conservative voting record in Trenton.
Aikens stressed his recent success in getting conservatives elected to local school boards. This has become a heightened Republican goal.
The general politeness of the evening, notwithstanding, Aikens said the campaign is no joke, adding, “It is very brutal.”
Well, we may find out April 27 when there is a scheduled debate sponsored by the New Jersey Globe and SaveJersey.com.