Republicans and Democrats in the 1st District legislative race are again feuding over campaign advertising with charges flying and one state worker’s job possibly at stake.
The feud began with a campaign mailer the Republicans put out linking Democrat Jeff Van Drew with the new federal health care law dubbed “Obamacare.”
The mailer claimed Van Drew twice voted to speed up implementation of the Affordable Care Act. It features a picture of Van Drew alongside a picture of President Barack Obama with $100 bills in prescription bottles.
“Sen. Jeff Van Drew voted to speed up Obamacare in New Jersey. That’s a prescription for disaster for local families, seniors and small businesses,” the ad says.
Allison Murphy, Van Drew’s campaign manager, said the bill the GOP specifically refers to on the mailer, S-2673, was merely to establish a public awareness campaign about the new federally required health insurance exchanges. Murphy noted the mailer makes no mention that Van Drew twice voted against legislation, S-1319, creating the exchanges.
“They lied. They said it was a bill to speed up Obamacare, which it doesn’t. Jeff voted against the bill to implement Obamacare. Jeff voted no, but he felt Obamacare was going to be rammed down our throats and there should be a public information campaign,” said Murphy.
Chris Russell, a consultant for the GOP campaign, said the mailer is “100 percent factual.” He noted it only refers to S-2673, which Russell argues supports Obamacare because its success will be based on people knowing about it and signing up for it. Russell said no Republican voted for it and Gov. Chris Christie vetoed the bill, partly because the Office of Legislative Services could not determine its fiscal impacts.
“It’s an irresponsible vote for a guy who claims to be a fiscal conservative,” Russell said.
Murphy, however, said that with the Internet there would have been minimal costs for the public awareness campaign. The new saltwater fishing registry was supposed to carry a huge license fee to implement but the program was put on the Internet, mostly through Van Drew’s efforts, and is now free to anglers.
“Putting it on a website doesn’t cost anything. They’re just not being truthful,” Murphy said.
The campaign did not take place due to Christie’s veto and Murphy said this has caused confusion among the public as Obamacare is being implemented.
The race features the incumbent Van Drew facing off against Republican newcomer Susan Adelizzi-Schmidt for Senate. Van Drew’s slate includes incumbents Nelson Albano and Robert Andrzejczak for Assembly against the GOP’s Sam Fiocchi, a Cumberland County freeholder, and Kristine Gabor, a Cape May County freeholder.
The two sides have been fighting in recent weeks over the truthfulness of campaign ads, including a tiff over ads both sides placed concerning an ethics complaint a Republican filed against Albano concerning his behavior surrounding a 2012 traffic stop.
A second ethics complaint emerged this week. This one was filed with the State Ethics Commission against Lynne Dubler, a Stone Harbor resident and an investigator with the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement. Dubler appeared briefly in a Republican video promoting the GOP slate and this could endanger her $63,000-a-year job. State statutes and the division’s own code of ethics prohibit employees from taking part in political campaigns.
“The matter has been referred to the State Ethics Commission,” said Lisa Spengler, a spokeswoman for the division.
The commission does not disclose who files a complaint, or even that an investigation is taking place, but the GOP is blaming the Democrats. Russell said they are the only ones who benefit from it.
“I think it’s despicable they would try to ruin this woman’s livelihood, cost her job, because she made a mistake. The fact she was drawn into the political arena to try and score points is really gross,” Russell said.
Murphy said the complaint was not filed by anybody from the campaign and she did not know who made it. Murphy called it a shame but said it is the Republicans’ fault.
“I don’t even know the woman. I feel bad for her. It really is their responsibility. I sit down with every person who is going to be in a commercial. If it’s questionable, I say go do something else,” Murphy said.
Russell said it was an honest mistake and Dubler did not let them know appearing in the ad could cause problems at her job. He said Van Drew won’t take responsibility for it just like he won’t take responsibility for high unemployment rates and high property taxes in the district.
Murphy countered that the Republicans are running such a negative campaign that they are willing to put their supporters and volunteers at risk.
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