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Oakcrest’s Hayden Horsey wrestles St. Joseph’s Douglas Ferinaccio in the 120 lb. division at Oakcrest High School, in Mays Landing, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020. (VERNON OGRODNEK / For The Press)

Van Drew rival Richter not backing down over Trump comments

County GOP chairmen are putting increasing pressure on primary candidate David Richter to exit the race, saying his comments critical of President Donald Trump’s endorsement of U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew are hurting the party.

“Many people, friends and foes, have suggested I get out of this race and run for something else or somewhere else,” Richter said Saturday. “But those people underestimate my determination and willingness to fight for the people I want to serve in Congress.”

He also said his quotes in a Friday New York Times story did not accurately represent his views.

“The Times reporter clearly had an agenda, and several quotes were taken out of context or came across differently in print than I intended in person,” Richter said. “I have fully supported President Trump and will continue to do so throughout this campaign and in Congress.”

Cumberland County Republican Chairman Michael Testa Jr. and Atlantic County GOP Chairman Keith Davis have both condemned statements made by Richter, 53, of Avalon, in Friday’s Times story. They were particularly concerned about Richter questioning Trump’s motives in endorsing Van Drew, R-2nd, after Van Drew switched parties from Democrat to Republican.

“I assumed I was going to win, and win handily. And that all gets upended,” The Times quoted Richter as saying. “Donald Trump did what was in the best interest of Donald Trump.”

In an email obtained by The Press, sent Friday to Atlantic County Republican leaders, Davis asked those who have endorsed Richter to reconsider.

“I have always insisted that candidates honor President Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment: ‘Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican,’” wrote Davis. “From name-calling on CNN to now questioning President Trump’s motivations in endorsing Congressman Van Drew in The New York Times, it is becoming apparent that David Richter’s words are hurting our party more than they are helping it.”

In an interview with The Press last week, Richter made similar comments but was less pointed in attacking Trump’s motives.

“The president ... has endorsed my Democratic rival. Jeff Van Drew was not a strong candidate for re-election. He was going to lose in a Democratic primary or in a race to me. It was a mistake to have propped him up,” Richter said. “I understand why the president did it. It was a smart move for the White House.”

President Trump to visit Wildwood on Jan. 28

President Donald J. Trump will hold a rally Tuesday, Jan. 28, at the Wildwoods Convention Center, and U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew, R-2nd, will travel with him on Air Force One for the event.

Richter said the White House got good headlines and press coverage by getting a Democrat to flip “over an issue so personal to him — the absurd impeachment vote in the House.”

But Richter said Trump was “backing a guy I don’t believe is going to have the support of Republicans. ... The fact is Jeff Van Drew is simply too liberal to represent the Republican Party in next year’s congressional race.”

Richter said Sunday he will stay the race “to offer voters a real choice in the primary between myself, a lifelong conservative Republican, and Van Drew, a lifelong Democrat who is pretending to be a Republican because he is afraid of losing his job.”

Richter’s endorsements from some Atlantic County GOP leaders came before Van Drew switched parties last month in an Oval Office news conference with Trump at his side, a day after Van Drew voted against impeachment of Trump.

“I’m hopeful that those who indicated support for Mr. Richter will now reevaluate their early endorsements,” Davis said Saturday. “His actions are not moving our party forward.”

Testa, also the newly elected state senator for Cape May, Cumberland and Atlantic counties and co-chairman of Trump’s re-election committee in New Jersey, put out a statement Friday with co-chairman state Sen. Joe Pennacchio, R-Essex, Morris, Passaic.

“Accusing President Trump of abandoning his principles is the type of rhetoric you would expect to hear from his Democratic Socialist opponents like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, not an allegedly ‘Republican’ candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives,” Testa and Pennacchio said. “If Republicans can’t trust Richter to defend the president to a New York Times reporter, how could they ever trust him to stand up to Nancy Pelosi and other House Democrats in Washington?”

They were referring to a part of the story in which Richter hesitates when asked whether he believes Trump has stayed loyal to his priciples, then the reporter quoted him as saying, “No comment … And I don’t want ‘no comment’ to be my answer. No answer.”

“I tried to avoid and cut off her negative questions about the president, but my refusal to answer those questions came across as agreeing with them, which was not my intent,” Richter said Sunday.

Testa and Pennacchio said, “Van Drew stood up to the Democrats’ impeachment hoax and defended President Trump when it mattered most — that’s why the president will be in South Jersey later this month to stand with Republican Congressman Jeff Van Drew.”

Who is running in the 2nd Congressional District race?

DORLYNN STARN / provided  

Wes Starn conquered land, sea and air as a paratrooper, pilot, motorcycle enthusiast, unicycle hobbyist, hunter, rescue diver and boat captain.

special report
Former CEO of Starn's Markets, Captain Wesley Starn was an adventurer, individualist

Capt. Wesley Starn's life was one of relentless adventure.

Held back by dyslexia as a child, he went at the world with an "I'll show you" attitude and an inexhaustible bucket list, said his daughter Dorlynn, of Philadelphia.

A member of the Starn family that owned supermarkets across South Jersey, "Wes" conquered land, sea and air as a paratrooper, pilot, motorcycle enthusiast, unicycle hobbyist, hunter, rescue diver and boat captain.

Dorlynn compared him to Theodore Roosevelt and Ernest Hemingway, a rugged individualist, or Renaissance man.

"I've always thought my dad was born a hundred years too late," she said. "He was kind of a little bit of a black sheep. Because he wanted to be his own man."

The Pleasantville native died of complications from Parkinson's disease on Dec. 27 in Port Salerno, Florida. He was 82 years old.

The 13th of 15 children, Starn's family owned grocery stores in South Jersey that are now ShopRite locations owned by Village Super Market, Inc., including current stores in Somers Point and Absecon.

He met his wife, Ruth B. Starn, 76, in the early 1960s when she was a meat wrapper and he was a butcher at the family's original Pleasantville store. He eventually served as CEO. The company's sale in the 1980s allowed him to retire early.

He suffered from dyslexia as a child at a time when the condition was often mistaken for stupidity, Dorlynn said.

"That was very crushing to him, like all of his life," she said. "He never really got over that."

It did, however, push him to challenge himself and others' idea of him, Dorlynn said.

Starn left Pleasantville High School in 9th grade and, with his parents' permission, enlisted in the Army. He was a paratrooper stationed in Germany. He didn't leave parachuting in his military days, though. He began skydiving again later in life and did his last leap when he was 81 years old.

He bicycled from Atlantic City to his home in Florida in 10 days in 1991. He rode his motorcycle in 1975 from New Jersey to Alaska, a trip that took 33 days and spanned 12,000 miles.


Wesley Starn during a skydiving trip at 80 years old.

He rode BMW motorcycles as a young man but mostly stuck to his Honda Gold Wing when he was older. He crossed every state in the Continental United States, Alaska and every Province in Canada on bikes, motorhomes, cars and trucks. He liked to tell people that he had been within 100 miles of every city in America, Dorlynn said. He was a "goal-oriented person."

"He just had this huge, huge list of cool things ... that he wanted to do," she said. "And he did them, he pursued them. And it helped that he was a pretty solitary person."

He had a litany of aviation licenses, and could fly gliders, single-engine planes, multi-engine planes, commercial aircraft and helicopters, almost every type of flight craft besides balloons, Dorlynn said.

He wasn't limited to the skies. Wes' father taught him to sail, and he rode motorboats and went water skiing as an adult. He spent many days rowing with his wife Ruth in retirement and became a rescue diver with his son Wesley, who died in 1995 in a boating accident.

The urge to prove himself remained intense throughout his life. Starn's uncle was Captain Clarence Starn of Captain Starn's restaurant in Atlantic City. Decades after their uncle died, Starn's younger brother said he was the last "Captain Starn" in the extended family. In an act of one upmanship, Starn — then in his 70s — entered Chapman School of Seamanship and earned his "Masters-100 Ton, Near-Coastal with Sail Endorsements license," according to his obituary. He was, from then on, a "Captain Starn" himself.

Ruth said he was an avid hunter, a "fantastic shooter" who "loved his guns" and tagged bears, caribou and elk, and always returned with stories from his expeditions in Alaska. And though he didn't excel in school, he was smart and insatiably curious, Ruth said. Anywhere they traveled, he needed to visit local museums and soak up any information he could, she said.

"He loved to do that," Ruth said. "If he was interested in something, he found out about it."

Asked what she'll miss most about him, Ruth said, "Just him. Period."

"All I know is he was always there for me when I needed him," Ruth said, "and as a father, he was a very good father to the children. He really was."

He kept a distinct style, sporting a handlebar mustache before it was trendy and always keeping his shirt sleeves turned up "just right," Dorlynn said.

Dorlynn will remember his character as much as his can-do spirit and personal flair.

"He always lived by his own code and he was a very honest man, like his father," Dorlynn said. "He was a truthful person, which is a nice thing to be able to say about your father."

Wesley Starn

Wesley Starn

aaustin-pressofac / AHMAD AUSTIN/For The Press/  

Gen Fitness owners and siblings Vincent Rivera and Gena Laielli talk during one of Laielli’s breaks from attempting the record.

Wesley Starn

Pinelands, Chartertech schools to pilot statewide LGBTQ curriculum

This story has been updated with the latest date for the parent meeting.

LITTLE EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — The answer will still be the same, and the work to get there won’t change, but eighth grade students at Pinelands Regional Junior High School may notice something slightly different in their math homework this month.

“Word problems: You typically say ‘a husband and wife were doing such and such,’” Pinelands Superintendent Melissa McCooley said. “Now it might say a ‘husband and husband.’”

The subtle change will be part of the state’s new LGBTQ Inclusive Curriculum law. Pinelands Regional Junior High School was selected as one of 12 schools, including Chartertech High School for the Performing Arts in Somers Point, to participate in the pilot year.

Chartertech Principal Brian McGuire did not respond to a request for comment.

“It’s not just social studies. It’s throughout the curriculum,” McCooley said. “You’re just being more inclusive of all different types of people in your mindset, in your lesson plan and in your lesson.”

The law requires school boards to include instruction and adopt instructional materials that portray the political, economic and social contributions of LGBTQ individuals across all content areas for middle and high school students by next school year.

New Jersey is the second state in the nation to pass such a law.

Using a $185,000 grant from the Braitmayer Foundation and PSEG Foundation, about 45 lesson plans across all subject areas were developed and written by New Jersey teachers involved in Garden State Equality in partnership with Make It Better for Youth, and will be revised throughout the pilot program based on feedback from educators.

Garden State Equality said an additional 60 lesson plans will be released this year, including a series on New Jersey-specific LGBTQ figures and moments. Stockton University is studying the pilot program.

“Garden State Equality has been working with education experts over the last year to develop this curriculum in line with New Jersey’s core content standards,” said Christian Fuscarino, executive director of Garden State Equality. “When our study with Stockton University concludes at the end of the pilot program, we trust the results will unequivocally show that inclusive curriculum results in safer schools and smarter students.”

Other schools participating are Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Asbury Park, Forrestdale School in Rumson, Haddon Heights Junior-Senior High School, Highland Park School, Millburn Middle School, Newark Arts High School, Bergen Arts and Science Charter Middle and High schools in Hackensack, and Unity Charter School in Morristown.

Educators and administrators from participating districts attended a training session Tuesday in Elizabeth with Garden State Equality to get familiar with the details of the program.

McCooley said that during the training, the educators learned they would not only be changing curriculum and lesson plans, but that it would lead to creating a place of inclusion for all students and staff.

“I think that the biggest takeaway that I had yesterday was that there are certain groups of students and staff members that are coming to school or work and feeling that they don’t belong because it’s a very traditional format,” she said.

According to the latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, 33% of LGBTQ students in 2017 experienced bullying at school — nearly twice the rate of heterosexual students — and 10% did not attend school out of fear over a one-month span. The data show LGBTQ students experience much higher rates of depression and hopelessness, and consider or attempt suicide at rates more than triple that of heterosexual youth.

McCooley said Pinelands experiences bullying regarding a student’s sexuality or gender identity, but no more than any other kind of bullying. She said a parent information night is tentatively scheduled for Feb. 5 to answer questions before the program gets underway.

“We’ve already heard some questions and some concerns, and I think the misconception is it’s a separate curriculum or it’s sex education. We’ve had some parents say, ‘Can we opt out of this?’ and there really is no way (for a student) to opt out,” McCooley said. “It’s really about creating an environment that’s more inclusive of all students and those students who are LGBTQ seeing themselves represented in our textbooks and in our lessons.”

She said that once the parents and community see the lessons — which will be available online — they will see the curriculum is not about teaching sexuality.

“It’s just accurately depicting the world we live in,” she said.

A second educator training is scheduled for May.

Wesley Starn

clowe-pressofac / provided//  

MCCOOLEY Melissa McCooley