For 10 years, I have had the great honor of serving the people of Galloway Township on Township Council. In that time, my decision-making has always been guided by what’s in the best interest of the people, not by my party affiliation or dirty politics.
A lot of false and misleading information has been purported by the Republican Party about my decision to vote for Jim Gorman for mayor. I wanted to take a moment to outline what led to my decision and the subsequent intimidation and threats, some of which have been racially motivated, that my family and I have endured over the past couple of weeks.
In 2013, the Galloway Republicans asked me to run for a seat on Galloway Council. I was elected with the second-highest number of votes right behind Frank Gargione. After we were elected, Gargione and I felt that the township needed to go in a new direction. Despite running on the same ticket as then-mayor Don Purdy, we needed to turn the corner from costly lawsuits bleeding the township and end the good old boys culture at city hall.
In Galloway’s form of government, the council elects one of its own as mayor. Once on the dais, there are no Republicans or Democrats; rather, there are seven members of council, each with equal power, and council members are free to nominate or support who best should serve as mayor. That’s why Gargione and I voted against the reelection of Don Purdy as mayor.
Four years later, I ran for reelection. While Purdy and the Republicans had every opportunity to replace me on their ticket, they did not. The Democrats picked up three seats on council and defeated Purdy, Gargione and Tim Meadows. Despite the strong support for the Democrats, I was fortunate enough to be reelected. Since Purdy was no longer on council, Tony Coppola asked me to support him for mayor and I agreed. I was hopeful for new leadership in Galloway, and I felt Coppola deserved the opportunity.
Over the past two years, I have been greatly troubled by Coppola’s tenure as mayor. Despite no longer being in elected office, Purdy continued to wield enormous influence over the affairs of Galloway. Small business owners complained to me about how hard it was to do business in Galloway, and it seemed that favorable treatment was only given to those in the good old boys club. Politically connected law and engineering firms, meanwhile, were costing the township too much money. For these reasons, and after thoughtful consideration and a lot of prayer, I decided the township would best be served under the leadership of a new mayor, and that’s why I voted to elect Gorman as mayor. Galloway is now in a position to change the way the township is operated while at the same time continuing the bipartisan success of lowering taxes and reducing debt.
Any doubts I had about whether I made the right decision were gone in light of the conduct of the Galloway Republicans before, during and after that council meeting. Three prominent Galloway Republicans accosted me in the parking lot of the municipal complex right before the council meeting, yelling profanities and racial epithets at me. Those slurs continued when Purdy listed my personal cell phone number online. Another member of the Galloway Republican Party posted my home address on social media. As a security officer who has to periodically testify against drug dealers, this invasion of privacy greatly troubled my wife and children. The bully tactics by Coppola and Republican Party leadership are both disturbing and disappointing and highlight why people are so disgusted by politics.
What is peculiar about this situation is that there was no outrage when I voted for Coppola for mayor two years ago or when I didn’t vote for Purdy for mayor four years ago. The only reason why there is any outrage in this situation is because, for them, partisanship is more important than good government.
I will always choose good government over blind partisanship. There is no Republican or Democratic way to take out the trash, fill a pothole or balance a budget. Party does not matter at the local level, nor should it. The voters elect all seven of us to improve their lives and make a difference. I’ll continue to do that as an elected official and I urge all of my colleagues on council to do the same thing.
Robert Maldonado is a councilman in Galloway Township.