Home>Campaigns>Candidates seek federal election monitors in NJ-2 House primary

Former Atlantic City Council President Craig Callaway, with his back to the camera, addresses the Atlantic City Council on February 20, 2020. Photo courtesy of YouTube.

Candidates seek federal election monitors in NJ-2 House primary

Callaway organization cited as reason to watch voting in all-VBM election

By David Wildstein, May 22 2020 2:02 pm

Update – Statement from Brigid Callahan Harrison campaign manager Paul Weborg: “I’m releasing this statement on behalf of Brigid who is currently picking her daughter up from the Naval Academy. Shame on Amy for her accusatory antics. When Amy stops putting black and brown men in private prisons so that she can profit – then she can discuss voter suppression, an issue Brigid has worked on her entire career and is the motivation for this entire request. This is an issue that directly affects Brigid’s family, having seen and heard firsthand racist actions and remarks directed at her own daughter.”  

Past allegations of voter fraud in Atlantic City and Pleasantville has prompted Democratic congressional candidate Brigid Callahan Harrison to request federal monitoring of the July 7 primary election.

In a letter to U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito, Harrison alleges that former Atlantic City Council President Craig Callaway “and his organization of family members and others have repeatedly been at the center of election disputes involving paper ballots submitted by mail and messenger.”

The Callaway-controlled Atlantic City Democratic organization is backing Amy Kennedy against Harrison in the race to pick an opponent against Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-Dennis) in New Jersey’s 2nd district.

“Minority voter protection must be the paramount consideration,” Harrison told the federal prosecutor.

Harrison pointed to Callaway’s past history, reminding Carpenito that he pleaded guilty to accepting a $10,000 cash bribe for an undercover FBI agent and for his role in blackmailing a rival Atlantic City council colleague.

“Callaway and his organization were at the center of a Pleasantville School Board election challenge alleging tampering with vote by mail ballots and misuse of the vote by mail system,” Harrison said.  “The voter fraud investigations have largely centered on Craig Callaway.”

Kennedy supports election monitoring, but not just in Atlantic County.  She wants someone to watch over ballots cast in other parts of the 2nd district too.

“We are all in favor of election monitoring across the board in NJ-2 to make sure that all people’s rights to vote are protected in the middle of this pandemic,” said Joshua Roesch, Kennedy’s campaign manager.  “What we won’t stand for and what the people of South Jersey shouldn’t stand for is Brigid preemptively trying to call into question results of an election she knows she’s going to lose by using the same dog-whistle, racist tactics employed by Donald Trump to suppress the vote in minority communities and to scare and intimidate African-American voters.”

Will Cunningham, a former chief investigator for the House Oversight and Reform Committee and a candidate for the Democratic House nomination, has joined in the call for election monitoring.

“It is paramount that we have a federal election monitor in Atlantic County to ensure that every vote cast in this very unique election is counted fairly,” he said.

But Cunningham doesn’t think Harrison or Kennedy have the moral authority to talk about fair elections.

According to Cunningham, both of his opponents met with Callaway in a bid to win the Atlantic County Democratic convention endorsement.

“Through hushed conversations by county committee members, it was widely understood that the Kennedy campaign paid the Callaway organization over $100,000 while fully understanding his criminal past and unsavory tactics,” Cunningham said.

“Both Harrison and Kennedy have made allegiances with unethical powerbrokers in politics. While Brigid was gaining the support of George Norcross, Amy was seeking his endorsement to no avail,” Cunningham stated.  “After her failure, Amy decided to invest in Craig Callaway and his criminal organization.”

Gov. Phil Murphy postponed the primary by four weeks and ordered that it be conducted almost entirely through vote-by-mail ballots as part of his plan to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus by banning large gatherings of people.

Harrison sent federal prosecutors an affidavit signed by Ernestor Echevarria alleging that the Callaway operation has been tampering with ballots for fifteen years.

“I personally witnessed them take a closed envelope and nail file, heat up  the sealed portion of the envelope and reopen the envelope carefully by melting the glue and separating the seal,” Echevarria said.

Echevarria claims that Callaway would visit a voters home, ask them to sign an envelope, and pretend to reseal the envelope.

Among her allegations is that Callaway had someone inside the Board of Elections to help him by providing blank ballots so hat he could cast them for the candidate of his choice.

“In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is expected that there will be a significant number, if not all, of the ballots submitted by mail or by messenger,” Harrison explained.

Emily McGrath, a Democratic county committeewoman from Egg Harbor Township, said she saw Callaway and Kennedy’s campaign team huddled in a corner at the Atlantic Democratic convention.

“I found it alarming because I had heard the rumors of their relationship,” McGrath said.  “It really stood out because Craig didn’t interact with any other campaigns at the convention.”

The U.S. Attorney’s office has monitored elections in the past.

When then-city councilman Cory Booker challenged Newark Mayor Sharpe James in 2002, U.S. Attorney Chris Christie insinuated himself into the campaign by sending federal prosecutors in to monitor the May 12 election – and holding an election day press conference to brief reporters on how it was going.

Ernesta Echevarria affidavit_Redacted
DOJ Letter Final - May 21, 2020 w
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