Mitt Romney Crashes Wedding in New Jersey; Can Romney Bail Out Local GOP?
If you didn’t pay $1,000 per head, you didn’t get to see Mitt Romney today in New Jersey.
At the first of two campaign trail stops today, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney shut out most Ocean County locals at a $1,000 per head appearance at the Lake Terrace banquet hall in Lakewood, Ocean County, New Jersey.
It was Romney’s first stop in the county, once dominated by the GOP but in recent years increasingly broken up by rival Democrats. This year the GOP is facing, for perhaps the first time in decades, an uphill battle in the coming November election.
Hundreds of area GOP dignitaries including Jackson Township elected officials and Republican candidates attended the pricey event. Jackson Councilman Scott Martin, who also serves as campaign manager for the county GOP, said Romney’s campaign had refused access to local media outlets to the campaign event itself. Later, members of the media were pushed away from the property by Lakewood Police by orders of Lake Terrace management, according to officers on the scene.
Also left standing on the curb at the event were about two dozen Mitt Romney fans – some who came with their children – as the Romney motorcade sped through the Lake Terrace parking lot at a high rate of speed, disrupting a photo shoot for a Jewish wedding. Romney and his motorcade then entered the building through a service entrance beyond a row of trash dumpsters, followed by his handpicked press pool, as local media was shunned.
At one point, management of the Lake Terrace instructed Lakewood Police Officers to remove Asbury Park Press Reporter Margaret Bonafide and her cameraman from a spot opposite the street of the banquet hall. ”The manager of the property does not want any media on their property,” said a Lakewood Township police officer. He then shooed the pair further away from the building. They ended up at the corner of Oak Street, some 200 yards from the entrance.
Inside, those who paid their $1,000 entry fee were herded through a security checkpoint and a metal detector before entering the high security establishment. In another banquet hall at the facility, the wedding that was planned prior to the Romney event was inconvenienced, according to bridesmaids present.
Outside, protesters lined the road, pushed further away by Lakewood Police prior to Romney’s arrival. Police blocked the road minutes before his arrival and Romney did not stop to speak to any supporters outside as he was rushed inside by his personal security detail.
In Lakewood, there were few Barack Obama supporters involved in the protest of his appearance. In fact, those protesting Romney claimed the candidate is not conservative enough.
When asked why local Republicans are protesting Romney’s visit, one man spoke out. “The point here is, Mr Romney is not conservative enough when it comes to moral values,” said Moshie Dresler, a Lakewood resident and member of the Orthodox Jewish Community. “He’s not conservative. If the conservatives should support him they should demand he do more on conservative values. He really didn’t do anything on that.”
Can Romney help embattled local Republicans Looking to Hold on to their Posts?
While the intent of today’s visit was purely financial, and targeted at garnering support from the local Orthodox Jewish community, can visits on the campaign trail by Romney to Ocean County help repair the image of the Ocean County GOP which has been the host of several major scandals in the past few years.
In July, former Toms River Mayor Carmine Inteso was arrested returning to the country at JFK International Airport by federal authorities. Inteso was charged with tax evasion in connection with hundreds of thousands of dollars he accepted as bribes from Federal Hill Risk Management. Earlier this year, Michael Ritacco, superintendent of Toms River Schools pleads guilty to taking over $1,000,000 in bribes from the insurance management firm. The firm’s owner, Francis Gartland, also pleads guilty in 2012. Subsequently, the Ritacco scandal, which broke in 2010, cost the county GOP seats on the Toms River Board of Education, which they controlled for many years. This year, the party faces a strong possibility of losing their majority on the board.
In 2010, the GOP lost seats their majority in Brick Township where local Democrats swept four seats from Republican incumbents. As Ocean County slowly loses its grasp on being one of the last Republican strongholds in New Jersey, helping to carry Governor Chris Christie to a win in 2010, 2012 can be a defining year for either side this November.
As if political scandals were not enough to cast doubt on the GOP, earlier this summer, Jack Kelly, a Republican member of the County Board of Chosen Freeholders, was involved in a fatal motor vehicle accident in which his vehicle struck motorcyclist William Kolb, a 24-year-old man from Barnegat. Police reports taken at the scene indicate Kolb had finished passing a vehicle and struck Kelly’s vehicle as Kelly was making a left turn across traffic.
To add insult to injury, GOP Stafford Mayor John Spodofora was called out by local club members after falsely claiming he was a Navy spy who served in Vietnam, being awarded the “Medal of Valor,” a medal that does not exist. Spodofora eventually came clean and admitted his lie before announcing his candidacy for mayor of the township.
At the county level, county insiders tell us the county campaign staff is trying to keep the aging Ocean County Sheriff William Polhemus, 83, out of the media spotlight as he embarks on another campaign to hold his seat, one which he has held since 1985.
Despite the obstacles, by default, the local GOP has their work cut out for them in 2012. Romney’s visit to New Jersey wasn’t exactly the encouraging push they needed from a national candidate, especially one who crashes the party for a Jewish bride on her wedding day.
To International Media: Call 732-833-2365 for photos from this event or on the ground information as to what led up to this.