Should the Sussex County Democrats be reporting the help they get from the New Jersey Herald as in-kind corporate contributions? Should the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission be alerted? Maybe it’s our imagination but the Herald seems to be sucking more than usual these days.Take a look at the lengths to which they are going to suppress the image of the Democrats’ new candidate for State Senate.

The photo, which was released last week by the candidate, looks like something between a pissed-off biker and a child’s image of Satan.

Then there’s the Herald’s slavish coverage of every gathering of three or more Democrats in the county. To get that kind of coverage, Republicans have to assemble a couple hundred people, and even then it won’t be positive coverage. Three Dems are snapped coming out of a restroom and the headline reads about how determined they are. A hundred or so Republicans gather and it’s a conspiracy, mired in controversy.

The Herald has been working overtime at presenting the process of selecting replacements for Assembly and Freeholder as something worthy of the National Enquirer. They had some help from a few conniving GOP insiders but heck, conniving insiders don’t have any ethics, whereas newspapers are supposed to abide by a professional code.

Last week the Herald wrote no less than four pieces on the process of calling a convention to select a freeholder once Parker Space resigns, and never once cited the law. Here’s something you won’t find in the Herald, so how about reading it for yourself:

19:13-20.b.(2) Whenever in accordance with the provisions of subsection a. of this section members of a county committee are empowered to select a candidate to fill a vacancy, it shall be the responsibility of the chairperson of such county committee, not later in any case than the seventh day following the occurrence of the vacancy, to give notice to each of the members of the committee, as certified by the county clerk, who are so empowered of the date, time and place of the meeting at which the selection will be made, that meeting to be held at least one day following the date on which the notice is given.

See those words following and vacancy? Pretty darn clear isn’t it? But after 4 articles and more than 4,000 words we’re still waiting on the Herald to get around to reporting it. Maybe next week.

Then look at who the Herald went to for their legal advice: The County Attorney, County Clerk, and the attorney for the Sussex Republican County Committee. All county insiders with a BIG stake in who the next Freeholder is. All three are voting members of the GOP county committee and presumably have someone among the freeholder candidates who they favor. Didn’t that occur to the Herald?

And how would a new freeholder impact each of them? The Freeholder Board controls the budget, salary, and benefits of the County Attorney and the departmental budget of the County Clerk. As for the GOP attorney, he hopes to be a county vendor and those contracts go before the Freeholder Board too. Don’t they all sound just a little conflicted to you?

The Herald’s intrepid reporter could have asked an independent source from outside the county. The Elections Division of the Secretary of State’s office employs election law attorney experts for just such an occasion. Did you see a quote by such an expert? We didn’t – and why not?  Because it didn’t serve the Herald’s spin.

Now comes the best part: The Herald is trying to convince us that Parker Space is a Republican establishment insider. Ooooooo… what image does that conjure up for you?

I know, you just pissed your pants, didn’t you? I mean, really, WTF – did anyone at the Herald ever actually meet Parker Space?

Parker Space is Mr. Everyman. He is Sussex County’s Joe the Plumber. Parker Space is about the most antiestablishment, non-political public office holder anyone could imagine. He shows up to meetings in his work clothes, fresh from feeding a piglet or scooping up the shit of some large animal. The man cares nothing for the bullshit of politics, and it shows.

We know that in the institutional memory of the average reporter three years is a very long time ago, but in 2010 Parker Space actually took on the whole frigging Sussex County political establishment and beat their sitting Freeholder Director.  He was one of the sources the Herald relied on for its story. 

No wait, this gets better. Guess who the Herald uses to tell us that Parker Space is too establishment? Yep, it is that mollycoddled child of the county establishment, former Freeholder and sometime county lobbyist Glen Vetrano.

Vetrano is presented by the Herald as some uninvolved observer when in fact he’s a county lobbyist who is the furthest thing from uninvolved. It looks like Vetrano is collecting Freeholders, presumably to be a better lobbyist. Ah, the joys of county lobbying in New Jersey, the only completely unregulated field of lobbying left in all of America (but not for long if the Senate President has anything to do with it).

You can’t make this stuff up.

Glen Vetrano is such an insider and so well connected that he was able to change his voter registration from Democrat to Republican in December 1999, announce that he wanted to be a Freeholder, and then secure the job at a Republican county convention in March 2000. Now that is some smooth operating.

How do we know this? It was reported by the New Jersey Herald and should be available in said newspaper’s archives to any of its reporters who care to look. But maybe not. Maybe the budget cuts over at Two Spring Street have been so severe that the archives have been converted into shithouse paper. Who knows?

What follows below is all from the pages of the New Jersey Herald.

Did you know that Glen Vetrano wasn’t just selected by a county convention to be a Freeholder once, but twice. So he knows a thing or two about how to work a convention.

Vetrano won his first Republican convention just over two months after switching from the Democrat Party to the Republican. According to the Herald, the party insiders pushing Vetrano announced on February 2, 2000, that the convention to select him would be held on March 4, 2000. That was the last possible date on which the convention could be held – a full 30 days.

“The time, date and place of the meeting” was set by county insiders: 10 am at Sussex County Technical School, Saturday, March 4, 2000. It is amazing how many of the same insiders are still around. There is a photo of Ailish Hambel in the March 5, 2000, edition of the Herald that identifies the now county chairwoman as the then “vice-chairwoman”. The Herald identifies some of Vetrano’s key supporters as “Sussex County Municipal Utilities Authority Commissioner Bunny Coccula” and “former Hardyston Mayor and councilwoman Wendy Molnar”. You would think they’d remember how it went down.

In 2000, the insiders’ goal was to keep the Freeholder seat out of the hands of that other pesky Mr. Everyman: Hal Wirths. Yes, that Hal Wirths. The Hal Wirths who went on to become the most popular Freeholder in the history of Sussex County and who, with then Freeholders Steve Oroho and Gary Chiusano and Assemblywoman Alison McHose, fashioned the Real Conservative Team in 2007 to keep Senator Bob Littell’s seat here in Sussex County. The Hal Wirths who went on to serve as Governor Chris Christie’s Labor Secretary and a member of his cabinet. Yes, that Hal Wirths.

Wirths was none too happy that the convention was being wired for Vetrano and he said so. Wirths told the Herald: “I don’t think I’ve ever missed a Republican primary. . . to endorse him (Vetrano), a guy who never voted in the Republican primary is wrong.”

Now don’t get mad at us! We are not picking on Glen Vetrano. The Herald wrote this. We’re just reminding them that they did – before they use Vetrano to attack Space.

The Herald reported that while Vetrano was a public employee union President who had never voted Republican in his life, Wirths had been a Republican County Committee member for 14 years. And before anyone says we’re bashing Vetrano for his role as public employee union insider, think again because Vetrano himself cited his union leadership as his main qualification for office:

“Vetrano, of Hampton, a captain in the City of Paterson fire department, lists involvement in several community and labor organizations in Passaic County, such as President of the Officers Local 2860 of the IAFF as his experience in leadership roles.”

That is a direct quote from the Herald.

Glen Vetrano won that convention scheduled 30 days after the resignation of the sitting Freeholder had been announced. He beat Hal Wirths 78 votes to 71.

On April 3, 2000, Hal Wirths filed his petitions to run against Vetrano in the June primary. Speaking of Vetrano, Wirths said, “As far as I’m concerned, he’s a Democrat. He’s never voted in a Republican primary in his life.”

An insider’s insider, Glen Vetrano spent the campaign telling the Herald how he was “welcomed with open arms by Republicans from throughout the county”.

Running as part of a conservative ticket headed by then Assemblyman Scott Garrett, Hal Wirths was the underdog and struck a more combative tone: “I’m really disappointed they would endorse a candidate without even hearing from him or listening to his views on the issues. It smacks of lackyism, at its best, from the good old boys.”

Over the course of the campaign, Wirths was the victim of a malicious whisper campaign that even the Herald picked up on and was later forced to place a clarification in its pages. When the smoke cleared, Hal Wirths had easily defeated Glen Vetrano – with the Herald reporting the tally as 6,889 votes to 5,520.

Two years later, when the next opportunity to fill a freeholder seat by convention came up, the party insiders didn’t take any chances. They cooked up a truly controversial rule, as this January 30, 2002, Star-Ledger story reports:

New selection process divides Sussex GOP

Executive committee gets final say on who will fill freeholder seat

Author: JIM LOCKWOOD; STAR-LEDGER STAFF

Some Sussex County Republicans are questioning the way the party intends to fill an impending freeholder vacancy and choose a candidate to run against a Democratic incumbent in the June 4 primary.

Members of the Sussex County Republican Committee will convene Feb. 23 to fill the freeholder vacancy created by the departure of Charles Kuperus, who was sworn in Monday as secretary of the state Department of Agriculture.

At the same time, the committee will select a candidate to run for a full three-year freeholder term against incumbent Democrat Howard Burrell.

Normally, the committee, which comprises an elected male and female member from each of the county’s 100 voting districts, would vote to fill a vacancy, party members and county officials said.

But on Monday, the county committee, headed by Chairman David Mortimer, approved a new twist: the party’s executive committee will decide which of the top two vote-getters of all candidates at the convention will fill Kuperus’ vacancy, and which one will go for the full term.

Some Republicans questioned whether this method is proper. They said the elected county committee members are supposed to fill vacancies, not an executive committee. That group consists of the 24 municipal party chairs and a few dozen Mortimer appointments.

Does this sound on the up and up to you? Well this is the method that Glen Vetrano used to secure his freeholder seat at a convention, the second time around. Oh, and for all you anal types counting those days, according to the Star-Ledger, it was 27 days between Freeholder Kuperus’ resignation and the convention at which Glen Vetrano was selected to be Freeholder.

So let’s recap. The New Jersey Herald is trying to use Glen Vetrano’s comments to dirty up Republican Everyman Parker Space, while ignoring the law and its own coverage of past conventions.

Here are two numbers for you to remember: 30 days and 27 days. That is how long after the resignations the two conventions that selected Glen Vetrano were held.

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Comments
  1. Just want to say your article is as surprising. The clearness on your post is just nice
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  2. blah blah says:

    The media sucks!

  3. Not Tomko says:

    Tomko picks on one girl and gets KOed by another.

  4. Spooner says:

    Vetrano tried to steal the convention for George Graham. George had a head start campaigning since December. You know what they say about counting your chickens and about . . .

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