RED BANK: VISCOMI DOUBLE-BARRELS CLANCY

Sue Viscomi at a 2015 board of education meeting. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

[Correction: The date of a controversial text was incorrectly reported in the original version of this article. References to it below have been corrected.]

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_03A Red Bank Republican loyalist blasted party Chairman Michael Clancy Tuesday, one day after she was bypassed in favor of a political newcomer to run for borough council this year.

Sue Viscomi, who serves on the board of education, also took aim at Clancy for what she said was a “dumbfounding” and “disgusting” text she claims he sent to her and three GOP council members last month in February asking for a list of undocumented alien students so he could “mail it to ICE,” referring to the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency.

Michael Clancy during his 2015 run for borough school board. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

“I am not sure our new Chairman understands politics in Red Bank,” Viscomi said in a letter emailed to party members Tuesday and obtained by redbankgreen.

Viscomi, who claims to have attended “more borough council meetings than some council members” and videotapes each session for posting on YouTube, said she was stunned to learn Sunday that her request to be considered as a council candidate had been nixed, without a vote by the local committee, in favor of Dana McArthur, a political newcomer.

McArthur will join Councilwoman Linda Schwabenbauer in facing off against incumbent Democratic Councilman Ed Zipprich and his running mate, Michael Ballard, who also serves on the board of ed.

Viscomi told redbankgreen that she had never heard of McArthur and knows nothing about her, other than that she’s a friend of Republican Councilman Mike Whelan’s girlfriend.

[Update from original post: Whelan said McArthur and his girlfriend, Tiffanie Borges, met recently through a graduate program they’re enrolled in at Monmouth University and don’t have a longstanding friendship.]

“It beats the hell out of me” who McArthur is, Viscomi said. “Honest to god, I have not heard her name, period.”

“If this person was a better candidate than me, I would bow out and be knocking on doors for her,” Viscomi continued. “But I’ve never even heard of her.”

Viscomi, who briefly ran for council in 2013 but dropped out before election day, said she made her interest in running this year known at a March 2 meeting of the local GOP committee, on which she’s a member, and repeatedly asked for a chance to make her case to the committee, as is customary.

She also asked for a committee vote, which she said is also traditional but not mandated under the group’s rules.

Instead, she wrote in her letter, “this 2017 ticket was formulated in a behind the scenes ‘backroom deal.’ Our new Chairman has decided to violate decades of history, lied to the county committee on multiple issues and colluded with the Council Members to circumvent the county committee.”

Viscomi told redbankgreen that she was “sick of politicians” who preach transparency but don’t practice it.

Clancy defended his actions, saying he preferred to see Viscomi remain on the board of ed, a seat she’d have to give up if elected to the council. “She was in the right position,” he said.

McArthur, he said, is a 33-year-old product of the borough schools and Red Bank Regional High who “really embodies the vision of the Republican party of Red Bank” as a town in which families can put down roots.

McArthur and her fiancé, Mark Keifer, bought a house on McLaren Street in December.

As to the circumstances of McArthur’s selection, Clancy said he’d had to scramble when another potential candidate became unavailable, leaving him without enough time to schedule a committee session.

“I was just delayed and kind of ran out of time,” he said, adding, “I felt I did the absolute best thing for our party going forward.”

McArthur could not be located for comment, and Schwabenbauer did not immediately respond to a voice message left for her Tuesday afternoon. Schwabenbauer told redbankgreen on Monday that she did not have contact information for her running mate.

In her letter to the GOP, Viscomi also said Clancy had asked her by text “for a list of students at the school so he could send it to ICE.” The list, she explained to redbankgreen, would be of those who were absent from school as part of a protest against the Trump Administration’s immigration policies.

The February 22 March 21 message was simultaneously sent to Schwabenbauer, Whelan and their fellow Republican on the council, Mark Taylor, said Viscomi. None responded to it, she said, “because we were all speechless.”

“I’m not a speechless kind of person,” she said. “How do you even respond to something like that?”

Viscomi said Whelan later told her he was shocked by the message, though Clancy disavowed it to her as a joke.

“If he claims that’s a joke, that’s a disgusting joke,” said Viscomi, an Ecuadorean immigrant.

Clancy declined to comment on Viscomi’s characterization of the matter except to say that “there’s no validity to that at all.” He added that he would “work things out with” Viscomi. “We’ll get past it.”

Clancy, who succeeded Sean Di Somma as party chairman last summer, has been trailed by controversy throughout his time in Red Bank.

He ran for the board of education in 2015, even while acknowledging that he had not lived in town for one year prior to registering his candidacy, as required by election law. He was allowed to remain on the ballot, however, because formal challenges were not filed in time. He lost the race to an incumbent slate.

Last month, David Pascale, chairman of the borough Human Relations Advisory Committee, suggested that Clancy should resign that group over his characterization of testimony by children of undocumented immigrants at a February hearing on a proposed resolution regarding enforcement of immigration laws. In a podcast interview, Clancy referred to the testimony of children fearful of losing their parents to deportation as “sob stories.” Clancy vowed to remain on the committee, however.

Last October, Reverend Terrence Porter of the Pilgrim Baptist Church claimed Clancy had “insulted” African-American voters by having GOP council contenders avoid a candidates’ event. Clancy denied the allegation, and attended the event himself.