By Art Gallagher
Former Monmouth County Prosecutor John Kaye, currently the President of the Monmouth County Affiliated Republican Club, wrote to the Republican County Committee members today to warn that Vin Gopal, the County Democrats and the press, will use Sheriff Shaun Golden’s “dual offices” as a campaign issue in the event he becomes Chairman. Here’s a copy of Kaye’s letter.
Just as important as what John has done, is what he has not done – and that’s gift wrap a campaign issue for Vin Gopal and the County Democrats to beat us all over the head with. Unfortunately, I am concerned that is exactly what electing Shaun Golden to the dual offices of County Sheriff and County Republican Chairman will do.
Chairman Bennett called me on the day Golden announced he was running for Chairman and asked if I was going to “be fair with him this time.” He felt my coverage of the 2012 Chairman’s race when I endorsed his opponent was unfair. I told him I would be and I believe I have been. Earlier this week I sat down separately with John and his daughter, Meghan Bennett Clark. They both acknowledged that MMM’s coverage of the Chairman’s race has been fair.
So, if fairness, I have to say, the argument Kaye raises today in his letter to the County Committee is the same argument I raised against John Bennett being Chairman two years ago. I argued that the Democrats and the press would have a field day with Bennett. I argued that they would use Bennett’s record, pension and multiple public jobs to beat Monmouth County Republicans over the head. It would be Club Monmouth all over again.
I was wrong. It didn’t happen.
I don’t think it will happen this time either. But if it does, both Bennett and Golden could both be vulnerable.
And if Vin, the Democrats, or the press do go down that road against Golden, or Bennett, the GOP should celebrate. It won’t work. The Democrats have been running against Operation Bid Rig and the Lucas farm deal for years. It hasn’t worked.
The Democrats know that running against Bennett or Golden won’t work for them. Trust me. I talk to more of them than you do.
Even if the Democrats thought it would work, they would have a hard time raising money from other counties where Democratic elected office holders and Party office holders have more serious conflicts, real or imagined, than either Bennett or Golden will have, whoever is GOP Chairman come next Tuesday night. If there were to be a Court or Local Finance Board ruling that an elected official, including a sheriff, could not serve as a party official (which there won’t be) there would be many unhappy Democrats throughout the State of New Jersey.
I’m sorry, John Kaye. But this is a silly argument against Shaun Golden being GOP Chairman. I’m not kidding myself. I’m speaking as someone who used the same argument about John Bennett two years ago and was wrong.
Kaye continues in his letter:
Democrats will be able to charge our Freeholders with a politically damaging conflict of interest on nearly every vote they take providing funds for the Sheriff’s Department. This will NOT be fair to Republicans serving on the Board.
And let me be perfectly clear, I have no doubt that every decision made by this Board would be just and appropriate, but that will not prevent the attacks from the Democrats and the press if their Sheriff is also their campaign manager, in charge of their political funding and the ballot “line”. This dual role would open up an appearance of impropriety where none need exist.
One of the greatest things about the Monmouth GOP and by extension, the Monmouth County Government, is that our elected officials are not bossed by Party leaders.
They used to be. But they haven’t been since Lillian Burry was elected Freeholder for the first time in 2005.
Since 2005, the Freeholder Board has changed faces multiple times, but partisan control shifted to the Democrats only for one year. 2005 through 2008 were tough years for the Monmouth GOP, and for Republicans nationally, but the Democrats never had a big year in Monmouth County. They won one seat per year, three years in a row; 2006, 2007, and 2008.
The Party of Bill Dowd and Harry Larrison that John Kaye, Fred Niemann and John Bennett came up in is gone. On the legislative, county and municipal levels, our elected officials are fresher, smarter and more independent than ever before in Monmouth County and probably more so , on all counts, than anywhere else in New Jersey. On the legislative, county, and municipal levels, most of our elected officials in Monmouth County are not dependent on government jobs or political appointments for their livelihoods. That’s a good thing. A very good thing.
That wasn’t the case before 2005.
If a Chairman, Bennett, Golden, or any other “boss,” tried to strong arm a freeholder or legislator over a vote, spending, or other matter of government policy or integrity today, that office holder has options. They all have their own relationships with the press and the prosecutors. I’ve taken a few of those calls over the last eight years.
Unlike in other counties, controlled by both Democrats and Republicans, where the elected officials are puppets of the Chairman, in Monmouth County our Republican elected official on every level are unbossed.
If Golden is elected Chairman, he and the freeholders will probably be under more scrutiny from the press, including me, and the Democrats, than they would have been if Shaun was only Sheriff. I don’t think that’s a problem for Shaun or for the freeholders. I think they would expect the scrutiny, even welcome it, from the press, including me, and even the Democrats. If you don’t think I can independently cover a friend who goes astray, call Anna Little, or Lillian Burry, or John Bennett for that matter.
During my meeting with Meghan this week, I told her that I considered an important part of my job as publisher of MMM to be a bullshit detector. John Kaye’s argument that Shaun Golden shouldn’t serve as both Sheriff and Chairman because of what Vin, the Democrats and the press will do is bullshit.
It’s only fair that I point that out.
John Bennett has been a successful Chairman. Shaun Golden has proven to be an excellent leader and an accomplished executive. All signs point to a successful Chairmanship should he win on Tuesday.
The Monmouth County Republican Committee members should vote for the man they think will do the best job for the next two years. Everything else is noise.