CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE - Republicans in the race to represent the 1st District are calling on Democratic Assemblyman Nelson Albano to drop his re-election bid and resign for his actions while getting and responding to a speeding ticket last year.
The Democrats responded by calling the issue "old news" and complaining that the Republican campaign is all about making personal attacks.
The Republicans, at a news conference Monday at the Bellevue Hotel, released a police video of the Feb. 21 traffic stop by State Police Trooper Randy Pangborn in which Albano allegedly tries to talk his way out of a ticket. That's something many people have done at some point in their lives, but the Republicans also released a letter Albano sent to State Police Superintendent Col. Rick Fuentes six days later, making allegations about the conduct of Pangborn that appear to be refuted by the video.
Kristine Gabor, a Republican candidate for 1st District Assembly and wife of retired State Police Staff Sgt. Richard Gabor, said if Albano merely tried to talk his way out of a ticket "we wouldn't be here right now."
"But six days later, Assemblyman Albano wrote a letter with an official (legislative) letterhead basically lying about everything that happened on that traffic stop. He doesn't deserve to be in office and represent the district," Gabor said.
Republican Sam Fiocchi, who is the uncle of two State Police troopers, Sgt. Robert Coia and Detective Dan Coia, said the letter could have ruined Pangborn's career.
"Nelson Albano is the poster boy the kind of arrogance and entitlement that makes hard-working men and women in the real world resent politicians," Fiocchi said.
Republican Susan Adelizzi-Schmidt, who is running for state Senate in the district, said Albano and his running mate, Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic, ran for office to change Trenton but she said, "Trenton has changed them."
Albano could not be reached for comment Monday, but the campaign trying to get Albano, Van Drew and Assemblyman Robert Andrzejczak re-elected did respond.
"This is old news. All we have heard from the Adelizzi-Schmidt team is personal attack after personal attack after personal attack. At what point are they going to discuss anything of substance? At what point are they going to give voters any idea of what they actually would accomplish if elected? This all happened the same month Michael Albano's killer was released from prison and Assemblyman Albano had a heart attack, he has apologized and paid his fine and has moved on, just like the Adelizzi-Schmidt team should do," read the statement.
Albano's 19-year-old son, Michael, was killed by a drunken driver in December 2001.
The campaign also released a statement issued by Republican Gov. Chris Christie in April 2012, two months after the incident, where Christie said he was satisfied with Albano's apology. The governor said Albano was being held responsible by having his mistake put on the front page of newspapers.
Albano was driving to a budget address by the governor when he was pulled over on Route 29 in Hamilton Township, Mercer County, just south of Trenton. The video shows Pangborn telling Albano he was speeding.
"I got you at 71 in a 55," Pangborn said.
Albano allegedly asked for a break and is clearly heard telling Pangborn that the New Jersey Policemen's Benevolent Association elected him legislator of the year in 2011.
"You have to contact the court and we can go from there," said Pangborn as he handed him a ticket.
The Republicans filed an Open Public Records Request to get the letter Albano sent to Fuentes. Albano said he treated Trooper Pangborn with "the utmost respect and professional courtesy," but the treatment was not returned. He claimed Pangborn was retaliating against members of the Legislature because of pension and health care reforms, though Albano actually voted against those reforms. He said he was singled out by the trooper, treated like a criminal, and detained from state business. He asked Fuentes to do an internal investigation into the incident and the trooper's conduct.
"I was humiliated, embarrassed and disrespected as a Legislator as some of my colleagues drove past," he wrote.
The Republicans, however, say the dashboard video shows Pangborn was professional and courteous at all times while Albano showed a "willingness to abuse his office for personal gain." Pangborn at one point even apologized for giving Albano a ticket.
Albano has previously said any motorist has the right to make the request he made, and he denied trying to use his elected position when he made the request. Albano admitted he asked for a break and withdrew a complaint against Pangborn. He paid the $400 ticket.
Pangborn filed a counterclaim amid worries the incident could impact his career. Among other revelations that have come out, Pangborn said he got a phone call after issuing the ticket from union officials asking him to make the ticket disappear, a charge the police union denies.
The State Police did an internal investigation that found the ticket was properly issued.
The Republicans also argue the letter Albano wrote was on Legislative stationary paid for by taxpayers.
Albano, who has represented the district since 2006, has generally denied requests for comment on the case.
Contact Richard Degener: