Posts Tagged ‘Linda Johnson’

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.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: