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RED BANK: COUNTY DEMS IMPEDE STURDIVANT

red-bank-ed-zipprich-michael-ballard-091121-500x313-6607476Councilmen Ed Zipprich, left, and Michael Ballard at last year’s September 11 memorial service. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

election-2022-220x189-7069563The Monmouth County Democratic organization challenged the legitimacy of Councilwoman Jacqueline Sturdivant‘s bid for Red Bank mayor Monday, redbankgreen has learned.

The move, announced in a blistering press release, bares yet another rift between the county and municipal arms of the party that has dominated Red Bank politics for three decades.

In a statement issued Monday afternoon, the county organization, led by Chairman David G. Brown II, said it had filed an objection with the Monmouth County Clerk to a candidacy petition Sturdivant submitted last Tuesday, while in-person voting was underway in the Democratic primary for mayor.

In that race, political rookie Billy Portman pulled off the biggest political upset in memory in with a landslide victory over second-term Councilman Michael Ballard. Portman ended up capturing 61 percent of the party vote to Ballard’s 39, with mail-in ballots yet to be tallied.

Though elected to the council last November as a Democrat, and now an established member Ballard’s Democratic “team,”  Sturdivant filed an 84-signature petition to run as an independent in the November general election.

The petition was signed by Ballard, even though, if he won the primary, it would nominally have made Sturdivant his opponent. It was also signed by Ballard’s running mates for two council seats, incumbent Councilwoman Angela Mirandi and John Jackson.

The county organization’s challenge is based in part on the claim that more than two dozen signatories also signed Ballard’s petition earlier this year.

“Voters cannot sign two petitions for one position in the same election,” the statement said. “In this case, the signatures on the second petition would be thrown out, taking Sturdivant’s signature count under the required number of signatures needed to get on the ballot.”

In addition, one of the signers is not a registered voter in the borough, according to the objection, filed by an Ocean County law firm. Here’s the formal objection: Monmouth Dems Objection 061322

Sturdivant has not answered any questions about her candidacy posed by redbankgreen.

The county Democrats’ statement took direct and repeated aim at municipal party chairman and Councilman Ed Zipprich, whom it referred to as the “outgoing municipal chair.”

Zipprich, the statement said, “had Sturdivant file to run as an independent candidate on primary election day after it was clear” that their candidate, Ballard, would lose to Portman.

“Zipprich, who claims to have not signed the petition, was actually the notary to who [sic] signed off on the petition before its filing on Tuesday,” the statement said. “Never before has the Monmouth County Democrats seen a sitting Municipal Democratic Chairperson notarize the petitions of an Independent Candidate for Mayor while outwardly rejecting the choice of 61% of Red Bank Democratic Primary voters.”

Also from the statement:

This move is the latest in a series of egregious behavior by the Democratic Municipal Chair Ed Zipprich. “Ed didn’t support the Democratic ticket in 2021 after Kate Triggiano won the primary and it is clear he is not supporting the Democratic ticket again in 2022, rejecting the will of 61% of the Democratic primary voters – simply over personality conflicts and personal feelings. He is and has not put the Democratic Party first – he continues to put his personal agenda first,” says Chairman David Brown. “The time for petty politics has passed. It is imperative that the Red Bank Democrats come together to do what is best for the residents of Red Bank who have spoken clearly on their rejection of this divisive behavior.”

This year, Zipprich and the Red Bank Democrats selected to run Ballard for Mayor and, in an effort to bring the party together, received the endorsement of the Monmouth County Democrats along with the party line. Yet, the voters have made it clear that they wish to bring change to the Red Bank Democratic Organization by overwhelmingly selecting Portman for Mayor along with a new slate of democratic county committee members. The Monmouth County Democrats are proud to support the democratically elected nominee for Mayor Billy Portman and will throw our full enthusiasm and efforts behind his campaign to get him elected in November.

Here’s the full statement: Monmouth Dems statement 061322

Zipprich and Ballard did not immediately respond to a redbankgreen request for comment.

The county organization also called Ballard’s signing of the petition “a shocking move.” The organization “will be evaluating their support of other Monmouth County Democrats endorsed candidates,” it said.

“The Democrats have a candidate for Mayor – and that individual is Billy Portman,” the county organization said.

Portman said he was not immediately available to comment.

In the primary election, a reform slate of county committee candidates led by Councilwoman Kate Triggiano appears to have won at least 11 of the 18 seats up for grabs, she said last week, giving it enough votes to oust Zipprich as chairman, one of its primary goals.

Last October, in an unprecedented airing of the party’s laundry, Brown blasted Zipprich for failing to support Triggiano in her bid for a second council term, though, like Sturdivant, she had won the primary four months earlier. In a letter, Brown told Zipprich he was “speechless” that a mailer by Sturdivant had deliberately obscured Triggiano’s name as it appears on the ballot.

A “Red Bank Unity event” is being planned for June 22, at 6 p.m., the announcement said, with “more details to follow.”

At stake in the November election is the seat of four-term Mayor Pasquale Menna, who endorsed Portman after being dumped by the Zipprich-Ballard faction. If her candidacy goes forward, Sturdivant and Portman would face Republican Brian Irwin in the November election.

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