“This is history being made here,” Michael Steinhorn was shouting from the middle of West River Road Monday.
He was referring to his participation, with running mate Fred Blumberg, in Rumson’s Memorial Day parade a presence he says was the result of a “settlement” with the borough.
As previously noted, the council candidacies of Democrats Blumberg and Steinhorn constitute a political anomaly in Rumson, where Republican domination would appear to be all but complete.
No non-Republican is believed to have won elective office in the town’s 101-year history, and nobody can recall a Democrat having run for mayor or council since at least as far back as 1972.
Steinhorn, who says he and Blumberg are running to inject bipartisanship into what’s now an echo chamber of like-minded Republicanism, says it took the borough three weeks to respond to their request for permission to march in the parade. And when borough Administrator Tom Rogers answered the request, Steinhorn says, it was to tell them that they could march, but couldn’t have any signs identifying themselves, including those that bore only their names.
“We were really upset by that,” Steinhorn told redbankgreen shortly after the parade ended.
So the candidates called in the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey. According to a follow-up email ACLU deputy legal director Jeanne LoCicero sent to Rogers, here’s what went down in a conversation they had last Friday:
I expressed concern that your May 12 letter to Michael Steinhorn regarding his participation in the Memorial Day Parade prohibited from [sic] him from having any signs, including those that had his name on it. I also explained that I understood that you did not want to interject electoral politics in the parade, but that Mr. Steinhorn would be at a distinct disadvantage by the prohibition on all banners given that all other participants who [sic] would be identifying themselves.
You explained to me that Mr. Steinhorn will be able to have a sign or banner that identifies himself, but that the banner may not indicate that he is a member of a political party or running for an elected position. (Although we did not specifically discuss it, I expect that all other participants, including Mr. Blumberg, will be held to the same rule.)
Thank you for clarifying the matter. As I mentioned, I think it would be in the best interests of the Boro and its residents to put the parade guidelines in writing (likewise for other events sponsored by the town). This would help to ensure that all regulations are enforced uniformly.
Rogers, though, tells us there was no special accommodation made, and no change from past practice. Anyone can march in the parade, he says, and no politicking is permitted.
“Memorial Day in the Borough of Rumson has never been a political event,” he tells redbankgreen. He says sitting mayors, council members and candidates for office have never been identified in the parade by signs, even those bearing only their names. Exceptions have been made for past mayors and visiting dignitaries who might not be recognizable to parade watchers, he says.
He also says he was away on vacation for part of the time that Steinhorn and Blumberg’s request was pending.
During the parade, Steinhorn wore a straw boater with his name printed on the hatband. And though paradegoers unfamiliar with his face (or unable to see his hat) might not know who he was or what “history” he was making, he said he felt he and Blumberg had already effected some change.
“There’s never really a race in Rumson, so they [town officials] don’t have an expectation that there’s something the have to do” to accommodate another party, he said. “So maybe we started a new tradition here today.”
He and Blumberg will face Robert Kammerer and Shaun Broderick on the November ballot.