STATEMENT BY PEG SCHAFFER, SOMERSET COUNTY DEMOCRATIC CHAIR ON BRAMNICK LAW FIRM SEXUAL ASSAULT DEFENSE STRATEGY

      I can’t believe I have to say this in 2019, but it is not OK for a law firm to use victim shaming as a defense strategy for clients accused of rape and sexual assault. Yet today we learned that the law firm headed by Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick not only uses such tactics, but promotes it publicly on its website to recruit potential clients. Rape and sexual assault are some of the least reported crimes in no small part because women fear that they will have their own reputations harmed for the actions of another. Mr. Bramnick is advertising to any woman who has been raped by a man, or child abused by an adult they trust, that even if they justly accuse his client he will seek to turn the tables on them.  As a woman and an attorney, I find this appalling and wholly unacceptable. Mr. Bramnick has taken the phrase “discredit your accuser” from the “Rape” and “Sexual Assault” pages of his website, but only after being publicly shamed himself. He must issue a public apology to the many victims of sexual assault in his district, including Watchung and Warren in Somerset County, and in fact everywhere. Even that is not enough, but it will at least be a start to repairing the damage he has done. I invite Somerset County Deputy Freeholder Director Patricia Walsh, who pledged in May 2019 to speak up for the weak and abused, to join me in condemning this reprehensible behavior, and calling for a public apology.

Democrats Call for Formal Nomination Process Following Outcry Over Republican Freeholder’s Nomination of “Straight Pride” Activist to RVCC Board

Failure to Have A Formal, Public Nomination Process for Freeholder Appointments to Boards and Commissions Risks Integrity of County Government [Somerville, NJ] – Somerset County Democratic Freeholder Candidate Melonie Marano called for immediate changes to the haphazard, crony laden board and commission nomination process the Republican Party has followed for decades. The call came the day after hundreds of concerned citizens and students filled a Raritan Valley Community College’s (RVCC) Board meeting following the discovery that board member Dr. Felecia Nace is an a anti-LBGTQ+ activist who spoke at the “Straight Pride” march in Boston last month. “Someone like Dr. Nace, whose beliefs are in direct contradiction to our county college’s mission of inclusion and diversity, would never have been nominated except in a closed, secretive process like the one the Republican Party has used for decades,” said Marano. “The process leads not just to cronyism, but the resulting limited pool of applicants weakens our boards and commissions and creates a lower quality of services for our communities.” When the media contacted Freeholder Pat Walsh about her nomination of Dr. Nace to the RVCC Board in 2017, she declined to comment and allowed Somerset County Republican Party Chair Al Gaburo to speak for her. In speaking for Walsh, Gaburo said, “I encourage anyone to check out Dr. Nace’s resume and challenge her credentials.” Even if Dr. Nace’s anti-LBGTQ+ activism was on her resume for people to review, finding the resumes of people nominated by the Somerset County Republican Freeholders is often difficult since many are not on file. In a previous Freeholder meeting, Freeholder Shanel Robinson called for standards to be enforced in the Somerset County Freeholder Board nomination process, asking for resumes for all nominations.  She stated that it is clear a new process is needed. Marano and Robinson proposed the following: A single section of the Somerset County website listing not only all boards and commissions, but vacancies and terms that end within the next 12 months;  A web form for interested candidates to apply for open positions, including resume uploads and skill reviews; Listing of all applicants under consideration on the agenda when a final vote is taken. “Our students deserve better than board members like Dr. Nace who actively oppose portions of the college’s mission, and our residents deserve the best people on our boards and commissions,” said Marano. “Fortunately, we are just one vote away from being able to professionalize our nomination process, and I look forward to being that vote when I join Shanel and Sara on the Freeholder Board in January.” ###

Somerset County Debate Results: Republican Freeholder Pat Walsh Refuses to Answer Trump Question, Says “I Don’t Want to Talk About It.” Chief Parenti Motivated By Politics

  [Somerville, NJ] – Somerset County Freeholder candidate Melonie Marano asked a very simple question of her opponent at the candidate debate hosted by the League of Women Voters last night. Marano asked Republican Walsh “if she supports Donald Trump for president in 2020.” Walsh, who was clearly flustered, decided to dodge the question and instead responded saying, “I cannot do anything about what happens in Washington” and that “I have no idea yet if I will support Donald Trump in 2020.” Somerset County, home of the Trump National Golf Course, is not immune to national issues such as LGBTQ+ rights. Recently, Marano called on Raritan Valley Community College (RVCC) board member Dr. Felecia Nace to resign immediately after it was discovered that Dr. Nace was a leader and speaker at the “Straight Pride Parade” rally held in Boston last August. “At a time when our county is becoming more diverse, and our young college students are becoming more understanding about LGBTQ+ issues, we cannot have board members who actively try to exclude gay studies from education,” said Marano.   Dr. Nace’s nomination was made in July 2017 on a motion by Republican Freeholder Pat Walsh. The vote by the then all-Republican Freeholder Board was unanimous.  Republican County Chairman Al Gabruo took a page out of Walsh’s playbook and in response to the request for Nace to resign, avoided the issue and instead pointed to Dr. Nace’s qualifications. Walsh has also remained silent on the issue. Republican Walsh has a history of avoiding LGBTQ+ subjects. “This is part of a pattern with Pat. As Mayor of Green Brook in 2006 when civil unions became legal, she refused to perform any weddings in order to avoid performing a ceremony for a loving same-sex couple.”  Marano on the other hand stated, “I was proud to be the first Mayor in Green Brook to perform a same-sex civil union ceremony.” “The residents of Somerset County deserve a Freeholder board that doesn’t make mistakes like appointing an anti-LGBTQ+ activist to oversee the education of our college students,” said Marano. “Fortunately, the Somerset County Freeholder Board is one member away from real leadership that will be open, honest and supportive of the entire Somerset County community.” In the debate for Somerset County Sheriff, Republican candidate Bill Parenti touted his new initiatives, such as his recently announced partnership with the current Sheriff to combat opioid addiction.  Democratic candidate Darrin Russo asked a heartfelt question of his opponent Chief Parenti. Russo wanted to know what Parenti would say to the parents or family members of someone who has battled an opioid addiction over the past several years. Russo questioned “why as a chief for over a decade, head of the chief’s association and good buddy with the current sheriff, Parenti didn’t introduce these programs earlier.” Parenti simply stated “years ago I was not running for sheriff”.  The program introduced by Parenti has been in effect for several years in other communities. “Imagine the number of lives that we could have saved if programs to treat addiction were implemented years ago,” stated Russo. “It’s a shame that the Republican candidate for Sheriff didn’t use his current chief’s position to help the residents of this county and now he is scrambling to come up with ideas because he is running for office.”   ###

Former Green Brook Mayor Melonie Marano Calls for Resignation of RVCC Board Member Who Joined “Straight Pride” Board of Directors and Spoke at Parade

Demands Pat Walsh Explain Nomination of Dr. Felecia Nace To RVCC Board, and Joins In Call For Investigation Into Approval of Her Outside Activities Continue reading

Attacks on Dem Candidate from Parenti Campaign

STATEMENT BY LT. DARRIN RUSSO ON RECENT ATTACKS BY THE PARENTI CAMPAIGN: "I am disappointed at Chief Parenti’s willingness to launch cowardly attacks against myself and dozens of officers in Franklin Township. For over thirty years I worked with these men and women to protect the public and build better relationships with our community. I am asking Chief Parenti to apologize to the officers whose character he is impugning.  As Mr. Parenti is aware, a policy was overseen by former Franklin Township Police Chief Larry Roberts who is now advising Mr. Parenti’s Republican campaign. Under the policy, officers could apply to use work time to participate in community events such as the Fourth of July fireworks, or a West African celebration, or a local charity fundraiser. Each application would require the Chief’s signature. Myself and dozens of officers followed those guidelines and used this policy to develop a rapport with the public that we found helpful in achieving lower crimes rates and a safer Franklin. The administration of that program now finds itself under investigation, and I trust former Chief Roberts is cooperating fully with all investigative efforts. Obviously, if this outside investigation finds that the Department inappropriately administered this program resulting in abuse, the time should be repaid and the program should be either scrapped or revamped to ensure taxpayers are protected.  Given Mr. Parenti’s behavior and the charged political environment we find ourselves in, I expect baseless attacks launched from his campaign. That’s exactly what this is. " Contact: James Corti at somersetdemsed@gmail.com | 973-919-1793   Continue reading

Republicans silent on president’s attack of 22,000 adult Jews in Somerset County.

[Somerville, NJ] - Americans of conscience were dismayed this week when the President of the United States labelled the vast majority of Jewish adults in the United States as “disloyal” solely for their political support of his opponents, and then a day later repeated the slur. These are the kinds of words that have been used for centuries to marginalize, and sometimes eliminate, Jewish peoples.   One's political party should have no bearing on calling out appalling statements like this. This is not about support of a party or a candidate, but support of the American ideals of freedom of assembly, freedom of worship and freedom of speech.   Yet so few Republicans – including Somerset County Republicans and their candidates -- are willing to speak out against the repeated and egregious attacks on minority races, religions and populations by the President. They are silent on the president’s attacks on the 22,000 adult Jews in Somerset County.   Pat Walsh and Bill Parenti, the GOP candidates for Freeholder and Sheriff, were happy to use the President’s Bedminster golf course for a fundraiser earlier this month, and Walsh proudly attended the NJ GOP’s “Woman of the Year” event at another Trump golf course soon after.   Walsh also pledged in May to “speak up to challenge bigotry in any form” at a Freeholder meeting, but has yet to do so when it comes to her party’s leader.   Bill Parenti serves in North Plainfield which is home to the only Yeshiva in Somerset County, yet he is silent on the president’s comments on Jewish “disloyalty.”   It’s time to end the silence, and call out anti-Semitism and bigotry from the highest ranks of their party.

THE TRUMP VS OBAMA ECONOMY — in 15 charts

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/08/20/trump-v-obama-economy-charts/?wpisrc=nl_most&wpmm=1   Continue reading

SOMERSET COUNTY DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATES MARANO AND RUSSO LOOKING FORWARD TO LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS’ DEBATE

Democratic candidates announce they will accept any debate held by a non-partisan organization serving Somerset County, 8/16/2019 [Somerville, NJ] – Somerset County Democrats Melonie Marano and Darrin Russo announced today they accepted an invitation to the League of Women Voters' debate against their Republican opponents in Somerville on September 19th. “Debates are an American tradition, and I am excited to have the opportunity to discuss the issues facing our county in a public forum,” said Marano, candidate for Somerset County Freeholder.  “Darrin and I have the experience, qualifications and vision to make Somerset County work for everyone, and can’t wait to be on a stage with our opponents.” “I can’t think of a better way to highlight the differences between our campaigns than to stand in front of an audience answering their questions about the future of Somerset County,” said Russo, candidate for Somerset County Sheriff. “The voters deserve a chance to see Melonie and me in contrast to the opposing candidates, and we look forward to this and any other opportunity to present ourselves.” To date, the Republican candidates have not accepted the debate. Over the past three years, the Republicans have been unwilling to debate the Democrats in a public forum. “In the past I guess the Republicans felt they didn’t have to stand in front of the voters, but with the Democratic victories in the past two years, perhaps that will change,” said Peg Schaffer, Somerset County Democratic Chair. “In fact, we are willing to accept any non-partisan organization’s invitation to debate and hope the GOP will do so as well.” Organizations wishing to host a debate can send an invitation to Melonie Marano and Darrin Russo at somersetdemsed@gmail.com. The League of Women Voters of the Greater New Brunswick area has scheduled the debate for September 19, 2019 at 7 p.m. in the Somerville High School Auditorium. https://www.tapinto.net/towns/bridgewater-slash-raritan/sections/somerset-county-news/articles/franklin-township-russo-and-marano-accept-league-of-women-voters-debate-invite-4  

SOMERVILLE: A Walkable Urban Alternative

“The kids are coming out of the cities, and back to Mayberry. They want a walking town, they want some night life — but it doesn’t have to be constant — and they want safety.” Those elements were not a given for this borough of 12,000 residents in Somerset County a decade ago, when Main Street was dotted with empty storefronts and some residential neighborhoods were suffering from neglect. An effort by borough officials to resurrect the downtown, combined with a close working relationship with New Jersey Transit, which designated Somerville a “transit village” — one of 33 municipalities in the state included in an initiative to encourage smart growth and development around train stations — has resulted in a revitalization of the commercial center that has attracted developers and home buyers. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/14/realestate/somerville-nj-a-walkable-suburban-alternative.html Continue reading

A Former Somerset County Freeholder Spoke Out. What’s Wrong With Pat Walsh?

This is what is sounds like when a Somerset County Republican Freeholder speaks out against racism, in this case former Freeholder (and Governor) Christie Todd Whitman. “[T]hese particular tweets were not merely a racist dog whistle. They were a bugle. …“We are not a people who look away when our president spews hateful rhetoric and tries to divide our country along racial lines. And my party, the Republican Party, must return to our roots and champion our commitment to freedom for all.” – Published in the Star Ledger, July 21 2019 But all we’ve gotten from current Republican Freeholder – who pledged just two months ago to speak out whenever she experienced racism – is crickets regarding Donald Trump's recent racist tweets.

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