It wasn’t enough for Union County Democrats to bury the GOP in countywide races earlier this month. Now they want an apology, too – for what they cite as insensitive remarks made by unsuccessful Republican candidates.
A post election story in The Westfield Leader quoted Arthur Zapolski, the GOP candidate for County Clerk, saying “You hit them (people in urban areas) with a cattle prod, and they’ll go under; there’s no brain power involved.”
Roselle Council President Jamel Holley consequently went on offense.
“The Republicans are playing the politics of division, pitting urban versus suburban voters when we should be working together for the best of the County as a whole,” said Holley. “Their comments are insensitive to all voters, and they should apologize as a whole.”
Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage called the Republican comments “insulting.”
“At the State and Federal levels, Republicans have voted to extend benefits for the wealthiest while cutting programs and services for the working class,” Bollwage said. “In the House, Republicans also rejected extending unemployment benefits, while supporting tax cuts to the wealthiest two percent.”
Bollwage added: “here in New Jersey, we have a governor who supported tax cuts for millionaires, while cutting services for children and seniors.”
Zapolski said Democrats misconstrued his comments.
“That is being taken out of context,” said the Linden attorney. “The point I was making concerned the 3-1 voter margin in the county and had nothing to do with race. I’m talking about the Democrats just following the party line. They vote straight down the line. We were just trying to get our message out. The way it is here is the western part of the county is more Republican and the eastern part is more Democrat. The center is a little bit of a swing. All I’m saying is a Republican candidacy here is a hard sell. There are more registered Democrats than Republican voters in the county, and more in the larger cities.”
This was Zapolski’s second loss, having struck out in bids to be surrogate and now clerk.
An unconvinced Holley and Bollwage number among 17 elected and community officials from Union County who have already signed a letter demanding an apology. A presumptive candidate for mayor next year, Holley said he would continue to collect signatures before formally sending the letter.
Besides Zapolski, Freeholder Candidates Elyse Bochiccio Medved, Ellen Dickson and Brian Flanagan also cited group think as the reason for their loss.
“These people (Democratic voters in urban parts of the County) are getting what they vote for, and it’s a shame because they won’t open their eyes, but we will eventually force them to open their eyes. It’s not over,” Medved reportedly told The Westfield Leader.
“Those who are benefiting from the largesse are getting a bigger and bigger percentage, and that percentage is sucking all the rest of us,” Dickson said is quoted as saying.
“We’ve tried so many ways…we just keep getting hosed out here in the western end of the County, and it’s got to stop,” Flanagan is quoted as saying.
Holley said the Republican remarks as a whole were not only offensive, but could also be construed as “bordering on racism” especially against minority voters.
“The condescending remarks made by the Republican Countywide candidates are unacceptable, ill-informed and have no place in modern society,” Holley said. “If they are wondering why their candidacies were rejected by such wide margins in urban areas, they can start by re-examining the disrespectful statements they made. You have to give respect to get it.”