Camera-shy then as now, Irwin Katz hides behind a sign at his short-lived Monmouth Street store in 2007. Below is the August 10 GOP Facebook post that angered Katz. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)
By JOHN T. WARD
One of three candidates on a Republican-recruited slate for the Red Bank school board tells redbankgreen he wants nothing to do with party, whose officials he calls “a bunch of liars, gangsters and thieves.”
Irwin Katz said he was talked into running without any mention of the GOP’s involvement, which he said he resents in a race that he believes should be non-partisan. But now that he’s on the November 3 ballot, he’ll stand as an independent, as intended, he said Wednesday.
“I’m going forward, for hell or high water,” Katz said. “Now my Irish is up.”
The bombshell follows news, previously reported by redbankgreen, that Michael Clancy, who was recruited to run along with Katz and Dick Stout, is not eligible for a place on the ballor, based on his length of residency in town.
Katz, a father of five who lives in the Grandville Towers apartments on Morford Place, said he was approached about running by Suzanne Viscomi, a onetime GOP council candidate and current member of the school board. But there was no mention of the Republican party building a slate, he said.
Katz said he later learned that on August 10, local GOP Chairman Sean Di Somma had posted, and then removed, an update on the party’s Facebook page touting Clancy, Katz and Stout as “our official endorsed candidates” for the board.
Promising a “new day for Red Bank schools,” the post declared that “the days of 12% annual tax increases will soon be over.”
“I wasn’t told anything about” party backing, said Katz, who added that he’s a lifelong Democrat but believes there’s no place for partisan politics in school matters. “I feel I was wronged.”
Katz said he plans to attend a League of Women Voters candidates’ forum scheduled for October 15 at the Middle School, and will make clear that he’s running as an independent and not, as widely believed, a Republican.
Viscomi agrees with Katz’s account, and said the reason she never mentioned the GOP is because she wasn’t recruiting for the party — and doesn’t believe in partisan school board races, either.
“Sean Di Somma wrote that the Republican party was backing these three guys,” she said. Within minutes of seeing the Facebook post, Viscomi said she castigated Di Somma in a series of text messages, “and that’s why Sean took it down 20 minutes later.”
She said she had declined to sign petitions circulated by Di Somma on behalf of Stout and Clancy out of her belief that the race should not be partisan.
“I’ve just stayed out of it,” said Viscomi, who heads the school board’s finance committee.
Di Somma told redbankgreen that the post was an unintentional “a screw-up” that he accepts blame for.
He also said that he recruited Clancy and Stout, and “Suzanne recruited Katz to run as alternatives” to the three incumbents: Carrie Ludwikowski, Anne Roseman and Fred Stone.
“This is not a hyperorganized or hyperpartisan slate,” he said, adding that the party’s backing is largely in the form of being willing to stand behind “alternative” candidates with social media posts.
“You can add that I’ll personally be voting for Irwin Katz in November,” Di Somma said.
Di Somma also said that Ludwikowski, Roseman and Stone are Democrats who, while “claiming not to be the Democratic ticket, it’s pretty clear they are.”
Here’s Roseman’s response to that:
Although I am active with the Democratic party, my decision to run for School Board for my first term three years ago and for reelection this year is driven solely by my concern for the children of Red Bank. During my term, we have established a strong foundation for the continuous improvement of the Red Bank Borough schools and want to ensure that it continues to be built upon.
Viscomi, who also lives in Grandville Towers, said she has reached out to Katz to explain the series of events, but he hasn’t responded. Katz told redbankgreen that he has avoided her, and has also not responded to voicemail messages from Di Somma.
“I want nothing to do with them,” he said. “I don’t want to be associated with those guys at all.”
Katz said he plans to attend a League of Women Voters candidates’ forum scheduled for October 15 at the Middle School, and will make clear that he’s running as an independent and not, as widely believed, as a Republican.
Meanwhile, Clancy tells redbankgreen he’s still in the race, despite the “clerical error on my part” that led to his placement on the ballot.
The Worthley Place resident had previously acknowledged that he signed a notarized election registration form to get his name on the ballot in July, but didn’t read the qualifications just below the signature line. Among the criteria for eligibility is that a candidate must have been “a resident of the municipality from which he/she is to be elected for at least one year preceding the date of the election.” Clancy said he moved to the town in early January, and has been working as a medical device salesman servicing Riverview Medical Center for eight years.
He said that he had consulted with an attorney, whom he declined to name, who told him the residency restriction was “unenforceable.” He said the error on his signed petition, “doesn’t really change the fact that the incumbents have failed Red Bank taxpayers and have failed Red Bank children.”
Clancy said he will attend the October 15 forum as a candidate, and will take a seat on the board if elected.
Bertha Sumick, Monmouth County’s special deputy clerk of elections, said Wednesday that Clancy “remains on the ballot.”