It's that time of year again: Vampires and zombies are haunting our neighborhoods; ghouls and goblins are creeping around; and campaign signs touting the latest gang of public-office seekers are junking up the landscape. After scanning my mail-in ballot, a number of familiar skeletons popped up—public servants, reformers, tax-slashers, and shysters looking to stay in office.
A guy running for U.S. Congress started out as a Jim Florio protegé, made a name for himself serving his constituents, and even helped craft the Obama Affordable Care Act. Unfortunately, he got comfortable spending other people's money: Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington lists him as one of our more unethical public servants, spending $40,000 in campaign funds on personal vacations and other goods and services not related to serving his constituents. He claims to have not broken any laws, but being that he and his wife, who doubles as his campaign compliance officer, are schooled in jurisprudence, who are we to argue?
Another guy running for county sheriff has been in politics and law enforcement his entire life, and seems like an upstanding citizen. But someone leaked a story to the press last year about his brother, an undercover state trooper who was involved in an auto accident that was covered up by state police. His brother was driving down I-295 one night two years ago, speeding and probably drunk, and slammed into another car. The other guy sustained serious injuries, and when he tried tracking down the trooper, he found that he didn't exist. He searched unsuccessfully for two years trying to recover his medical costs. The state police used the trooper's undercover name, instead of his real one, and they never gave him a breathalyzer test at the scene. He was on the state police payroll for two years until the story was leaked to the press. He's now on trial in Ocean County to avoid a conflict of interest, being his brother is the Camden County Sheriff now running for re-election! I realize the sheriff is not his brother's keeper, but if we pulled that stunt, he'd haul our asses off to jail. Maybe the sheriff was too busy cashing his $219,000 annual, double-dipping paychecks to have noticed.
A fellow looking to continue freeloading for the county was featured on YouTube recently. His political opponents were attacking him for being arrogant and using impolite language during a town-hall meeting. What else is new? The one thing that caught my attention was when he took the microphone and bragged about his commitment to the people in Camden. He talked about growing up with minorities, living in the city, and his service to the community, but the blowhard failed to mention that he's a typical inner-city machine politician, living on our dime, doling out crumbs to procure votes.
A couple of local girls are running for office. One's a single mom interested in keeping our town “green,” the other is a political science, public policy operative. They've both sprung out of the local political machine, which is connected to the county machine, which is connected to..., well, you can figure it out. Not to pick on our local girls, but they haven't shown any inclination to think for themselves— they can be replaced with sideshow dummies. Being that Camden County is one of the most highly taxed counties in one of the most highly taxed states, and has been run by one of the most corrupt political machines for decades, do we need more of this?
I don't know much about the challengers from the other political party, or the independents. Most of them lack the Pay-to-Play dollars to market themselves, and haven't established track records yet. But I know that voting for incumbents, or people backed by the same political organization, year after year, just perpetuates the patronage, insider deals and waste. Without the checks and balances that other parties and independents provide, government devolves into self-serving special-interest groups. I have an idea—how 'bout mixing it up, and throwing some stooges from the other party into office, along with independents, to spread the pork around?
I received a couple of fliers in the mail recently.
“I strongly support transparency in campaign finance ...our town is not for sale!” proclaims Gloucester Township Mayor David Mayer. “That's why I urge you to vote for Municipal Question #3 on the ballot ...” The mayor fails to mention that this ordinance leaves in the “fair and open” loophole, which allows local government to continue the practice of Pay to Play in NJ. Just when you thought politics couldn't get any worse, an ordinance that allows our elected officials to continue trading municipal contracts for campaign money. To add insult to injury, the flier was paid for by the Gloucester Township Citizens for Government Reform, using Pay-to-Play money!
And another one exhorting me to “Put Our Children First” and vote for an incumbent Black Horse Pike Regional School Board candidate, from a group going by the name of Gloucester Township Parents for Educational Excellence. I noticed this guy's name on blue signs, along with two of his associates, while driving around town. As a general rule, I vote for school board members with the least number of signs plastered around town.
Remember what your mom said, “Watch out for razor blades in apples!”