GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — Mayor Keith Hartman has suspended his re-election campaign, citing threats made against him and his family.
Hartman announced his decision by email to The Press of Atlantic City shortly after 7 p.m. Tuesday as a Township Council meeting was taking place. Hartman did not attend the meeting.
The announcement narrowly missed Tuesday’s 4:30 p.m. deadline to notify the Atlantic County Board of Elections about a candidate dropping out of the race. Galloway Township Republican Party leader Terry Lucarelli said the party will not be permitted to put another Republican on the ballot. It’s unclear whether Hartman’s name will remain on the November ballot.
Hartman’s decision to suspend his campaign was made, he said, after his children, his business and his friends were threatened. He said he has been “threatened, harassed and intimidated” as well by a group or groups of people who have remained anonymous.
“I can no longer tolerate the political games, dirty tricks, rumors and back-stabbing that is so prevalent today. The toll it has taken on my family, friends and business is no longer worth it,” Hartman wrote in the email. “Under my administration we have accomplished a great deal of good for our neighbors. All of this was done without seeking payment from the taxpayers. I have never received a paycheck from the taxpayers. I have served because I felt I could make a significant difference, and I have.”
Information about the threats has been turned over to the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office, Hartman said. Haleigh Walz, a spokeswoman for the Prosecutor’s Office, said the office does not confirm or deny ongoing investigations.
In July, Hartman, who was running for one of three council seats, said he would be running his own re-election campaign without the support of the Galloway Township Republican League. He lost the backing of the Republican group after refusing to apologize for telling a media outlet that he did not consider himself a Galloway Republican.
Lucarelli said she was not aware of any threats made against Hartman and has not had any contact with him. She said she attended Tuesday’s council meeting to support Deputy Mayor Don Purdy in the event that Hartman did not attend the meeting. Tuesday marked the second consecutive council meeting that Hartman skipped.
Council members, when told of Hartman’s decision, said they believe Hartman is doing what’s best for the township and what’s best for his family.
“Everything around here is getting way too carried away. People need to respect his privacy. He’s going through a lot of things,” Purdy said. “I really believe at this point, he’s doing what’s best for the township.”
Councilman Dennis Kleiner, a Republican, spoke out more strongly about Hartman’s choice, saying the mayor had made bad decisions while in office. Kleiner would not elaborate as to what those decision were.
“The township is better off without him,” said Kleiner, who also called upon council on Tuesday to convene an ad hoc investigative committee to look into closed-session content that has been leaked to media outlets.
The committee, which will consist of Purdy, Councilman Jim Gorman and Councilwoman Whitney Ullman, will provide guidance to township Solicitor Michael Blee, who may look to subpoena witnesses in the matter, Kleiner said.
Separately, Gorman also called for a closed-session discussion about a potential investigation regarding closed-session minutes that he believes were leaked to a noncouncil member.
“I think if an investigation shows that to be the case, this council person should be censored or thrown off council,” Gorman said.
He would not elaborate further or provide the names of whom he was referring to.
Hartman’s announcement was only the latest evidence of strife within the township government.
Less than a week ago, township Clerk Lisa Tilton filed a $3 million lawsuit against 10 township officials, including every member of council aside from Hartman.
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