Wayne Fox, a Democrat running for state Senate in the heavily Republican 16th district, doesn’t think that a lawsuit that partially targets his opponent, Kip Bateman, will change the dynamics of his race.
“I always had a chance. I wasn’t ever a long shot,” said Fox, a business advisor who at 51 has never held an elected office.
Fox really does believe he has a shot, even he has a couple thousand dollars in the bank. But to Fox, the allegation that Bateman warned the plaintiff, Michele D'Onofrio, not to file a complaint against a judge she thought was drunk on the bench – charges that Bateman denies — are troubling.
“Obviously these are allegations in a lawsuit, but if they’re true that’s a problem,” said Fox, who has a law degree and is licensed to practice law in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, but does not have a practice. “As an attorney, if a judge is drunk, you have an obligation to say something because he’s not able to execute his duties in a proper way. So I can’t understand why they wouldn’t have a problem with that.”
Bateman, who has been in the Assembly for 14 years, is expected to win the state Senate nomination in a walk. Fox acknowledges that he can’t make much of an issue out of the lawsuit with less than two weeks to go before the election. But to him, it’s another example of a politician with too many ties to county power players – a system he thinks is corrupt at its core.
Fox pointed out that Bateman’s campaign treasurer is Paul Consiglio, a commissioner on the embattled Somerset County Parks Commission, and that he served on the freeholder board with a former commissioner, John Kitchen. Fox has previously charged that Bateman kept Kitchen on the legislative payroll until he got a job on the parks commission to pad his pension. (Neither commissioner has been charged with any wrongdoing).
And in the event he is elected, Fox said, he will serve no more than two terms, contrasting it to Bateman’s 14 years in the Assembly.
“Last time I checked this was no house of Lords here, and a political dynasty like the Batemans is not necessary in New Jersey,” said Fox.
Bateman, who’s been advised not to go into detail when refuting the charges of the lawsuit, said that the plaintiff was just a disgruntled employee, and that the timing was suspect.
“First, I never warned her at all. I never threatened her or warned her, period. Secondly he wasn’t intoxicated – if anything he was taking meds for his bad back. All her facts are false,” said Bateman. “We’re the natural ones to go after her because ours are the first two names on the letterhead and we’re both public figure.”
Fox disputed the notion of a Bateman dynasty, pointing out that his father hadn’t been in the senate for decades, and that Consiglio’s volunteer position as his treasurer had nothing to do with his role on the parks commission. Moreover, he said, Kitchen worked as a valuable aid to him during his term in the Assembly, helping him craft legislation on banking.
“I had nothing to do with appointing him to the parks commission,” said Bateman. I’m a legislature, not a freeholder.”
Bateman said his record bears him out, pointing to his two auto insurance reform acts, legislation that funded the purchase of a thermal imaging camera for every New Jersey fire department, and a bill requiring insurance companies to pay for colonoscopies for at-risk patients.