Then-candidates Kate Triggiano and Hazim Yassin at the Mayor’s Ball in 2018. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

[See UPDATE below]


Already showing cracks, the Red Bank Democratic party’s facade ruptured Monday night with the announcement that political newcomers will challenge two incumbents for their council seats.

Days after holding a virtual re-election fundraiser attended by Governor Phil Murphy, Kate Triggiano and Hazim Yassin opted to bypass the local party nomination process controlled by Councilman Ed Zipprich as they seek second terms, saying he’s on a vendetta that “reeks of boss politics.”

Ed Zipprich, flanked by fellow council members Kathy Horgan and Michael Ballard in 2018. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

In a press release issued by Red Bank party chairman Zipprich late Monday night, the local Democrats announced “a surprise move:” two new candidates for the seats held by Triggiano and Yassin.

Running are Dr. LeRoi Royal Jones and Bruce Maida, the announcement said.

“Triggiano and Yassin did not file letters of intent to run” by the deadline earlier in the day, the announcement said.

But they did file with the borough clerk seeking the nomination of the Monmouth County Democrats, Triggiano said Tuesday.

That sets up a rare primary election in June for the Democrats, who control all six borough council seats as well as the mayoralty.

In a statement, Triggiano and Yassin said Zipprich “has spent the last six months working with Red Bank Republicans to undermine our candidacies. Once we learned Chairman Zipprich was recruiting candidates against us and asking county committee members not to sign our petition, we saw the danger he was doing in continuing to divide the Red Bank Democratic Party.

“His personal vendetta because we don’t agree with him on every vote he wants reeks of boss politics at its worst,” they told redbankgreen via text.

“The fact that he is looking to bump off the first Muslim-American elected in the history of Monmouth County and a member of the LGBTQ community, both underrepresented communities in Monmouth County, speaks volumes of his tactics – tactics that should outrage every Democrat in Red Bank,” they said.

[UPDATE: After this article was published, both Zipprich and local Republican Chairman Jonathan Maciel Penney refuted the assertion that Zipprich had been working with Republicans.

“Mr. Zipprich and this organization do not see eye-to-eye on what is best for Red Bank, and we would certainly not work with him regarding the inner workings of who his party nominates for council,” Penney said via email.

Moreover, Zipprich wrote that “three years ago, the democratic process secured [Triggiano and Yassin] both the Democratic nomination to run for Borough Council,” and that except for COVID-19 precautions, this year’s process is the same. “These candidates are circumventing that same democratic process and are looking to the Monmouth County Democratic organization to ignore Red Bank’s historic nominating process — which has worked fairly and transparently for years in our town,” he said.]

The split may test Zipprich’s control of the local party. A year ago, he won another two-year term as chairman after a challenge by activist Ben Forest, who had backing from Triggiano and Yassin.

Zipprich is also a member of the all-Democratic borough council, having been elected to a fifth three-year term in November in a race in which he and his running mate, Councilman Michael Ballard, were unopposed.

Increasingly, Zipprich and Ballard have been on the short end of 4-2 council votes over finances, the mothballed Senior Center and other issues.

Yassin and Triggiano, along with council members Kathy Horgan and Erik Yngstrom, also split with Zipprich and Ballard over scalding emails leaked to redbankgreen, in which Business Administrator Ziad Shehady told officials that Zipprich was “meddling” and possibly aiming to “sabotage” a then-pending bid for the town’s garbage hauling.

The issue dragged on for months, with Zipprich demanding an investigation into the leak itself, which he said had damaged his reputation, while the majority said it was his conduct that needed review.

In a December compromise, the council agreed to hire an outside attorney to recommend whether it should commission an independent investigation.

The election rift comes four days after Triggiano and Yassin held a virtual re-election fundraiser attended by Murphy and Monmouth County Democratic party chairman David Brown II.

Yassin and Triggiano said they have informed Brown “for his consideration to run under the Monmouth County Democrats slogan.”

The New Jersey state Democratic Committee touted Murphy’s appearance at the event on Twitter, and a Facebook page promoting the event asked that donations be sent to the county party, rather than the local arm.

Triggiano said she and Yassin have the support of Horgan, Yngstrom and Mayor Pasquale Menna.

Property records indicate Jones has owned a home on East Westside Avenue for the past five years. According to the website of the Gateway School in Carteret, he is the supervisor of instruction at the school, which teaches children with special needs. He’s a graduate of Red Bank Regional High, and a member of its Hall of Fame; he also has degrees from Rowan University, where he played football, and Monmouth University.

Maida, of Branch Avenue, has lived in town since 2000; been a Democratic committeeman for the past 12 years; and has been an alternate member of the borough zoning board for the past year.

In his letter of intent to run, Maida said that in recent years he has “witnessed legislative decisions, votes and governmental positions that have been destructive and deleterious to our town and its residents.

“The careful cultivation of unity and the common good that had been a hallmark of our public life seems to have gone away,” he wrote. “The collective well-being of our businesses and residents has fallen to the wayside as the current Business Administrator assumed vast power over all elements of government with seemingly zero legislative oversight. We residents have seen our municipal tax burden exponentially climb, our business revenues plummet, our bonding and spending soar and our administrative payroll bulge.”

The formal Democratic nominating convention will be held virtually on Tuesday, March 2.

Triggiano, of Leighton Avenue, and Yassin, of Branch Avenue, both in their early 30s, are the council’s youngest members.

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