Harding Democrats score local GOP for inviting Piscopo

28-Mar-2017 (link to original Observer Tribune article)

Kate Barry, left, and Rhonda Allen, right, are running for the Harding Township Committee on the Democratic ticket, with Amanda Richardson, standing, as their campaign manager.

HARDING TWP. – Rhonda Allen and Kate Barry, the Democratic candidates for Township Committee, criticized the Harding Republican Club on Monday for inviting comic Joe Piscopo, a prominent Donald Trump supporter and apologist, to headline their “Reagan-Lincoln” event at the New Vernon Firehouse next Saturday (April 1).

“We are deeply disappointed by the decision to invite Joe Piscopo by the Republican clubs of Harding Township and the Chathams,” said a joint statement from the Democrats. “Piscopo has proudly and unapologetically aligned himself with Donald Trump and has solidified himself as one of Trump’s most high-profile supporters in the region over the last several months on his right-wing morning talk radio show.

“Perhaps the idea behind inviting Piscopo was not an overtly or intentionally political move, but by inviting him, the Harding Township Republican Club has aligned itself and its members with him and with the views and values of Donald Trump. We do not believe that Trump/Piscopo values reflect those of Harding Township Republicans or of the vast majority of Harding Township residents.’’

Allen and Barry are running for the committee seats held by Republican Committeeman Dev Modi and GOP Mayor Chris Yates, who announced that the Piscopo event was planned for Republicans in Harding and the Chathams as “part of getting ready for the upcoming elections.”

Modi declined to comment while Yates referred calls to Republican Club spokeswoman Regina Egea, a former Township Committeewoman.

“The election of 2016 is over and we have a new President,” Egea said in a statement. “The 2017 election for two Harding Township Committee seats is about who is best prepared to manage our township’s services and finances.

“Harding Township voters will see on full display throughout this year that the Republican incumbent candidates bring extraordinary strength in character, deep experience in both the private and public sector and, most importantly, demonstrate the best characteristics of Harding Township residents…committed volunteers, devoted to supporting our collective community (not dividing it) and welcome open and free dialogue.”

Whitman Opposed

The Democrats’ statement said that former Republican Gov. Christine Todd Whitman and the front-runners for the Republican nomination for governor, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, R-Somerset, publicly criticized Trump after video surfaced last fall showing him bragging about making unwanted sexual advances to women, and said they did not plan to vote for him.

“Piscopo, however, campaigned with Trump in Florida right before the election and has continued to defend Trump’s most outrageous allegations and tweets every weekday morning on his talk-radio program on AM-970 “The Answer,”” the statement said.

“The greatest irony, of course, is that instead of inviting Guadagno or Ciattarelli or other Republican leaders, the Harding and Chatham Republican clubs invited a man who has now announced that he is thinking about running an outlandish Trump-style outsider campaign for governor against Guadagno or Ciattarelli – not as a candidate in the Republican primary, but as an independent.

“We urge the Harding Township and Chatham Republican Clubs to rescind their invitation to Joe Piscopo and seek a replacement who is less alienating and controversial. We are sure that there are many comedians who would be honored to take his place and provide excellent comedy for the attendees – and who would not be an embarrassment to Harding and its residents.”

This story was updated Wednesday morning to reflect Regina Egea’s comments.

Harding Democrats Reply

Amanda Richardson, 1-Apr-2017

We are not disputing that the 2016 election is over. We are, however, cognizant of the fact that the result of the 2016 election has dramatically increased engagement with and interest in politics and elections at all levels of government.

We are thrilled to see so many Harding Township residents voicing their opinions and standing up for what they believe in. Moreover, we are quite proud that our two candidates can offer a breadth of knowledge and perspective to the Township Committee.

It is disappointing that the Republican candidates’ campaign manager believes that having an entirely single party Township Committee does not divide the community. We believe that two party representation will only strengthen our community, which will benefit greatly from a more extensive and inclusive conversation.

Harding Township is home to Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and Undeclared voters, many of whom would readily agree that they do not feel represented at the local level by the current single party monopoly. We encourage and support an open dialogue with all Harding Township residents and are pleased to welcome so many to our meetings.

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