The Changing Alliances in the Sussex County Freeholder race
In his April 5th column in the New Jersey Herald, Rob Jennings noted that Freeholder Phil Crabb's onetime campaign manager was now working for Ron Bassani, who is challenging Crabb in the June 3rd Republican primary:
One other detail in Bassani’s opening statement drew notice last week. Listed as his campaign contact was Kelly Ann Hart.
“Kelly is helping me design a website and helping me with fundraising,” Bassani explained.
Hart, president of K Hart Consulting since 2004, is a former executive director of the Sussex County Republicans with contacts beyond the region.
She is campaign manager for Murray Sabrin, a Ramapo College professor seeking the Republican nomination against U.S. Sen. Cory Booker.
Locally, she provided consulting in 2013 to the “Hometown Conservative Team,” a Republican ticket of six incumbents seeking re-election headed by state Sen. Steve Oroho, R-24th Dist., and including Vohden.
Much more intriguing, though, is her prior role with Crabb.
Crabb acknowledged that Hart was his campaign manager against Mudrick in 2011. Now she’s working for Crabb’s opponent.
Bassani, of Hart, said, “I’m glad I was able to track her down.”
Perhaps an understatement there.
Jennings' column set-off a series of vitriolic personal attacks on former Crabb manager/ now Bassani manager Kelly Hart in the comments section on the newspaper's website. Using aliases, Wantage residents Ann Smulewicz and Kathleen Gorman engaged in name-calling and character assassination designed to damage Hart's personal and professional reputation. They were joined in this personal attack upon an unelected, private citizen, by other acknowledged supporters of Freeholder Crabb.
Smulewicz voiced her support for Freeholder Crabb in the comments section of Jennings' April 5th column and on Thursday evening at a Stillwater Taxpayers Association meeting, Gorman sat with Freeholder Crabb and gave him her support. It is important to note that neither Smulewicz or Gorman in any way know Hart besides what they've been told by others about her. In another word: Rumors.
While it is clear that Crabb's supporters are angry with Hart for switching sides, what goes generally unacknowledged is why she switched sides. The reason for the switch is pretty obvious when you take a moment to look at Crabb's campaign filings filed with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.
Crabb stiffed Hart.
Freeholder Crabb, whose habit of not paying to attend campaign events if he can help it is widely acknowledged, never paid Kelly Hart for her work on his successful 2011 re-election bid. Crabb faced Dennis Mudrick, who was recruited to run against Crabb by former Freeholder and current Sussex County Community College Trustee Glen Vetrano. Crabb won the primary against Mudrick by a vote of 2,803 to 2,396 (54% to 46%). Mudrick went on to win the 2012 primary, coming in behind Gail Phoebus but ahead of Helen Wilson LeFrois.
A look at Crabb's 2011 campaign finance reports shows that Hart's mother was Crabb's biggest contributor, with the Skylands Victory PAC coming in second. In fact, Kelly Hart's family has contributed over $100,000 to Sussex County Republicans, Republican candidates, and Republican causes.
Crabb likes getting paid.
Like most people -- Kelly Hart included -- politician Phil Crabb likes getting paid. He takes his full salary as a Sussex County Freeholder and -- as the only Sussex County Freeholder who takes the health and benefits package -- is the most expensive Freeholder in terms of the cost to the taxpayers. Crabb is doing nothing wrong in this, it is what he is entitled to as an elected Freeholder.
The point is this: If you like getting paid and if you take every penny coming your way, then you should have sympathy with others who also like to get paid for their work and you should pay them, especially when they are successful on your behalf.
What you should not do is to round up a posse of haters to trash a woman's reputation simply because she has found someone to work for who will pay her and not stiff her like you did. Fair enough?