Democratic council contender Ed Zipprich has filed complaints with state and the county election-monitoring agencies, asking them to investigate the propriety of campaign signs that encourage voters to “re-elect” incumbent Republican Grace Cangemi.
Cangemi, who narrowly lost a general election last November, was chosen by a vote of the council on March 15 to replace Kaye Ernst, who resigned in January. She’s seeking the one-year balance of Ernst’s term, and faces Zipprich on the ballot.
Zipprich told redbankgreen this morning that he has filed complaints with the state Election Law Enforcement Commission and the Monmouth County Board of Elections, “asking them to investigate why she felt she could print ‘re-elect’ on her campaign signs.
“I think that she’s completely inappropriate and off-base on this,” he said. “I think she is stretching the truth. And if she does that with something as simple as a lawn sign, what else is she going to try to tell the public?”
Cangemi told us she hadn’t been aware of the complaints, which she disparaged.
“I think it’s more than a little ridiculous, and I think it’s a campaign ploy,” she said. “If that is Ed Zipprich’s biggest issue, then he has once again missed the point.
“This is not about campaign signs. People’s taxes on the West Side and other parts of town went up 30 percent this year. Crime is up. It’s ridiculous that this is the only thing this man can talk about. Perhaps that’s Mr. Zipprich’s defense to having no decent campaign issue.”
“The sign issue is clearly an ethical issue, and she is being unethical,” Zipprich said. “She knows that she was not elected, and she’s misleading the public, and I find her behavior to be arrogant. I think it’s a low maneuver on her part.”
Referring to Monday night’s council meeting, where Cangemi was challenged about the signs, Zipprich said, “I watched her squirm the other night, when she finally turned around and apologized to everybody for having done it.”
Cangemi told us that the wording of the signs was discussed among party officials before they were made, and that the inclusion of the word ‘re-elect’ which appears in a small white burst on a red background “made the most sense to all of us. You know, I was voted by the council, so it did make sense. It seemed the clearest way to say it. I don’t know what he’d rather have me say.”
She said that Democratic campaign signs are in public areas on Shrewsbury Avenue near the Galleria and elsewhere, despite a pledge by both parties not to put signs on public properties.
“You’ll never see our signs in a public area,” she said, but added that it would be “nonsensical to play this game about signs” by filing a complaint.
“I think it’s absurd, and offensive to voters, to make this a campaign issue,” she said.
Cangemi cited the Asbury Park Press as having referred to her as up for re-election in an article yesterday.
The sign issue came up at Monday night when it was raised by Sean Murphy, brother of Councilman Art Murphy, after Art Murphy loudly berated Cangemi over statements made during a candidate’s forum earlier this month.
Art Murphy’s critique “was appallingly bad behavior, as well as being untrue,” Cangemi said today. “I can’t tell you how many people, including borough employees, who called me up to tell me how offended they were at the unwarranted attack.”
Cangemi says she still has “absolutely no idea what set him off, except that it was a plan to attack me at the council table before the next election. Because I can’t figure what I said that was offensive. I have absolutely no idea. He came up with some half-brained attack about me saying something that somehow he managed to try to twist around into something offensive about the police or something I have no idea.
“He accused me of pandering for votes on the crime issue, and I was particularly surprised by it because he kept referring to statements I made on [redbankgreen]. Well, what did I say on your website? That it’s not a Democratic or Republican issue. Where that’s pandering for votes, I don’t know.”
Though she was surprised by the premise of Murphy’s comments, “I was fully prepared for a political attack from the other side,” she said. “But I won’t campaign from the council table. They always do. That’s their business.”