Political mailers by the Howell Democrat candidates for mayor and council, paid for by the NJ State Democratic Party, that prominently point out that development sites are owned by Jewish organizations and charge that the Republican candidates are offering special deals to Lakewood developers have prompted Republican elected officials and Party leaders to condemn the Democrats’ tactics as anti-Semitic and racist.
Mayor William Gotto and Deputy Mayor Rob Nicastro, both Republicans, held a press conference in Howell to condemn the Democrats mailings, according to reports on The Asbury Park Press and News12. Howell Republican Chairman Juan Malave posted a letter condemning the Democrats mail on facebook.
The Democrats’ mailings are promoting the candidacies of Theresa Berger for mayor and Joseph Montella for council.
Republicans Dan Cardellichio, for mayor, and Evelyn Malsbury O’Donnell for council are defending the seats being vacated by Gotto and Councilman Edward Guz, both of whom declined to seek reelection.
“We have never been a community to choose one ethnicity or religion over another and say that you are not welcome,” Gotto said. “As mayor, my first concern is to protect the safety and welfare of our citizens. It is this type of anti-Semitic propaganda that leads to segregation, hatred and violence.”
“If they don’t know that our zoning ordinances and laws do not allow for overdevelopment, they’re not qualified to be candidates,” Nicastro said. “Let the voters decide whether they think it’s hateful. This is tearing at the fabric of the community and they should be ashamed of themselves.”
“I strongly denounce the outrageous and offensive mailers sent out by Ms. Berger, Mr. Montella and the Trenton Democratic Machine,” Malave wrote in his letter, “If they want to have a debate about overdevelopment then let’s have that debate but it shouldn’t come on the backs of any particular ethnic or religious group.”
Malave said that the Democrats have not offered any constructive plans, ideas or vision to make Howell a better place. Rather they are running on the fear factor of Howell becoming Lakewood.
Berger, noting that her husband and children are Jewish, denied that the mailings are anti-Semitic or racist.
“The phrase ‘Lakewood-style development’ refers to high-density overcrowding and poorly planned building,” Berger told The Asbury Park Press. “The salient issue here is responsible municipal planning — it has absolutely nothing to do with anyone’s religious affiliation.”
Monmouth Democrat Chairman Vin Gopal told APP that the Republicans should be ashamed for pointing out that Berger runs a free health clinic in Lakewood in their mail.
Concerns for overdevelopment have been a hot political topic in Howell since last fall when an affordable housing development was approved on a property owned by the Rabbinical Society of America. At that time, Gotto lashed out at what he characterized as anti-Semitic opposition to the project on facebook.
The status of the development, West Farm, is uncertain as the approval is being challenged in court.
In their mail, Republicans Cardellichio and O’Donnell have pledged to preserve the character of Howell and have rebutted the Democrats charges that they favor high density development.
Nicastro, the Deputy Mayor and Vice Chairman of the Monmouth GOP, noted that a group of North Jersey Democrats led by Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and NJ State Democratic Chairman John Currie condemned a mailer by the Burlington County GOP as “blatantly racist.” The Burlington GOP’s mailer depicted a map of Northern New Jersey with Newark pinned. The caption is, “If you don’t want Burlington County to turn into this part of New Jersey…Then vote for the people who make our county a special place to live.”
“The Howell Democrats mailer, paid for by the State Democratic Party, specifically points to the Jewish Community with their reference to the Rabbinical Society of America and Congregation Kollel,” Nicastro said in a phone interview with MMM. “The Burlington GOP piece points to a geographic location only. I’m not fond of the Burlington GOP mailer, but if Democrats want to argue that it is racist, they can’t have it both ways and argue that their own mail that singles out Jews and a geographic location, Lakewood, is not racist.”
Malave, a Hispanic and the leader of the Monmouth GOP’s diversity effort, wrote, “They (Berger and Montella) don’t represent the Howell I know and love, we live in a very diverse community and that is what makes Howell the great place that it is.”