Toms River Democratic mayoral candidate Richard Strada is fuming that Republicans continue to insinuate that he invited a speaker to a panel discussion who had ties to terrorists.
In a letter to the editor of the Ocean County Observer, Republican candidate Tom Kelaher’s campaign chairman, Juan Bellu, defended a recent push poll insinuating that Strada supported Islamic extremists. The charge was based on an interfaith panel that Strada organized at Ocean County College that was attended by Mohamed Nabeel Elmasry represented Islam amongst leaders from several other religions.
Elmasry was an associate of Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, a conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
But Tom Rodgers, Strada’s campaign manager, insisted that Strada, the college’s dean, never invited Elmasry. Instead, he called a local mosque for a representative, who in turn sent him. Strada said that his opponent’s campaign was twisting the facts to make it appear that he personally invited Elmasry, and demanded that they stop.
“Instead of discussing the real issues confronting the residents of Toms River, Kelaher’s Campaign continues its attempt to associate me with Terrorists,” said Strada. This is disgusting, and today’s published statements by his Campaign Chairperson are an insult to the truth as well as the Religious Leaders who attended presentation.”
Bellu responded that the charge was valid, and that Strada needed to grow a thicker skin.
“All we’re saying is you did it, it’s done, you admit to it, don’t hide away form it. I think he’s taking it very personal. This is politics and things that you do are going to come back to you,” said Bellu.
Bellu said that he’s not trying to turn the issue the centerpiece of Kelaher’s campaign.
“This is just one issue. Believe me , there are other things we’re coming after Mr. Strada – his record and performance on the Committee,” said Bellu.