Middletown Democrat Sparks Firestorm

first_img“The comments made (by) Jeana Sager shouldn’t be said on camera or behind closed doors, because they are unequivocally wrong. Her false and demeaning assertions do not represent the values of the Monmouth County Democratic Party or the dozens of Democratic candidates trying to better their community across our county,” county chairman David Brown said in a statement Sept. 21. “Our party will not stand for or support this disgraceful way of thinking, which is why we are refusing all resources to the Sager campaign and formally withdrawing the endorsement of the Monmouth County Democrats. Let it be a clear message: The Monmouth County Democratic Party will not stand for this disgraceful behavior now or in the future.” “But what constitutes a criminal?” Sager asked. “Because to me, a lot of police are criminals.” “Just saying ‘a lot of cops are criminals’ is not something that I could endorse or be part of or be comfortable campaigning with,” he said. Saying “a lot of police are criminals,” she can be seen standing outside the Middletown Township municipal building and offering her views on drug policy to members of the public, which included at least one journalist and marijuana advocates who had spoken at the township committee workshop meeting earlier. Sager’s remarks, first reported by More Monmouth Musings, a website friendly to Republicans, ignited a political firestorm and threw the upcoming contest for two seats on the governing body into turmoil. Her fellow Democrats denounced her comments, with even her running mate, Sean F. Byrnes, saying he was suspending his candidacy over what she said. Members of the township committee, including Mayor Tony Perry, and the president of the Middletown PBA issued statements critical of her as well. Perry reacted Sept. 21 to Sager’s statement by saying the Democrat had “chosen to double down on her feelings and comments.” Sager can be heard talking on the roughly 15 1⁄2-minute-long video saying that, if elected to the township committee, “I would love to start addressing drug policy.” For instance, she offered her support for needle exchange programs. In addition to angering her party, Sager also was criticized by the leader of the police union in the township. Middletown PBA Local 124 president Adam Colfer said her comments “are completely unacceptable.” “All across the country members of law enforcement are continuing to face the real threat of physical violence, so the last thing we would expect is to be branded ‘criminals’ by someone who wants to serve in elected office,” he said in a statement released Sept. 20. “Candidate Sager should apologize immediately to the Middletown Police Department, and to law enforcement ever ywhere, for her hateful rhetoric against the very people who have chosen to take on the responsibility of protecting our neighborhoods.” After the video’s release, Democrats sought to distance themselves from Sager. The leadership at the party’s local and county levels issued statements on the same day saying they had pulled their support from her. “Ms. Sager appears to be using her candidacy as a platform for her offensive and dangerous agenda that would be nothing short of harmful and detrimental to Middletown and its future,” he said. According to More Monmouth Musings, the video of Sager speaking was shot by “marijuana activist” Edward Grimes, who put it on Facebook. The website published the entire video as well as an excerpt of it. In a statement Sept. 20, Deputy Mayor Tony Fiore called Sager’s comments about police “disgusting and highly offensive.” But he said he was “equally disturbed with Ms. Sager’s covert plan, if elected, to decriminalize drugs and create safe injection sites and needle exchanges within this community.” MIDDLETOWN – Jeana Sager, a Democrat running for Middletown Township Committee, remained in the race despite bipartisan calls for her to drop out after video surfaced last week of her making anti-police comments in June. “Nothing will change unless there is a court order,” she said by email. But in her statement, Sager sought to turn the tables on her critics, particularly members of the township committee. Sager, who could not be reached for comment, appeared to be referring to an incident involving officer Carl F. Roth, who allegedly hit a motorcyclist in Ashland, New York, in August. The victim was not from New York, but Canada. Sager, though, sought to inject gender politics into the race by noting she was the only female candidate of the four people running for township committee. “It is a sad state of affairs when Americans cannot have honest conversations about timely issues such as police violence and the racist and prejudicial drug war, which is killing our youth, without fear of political crucifixion by both political parties,” she said. “The off-the-cuff conversation, which occurred in June in a parking lot, was not a prepared speech. I was not discussing a Middletown campaign platform. I was talking about issues that impact families in my community. My opponents held on to this information while they figured out how to hurt my candidacy, a move which clearly shows ulterior motives rather than being the forthright and honest people they would have you believe they are.” But Byrnes said he had suspended his campaign. Recognizing that she is running in a Republican town, she said she has to be “careful how I speak.” “We have withdrawn our endorsement of her candidacy for Township Committee and will commit no resources to her campaign, which we have asked her to end,” he said in a statement Sept. 21. “We are proud of our candidate Sean Byrnes who issued a statement setting for th his absolute disagreement with her comments and thanking the police for their service. In addition, we have spoken to county and state Democratic leaders who are in complete agreement with us.” By Philip Sean Curran “With regards to my reference to police crime, Mayor Perry, who is calling for my resignation, is one of the biggest hypocrites who sat silent along with Republican candidates Rick Hibell and Kevin Settembrino, when a Middletown police officer recently almost killed a New York resident while driving under the influence and fleeing the scene of a severe accident,” Sager said. “I encourage people to take a deep breath and focus on what was actually said about police violence and not what people say was said. If we can’t have an honest conversation about police, some of whom act criminally, then we are not protecting our citizens or the police who risk their lives for us.” Later, she said she wants to remove drug users from the criminal justice “realm” and said she did not want to stigmatize drug users as having an illness. In response, Sager released a statement Sept. 21 in which she did not apologize for remarks about police, called the controversy an “immature distraction” and said she was being attacked for her views. At this stage, Sager and Byrnes will remain on the ballot as the opponents to Republican incumbents Kevin M. Settembrino and Rick W. Hibell. Monmouth County Clerk Christine Giordano Hanlon said Sept. 23 that ballots have been printed. “There are plenty of people that I hang around with that are drug users and they use drugs recreationally and responsibly,” said Sager. Michael DiCicco, chairman of the Middletown Democratic Party, called her remarks about police “inaccurate, unfounded and hur tful.” In comments captured on video outside Town Hall in June, Middletown Township Committee Democratic candidate Jeana Sager made an anti-police comment that has sparked intense reaction from leaders of her own party, the PBA and the mayor. Democratic running mate Sean Byrnes has since suspended his bid.Photo courtesy YouTube “These liberal reckless polices have no place within our town, our county or anywhere in our state,” he said. “Our children should not be taught that it’s OK to inject drugs because we make it safe or be forced to walk over (hypodermic) needles on the way to school or while playing in our parks as children in San Francisco and other social utopias are being forced to do.” At one point, one man in the small group calls for getting the “criminal speakers” out of high schools who deliver opioid awareness messages. “People have always come up with reasons to silence and push women out of politics,” she said in her statement. “Just because I want to have tough conversations about difficult issues, some private and some public, doesn’t mean I will be bullied out of this space by the very cowards who think they are in a better position to ignore these issues to the detriment of our community.”last_img

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