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Posts Tagged ‘James Mowczan’

Mary Beth Jahn (left) speaks with Connie Ogden of Ocean Grove after the meeting. All photos by Mary Walton

By Charles Layton

A large contingent of Ocean Grovers turned up at the meeting of the Neptune Democratic Club on Tuesday night to show support for Committeewoman Mary Beth Jahn.

Not only were they not allowed to speak in support of Jahn, they were told by the club’s president that they were not welcome.

Club President Linda Johnson opened the meeting by announcing that she would only allow a limited set of issues to be discussed. “If anyone is here for any other issue,” she said, “we do not deal with that issue, so if that is what you came for you can leave.” She went on to say that if anyone stepped out of line “there is a sergeant of arms and he will show you to the door.”

Johnson's message to Jahn supporters: "You can leave."

That was Johnson’s opening statement. Her closing statement was: “I think if you are not a dues-paying member and a Democrat you do not belong in this room.”

These remarks were entirely unprovoked. The crowd of Ocean Grovers, most of whom had never attended the club’s meetings before, could not have been more well-behaved throughout the evening. They politely applauded some of the speakers, who included members of the Township Committee.

The turnout, at the VFW post on Corlies Avenue, was much larger than is usual at meetings of the Democratic Club — something in the neighborhood of 70 people. Roughly half of that number were from Ocean Grove, and the great majority appeared to be Democratic voters.

“I was appalled,” said Joan Cruz of Ocean Grove. “I’m a lifelong Democrat. I really wanted to join this club and do some good here. I’ve never felt so unwelcome.”

After the meeting was adjourned, many others from Ocean Grove also remarked on the hostile reception. “Our voices were squashed,” Joy Norton said. Barbara Burns called the meeting “distinctly undemocratic.”

The issue that brought out these Ocean Grovers was the recent decision of the Neptune Democrats’ district leaders to replace Jahn with Nicholas Williams on the June 5 primary ballot.

Although a  majority of those party functionaries had voted on March 24 to endorse Williams rather than the incumbent Jahn, their decision could be overturned by the County Democratic Party and its chairman, Victor Scudiery. And in fact, Scudiery has already let it be known that he intends to do just that. The Neptune democratic organization has been gathering names on a petition and lobbying in other ways, hoping to change Scudiery’s mind, but at this point Jahn’s supporters seem confident that Jahn rather than Williams will end up as the party’s chosen candidate.

James Mowczan, the party's municipal chairman

James Mowczan, chairman of the Neptune party, said on Tuesday night that the issue will be decided for certain on Thursday. That, he said, is when Scudiery must turn in the official list of the party’s endorsed candidates to the County Clerk of Elections.

Joan Cruz said that she and her husband have just recently made Ocean Grove their primary residence and registered to vote here. She said that at the start of Tuesday night’s meeting she paid the $10 membership fee to join the Democratic Club, as many of the other newcomers did. But after the cold words she heard from the club’s president, she went to Mowczan after the meeting, withdrew her membership and got her $10 back.

“I intend to call the county Democratic Party tomorrow and complain,” she said.

The Neptune Democrats have never given any public reason for their decision to reject Jahn as their candidate. Jahn has said the problem is her refusal to go along with certain job appointments. In particular, she has said, Mowczan has pushed for the Township Committee to appoint former mayor James Manning to the position of township business administrator. Jahn has maintained that Manning is not qualified for that job.

Since it became known that the local Democrats were trying to oust Jahn from the Township Committee, Ocean Grovers have been especially vocal in supporting her. This is partly because Jahn is very well known in Ocean Grove but also because the intra-party dispute has hardly been publicized anywhere except in the Grove. Area media have pretty much ignored the story. However, that could change. A reporter from The Coaster was present at the Tuesday night meeting.

Nicholas Williams, who hopes to replace Jahn on the Township Committee

NOTE: For background on the Jahn-Williams dispute, go here. To read an editorial on the issue, go here.


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By Charles Layton

The man who is seeking to replace Mary Beth Jahn on the Neptune Township Committee was himself replaced Monday night. The Township Committee voted not to reappoint Nicholas Williams to his seat on the board of the Neptune Housing Authority.

It was an unmistakable signal that Committeewoman Jahn and Mayor Randy Bishop are prepared to fight back against those in the local Democratic Party who wish to remove Jahn.

Jahn has said the party’s municipal chairman, James Mowczan, is opposing her candidacy for reelection because of a dispute over an important job appointment. Jahn has refused to support the hiring of James Manning Jr., a former Neptune mayor, as the township’s next business administrator when Philip Huhn retires from that post at the end of this year. Manning, she says, is not qualified. However, Williams, who seeks to replace Jahn on the Township Committee, is thought to favor Manning’s appointment, although he has made no public statements to that effect. (An attempt to reach Williams for comment was unsuccessful.)

Nick Williams -- removed from the Housing Authority board.

It was a tense moment at Monday night’s meeting when the Committee came to consider whether to reappoint Williams to the housing board. Jahn moved to appoint Beverly Holland, a former Neptune Board of Education president, instead of Williams. Mayor Bishop asked if anyone wished to second that motion. When the other three committee members — Eric Houghtaling, Kevin McMillan and Dr. Michael Brantley — remained silent, Bishop said, “All right, then, I’ll second it.”

When the vote was taken, Bishop and Jahn voted for Holland’s appointment. The other three abstained. Gene Anthony, the Township’s attorney, then ruled that, according to the law, when members of a public body abstain not based on a vested interest, their abstentions are treated as in agreement with the majority of those voting. And so, Jahn’s motion passed. By abstaining, Houghtaling, McMillan and Brantley were able to finesse an uncomfortable situation, allowing Bishop and Jahn to have their way without themselves overtly defying other leaders of their party.

Houghtaling, McMillan and Brantley appeared to be trying to avoid taking sides in what has quickly, over the past three days, developed into an open war among Neptune democrats, with Bishop and Jahn on one side and Mowczan and Williams on the other.

After the vote, no more was said about the matter — until time came for public comments from the floor. At that point, Kennedy Buckley of Ocean Grove rose and delivered a speech denouncing the Neptune Democratic Party leadership for trying to pressure the Township Committee into hiring Manning. He also praised Jahn for standing up against that pressure. “It just stinks to high heaven,” he said. He appealed to other members of the Committee to follow Jahn’s example. His appeal was answered with a tense silence.

Much would seem to be riding on the outcome of this struggle over Jahn’s seat on the Committee. Here is some background:

Jahn and Brantley are both up for reelection this year. On Saturday morning, Neptune’s Democratic district leaders, in a meeting at Mom’s Kitchen, voted — apparently by a narrow margin — to recommend that Brantley, but not Jahn, be given special priority on the ballot in the party’s June 5 primary election. In place of Jahn, the district leaders voted to recommend that Williams be listed on the party’s “line” on the ballot.

However, the final decision about that lies with the County Democratic Party and its chairman, Victor Scudiery. If Scudiery decides in favor of Williams, Jahn’s chances of winning the primary will be diminished, because she would lose the more favorable ballot position as well as the campaign support of the party. However, if Scudiery rejects the Neptune party’s recommendation and sticks with Jahn, that would constitute a defeat for Mowczan, for Williams and probably also for Manning. (The Republicans are not considered to have much chance in the general election, no matter who the Democrats’ candidates turn out to be.)

In case Scudiery rules against her, Jahn was gathering signatures on a petition Tuesday to assure that she has a place on the primary ballot.

The outcome of this struggle could effect Ocean Grove in tangible ways. Although Ocean Grove is a Republican stronghold, Jahn has developed a following here because of her positions on some important local issues. These include the North End redevelopment and the problem of derelict buildings in Ocean Grove.

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For more information and background on the local party’s move against Jahn’s candidacy, go here.

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By Charles Layton

District leaders of the Neptune Township Democratic Party voted Saturday not to back incumbent Mary Beth Jahn for reelection to the Township Committee.

The party chose instead to go with Nick Williams, a former school board member and the current chairman of the Neptune Housing Authority.

The action came at a meeting of the local party’s 35 district leaders at Mom’s Kitchen. However, the vote does not mean Jahn won’t be on this spring’s primary ballot; it is a recommendation to the County Democratic Party and its chairman, Victor Scudiery, who will ultimately decide who get’s the “line” — i.e., the party’s official blessing — in a primary race.

In addition to Williams, the local party voted to recommend incumbent Dr. Michael Brantley. The seats of both Brantley and Jahn are up for grabs this year. Whichever two Democratic contenders end up on the general election ballot this fall are considered likely to win, given the Republicans’ relatively weak position in Neptune. The vote by the Democrats’ district leaders was evidently quite close. One source told us that Brantley came in only one vote ahead of Jahn. (The party’s municipal chairman, James Mowczan, told us the vote tally was not made public, and that he didn’t know how close it was.)

When contacted by Blogfinger on Saturday, Jahn did not wish to comment, except to say, “My interests always lie with what’s best for Neptune.” Her colleague on the Township Committee, Mayor Randy Bishop, also declined to comment. Bishop nominated Jahn and spoke on her behalf at Saturday’s meeting.

What happens next is complicated. In order for Jahn to get on the Democratic primary ballot, she must submit a petition with at least 18 signatures. County chairman Scudiery does not decide which of the two contenders, Jahn or Williams, goes on the primary ballot — they both do — but Scudiery does decide which of them gets the endorsement of the party establishment. This is considered quite important, as it determines which candidate gets the more favored ballot position.

The New Jersey primary elections are scheduled for June 5. Only persons registered with a given party may vote in that party’s primary.

UPDATE, Sunday, March 25: In response to speculation on this website as to the reason for Saturday’s action, Jahn wrote that it was prompted by “my refusal to hire an unqualified former Township Committee member” to replace Neptune Business Administrator Phil Huhn, who plans to retire later this year. That former Committee member is James Manning Jr., who has expressed interest in the job. It had been announced that the Township Committee would hold a special meeting last Tuesday to interview candidates, including Manning. However, that meeting was suddenly cancelled without public explanation. To read about Manning and the job position, go here. To read Jahn’s complete statement on that subject, see the comments string to this article.

Meanwhile, in an interview on Sunday, the Neptune Democrats’ municipal chairman, James Mowczan, said he felt sure the leadership of Monmouth County Democrats would not go against the wishes of the Township’s party leaders. “It’s pretty much a done deal that they [Nick Williams and Michael Brantley] will get the party line,” he said. In the years Vic Scudiery has been the county leader, Mowczan said, “he’s never gone against the recommendation of the locals.”

If Mowczan is correct, the June 5 primary ballot would list Williams and Brantley as the endorsed representatives of the Democratic Party. Any other candidate (which is to say, Jahn) would be listed lower on the ballot, a significant disadvantage, he said.

Asked about Jahn’s statement that the local party turned against her over the question of whether James Manning would be the Township’s next business administrator, Mowczan said he hadn’t heard anything about that. “I don’t think it was anything against Mary Beth as much as it was for Nick Williams,” he said.

He said it was “not common” for local party leaders to oppose the candidacy of an incumbent, but that it was also “not unheard of.”

Further update: After reading the above comments, Mary Beth Jahn said that Mowczan told her he was allowing the challenges to her seat “because I did not give him a promise to support Jim Manning for business administrator.”

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