Conaway says Furia recruited him to run, then broke her word

TRENTON — Assemblyman Herbert Conaway (D-Delanco), angry at what he says is an attempt to paint his candidacy for the Burlington County Democratic chairmanship as a way to secure the line for a possible opening of a state senate seat, said today that his leaked email today saying as much needs to be put in context.

The email, he said, was his angry response to Acting Chairwoman Alice Furia, who he claimed not only had pledged to back him for the chairmanship, but actually recruited him to run for it.

“That email was a response to her breaking her commitment to me,” said Conaway from the assembly floor. 

Burlington County Freeholder Chris Brown, a Democrat, seized on the email today to condemn Conaway’s bid for the chairmanship.

“What our county’s Democratic Party does not need… is a new chairman whose only motivation to hold office is to assist his own personal state Senate ambitions,” said Brown in a written statement. “First of all, that thinking is premature, as Sen. Diane Allen is still is in office, and second, it is disturbing to think that Herb merely wants to be our party chairman to help himself become Senator.

Conaway said that after Furia called him and asked him to consider running, he had a Nov. 17 meeting with her and Riverside Municipal Chairman Gary Haman, who has since decided to run against Conaway for the post.

“In fact, Gary Haman himself, sitting at that meeting, said to me you should announce early, because your stature would help clear the field, there would be less dilution of the county committee vote in the part of the state district that I represent.  Those were his words — his words,” said Conaway.  “If there was a time for him to say ‘By the way, I’m interested in running for county chair myself,’ that would have been the time to do it.”

Although Conaway acknowledged that a factor in his decision to run was securing party support for the 7th District state senate seat currently held by state Sen. Diane Allen (R-Edgewater Park), who is battling an aggressive form of cancer, he said that there was much more to it.

“Any decision one makes – if you’re buying a house, if you’re going shopping … there are multiple reasons for just about any action you choose to take,” he said.  “What they wish to do by putting this email out there is to distract from the failure of the current vice-chair — now acting chair — and her lieutenant, Gary Haman, from their failure over the years to build the party and to make it a strong vehicle for electing candidates to office, and for their continued refusal to perform their duties, particularly the vice-chair, in an open and transparent way.”

Conaway also noted that he has flirted with a candidacy for county chairman twice, in 2006 and 2008, when there was no hint or reason to believe that Allen would not run again.

“Let me say this: we have a sitting senator for whom I have a great deal of respect. The election for that office will take place in 2011 – that is almost two years from now. And in the intervening period we’re going to have a redistricting,’ said Conaway.  “It is unseemly, the speculation by some around this.  A whole lot of people are talking about this – not me.  And I think they should stop,” he said.

Conaway says Furia recruited him to run, then broke her word