Third District GOP spat features debate about financial disclosure, government service

In what is quickly becoming a dogfight, Ocean County Freeholder Jack Kelly this morning derided his opponent, Medford Mayor Chris Myers, for to date not submitting personal financial disclosure information required by the feds.

The Myers campaign answered that they intend to file in the next few days, and meanwhile took aim at Kelly as a government bureaucrat gorged for years on patronage jobs – a depiction that Kelly strenuously resisted.

“Ocean County has the sixth lowest tax rate in the State of New Jersey,” Kelly said in defense of his own record. “Meanwhile, Medford has the second highest municipal taxes out of 40 towns in Burlington County.

“Chris Myers wants to hide from his terrible record.,” Kelly said. “Why is he hiding from making a financial disclosure?”

While professing admiration for Myers’s war hero credentials, Kelly said his rival campaign’s efforts to depict their candidate – an executive at defense industry giant Lockheed Martin – as a prim private sector success story, falls flat.

“Where does Lockheed Martin get their money?” Kelly asked. “There’s every argument it’s a good investment, but don’t pretend your salary does not depend on taxpayer dollars.”

Chris Russell, campaign spokesman for Myers, lambasted Kelly as a 16-year freeholder who has raised his own salary six times – compared to aNavy serviceman who foughtin the first Gulf War.

“Jack Kelly’s a career politician, a beneficiary of patronage job after patronage job,” Russell said. “Chris Myers is in private industry, he works for Lockheed Martin, a large corporation. Trying to compare that to a guy who’s held numerous public sector jobs and made a direct living off the taxpayers is simply laughable.”

Kelly, who submitted his own financial disclosure forms on Jan. 30, kept on the offensive about what he alleged is his opponent’s filing foot-dragging.

“What are you hiding from? Why doesn’t he tell the people? It’s because he’s hiding from the real issues,” said Kelly.

“The way he’s posing the question makes it seem like Chris Myers is in violation,” Russell said in response to Kelly’s persistent query regarding financial disclosure, which Kelly himself fulfilled on Jan. 30, according to his campaign.

“Chris will be filing in the next couple of days, well before the law requires him to,” Russell said.

The law requires the filing 30 daysafter raising or spending $5,000, or on or before May 15.

Vying for the right to face state Sen. John Adler (D-Camden) in the general election, Kelly and Myers both hope to succeed U.S. Rep. Jim Saxton (R-3), who has served as representative of the 3rd Congressional District since 1984.

Saxton early threw his support behind fellow Burlington County resident Myers. Following a fund-raising trip to Washington today, Myers planned to do a tag team tele-town hall meeting with the retiring congressman and district voters.

Defending himself against Russell’s onslaught about his public employment, Kelly challenged Myers to distance himself from Saxton’s endorsement if Myers has such a problem with what Kelly describes as longtime government service.

“Where’s their press release condemning Jim Saxton?” demanded the freeholder. “They’re happy to highlight his endorsement. If they’d like to rescind Jim Saxton’s endorsement, that’s fine. But they can’t condemn government and accept his support. They want to have it both ways, and they can’t.”

“The main thing,” Russell shot back, “is Jack Kelly’s quote unquote service is not just as an elected official; he’s a creature of Ocean County government, getting a pension while working as a freeholder, literally serving as a poster boy for patronage.”

Kelly said he has no problem with the way Chris Myers has made his living, butclaims pride in the way he himself has put food on the table for his wife and five children.

“I have had three decades of public service,” said Kelly, who also listed his volunteer efforts as a leader in the Boy Scouts, member of a county hospital board, CCD teacher and firefighter.

Two days before representatives from their campaigns are scheduled to sit down with fellow GOP candidate Justin Murphy of Tabernacle to discuss debate terms in their 3rd District Congressional primary, Kelly again criticized Myers for operating through surrogates, most notably Russell, and not stepping up to be the voice of his own campaign.

“Chris Myers should have the courage to speak for himself,” Kelly said. “The campaign says he’s going door to door. In the world of cellphones, you can go door to door and still take calls from the press.”

Third District GOP spat features debate about financial disclosure, government service