See UPDATE below
By JOHN T. WARD
Two weeks before election day, a bitter split between Red Bank and Monmouth County Democratic powerbrokers went wide Tuesday.
In a letter immediately made public, the party’s top county official, David G. Brown II, blasted borough party head Ed Zipprich for “clearly not supporting” incumbent Councilwoman Kate Triggiano, who is seeking a second term.
Zipprich, also a council member, responded with accusations of his own against Brown and Triggiano, with whom he has sparred for more than year.
Councilwoman Kate Triggiano, left, and independent challenger Sue Viscomi preparing dishes at the annual senior citizens’ barbecue earlier this month. Below, the letters by Brown and Zipprich. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)
In a letter first reported on Facebook by triCity News publisher Dan Jacobson, Brown told Zipprich he was “speechless” that a mailer by Zipprich-supported council candidate Jacqueline Sturdivant had deliberately obscured Triggiano’s name as it appears on the ballot, as well as by Zipprich’s “constant effort since the primary not to support the party nominee.
“In all my years being involved in the Monmouth County Democrats, I have never seen a Municipal Party not support their own party nominee after the primary is over,” Brown wrote. “What is happening now in Red Bank is a disgrace, and not only insulting to me but our entire party as well as our Governor.”
Brown said Zipprich had “crossed the line” over “nothing more than personality conflicts with a fellow councilperson.” He said he was “strongly urging” him to “change course or you and those elected county committee members who are not supporting the party nominee will not have my support going forward.”
Brown shared a copy of the letter with redbankgreen, and said Zipprich had not responded as of late Tuesday afternoon.
Zipprich did not respond to redbankgreen questions about the matter. But Jacobson posted Zipprich’s response to Brown on Facebook Tuesday night.
In it, Zipprich said he found Brown’s letter “lacking in substance since I was never interviewed by anyone in the Monmouth Dems organization.”
Zipprich cited his own support, both financial and through attendance at events, for “the full Democratic ticket from the Governor on down,” and accused Brown and the county party of favoring Triggiano over Sturdivant.
“I find it curious as to why you are critical of me and the Red Bank Democrats and yet fully supportive of candidate Triggiano,” Zipprich wrote, adding that on Triggiano’s lawn signs and website “there is no mention of the fact that she is a Democrat.”
Via email, Triggiano told redbankgreen, “I respect the democratic process. I wish I had the support of the chairman but I will continue to run my race based on my record.”
In his letter, Zipprich appeared to blame Sturdivant for the mailer without naming her.
“As you known, candidates have control over their messaging,” he wrote to Brown. While he has “often cautioned candidates on items that can be challenged or deemed offensive in publishing, Candidates have not always taken heed,” he wrote.
The mailer, which says Sturdivant is committed to “bringing civility and respect back to our council,” was paid for by Friends of Jacqueline Sturdivant for Council, it says.
UPDATE: The original version of this article reported that Sturdivant did not respond to a request for comment, but the request turned out to be unsent in email. redbankgreen regrets the error and will post Sturdivant’s reply if one is received.
Independent candidate Sue Viscomi declined comment on the infighting. “I just ask Red Bank voters to stay focused on each candidates’ record while voting,” she said early Wednesday.
Viscomi, Sturdivant and Triggiano are in a race for two, three-years terms on the council, where all six seats are held by Democrats.
Sturdivant, a political newcomer, knocked off Triggiano running mate Hazim Yassin in a primary that exposed the widening rifts both within the local party and between the borough and county organizations.
At the time, Triggiano said Zipprich was on a “personal vendetta because we don’t agree with him on every vote he wants,” which she said “reeks of boss politics at its worst.”
Triggiano is closely aligned with Governor Phil Murphy, and on October 9, hosted First Lady Tammy Murphy at her home on Leighton Avenue.
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