Seven Democratic county chairmen from South Jersey are calling on 2nd district congressional candidates to sign a pledge disavowing support from the Callaway-led Atlantic City Democratic organization.
“Craig Callaway has a long and shameful history of interfering in honest and fair elections,” in a letter signed by State Sens. James Beach, the Camden chairman, and Fred Madden, the county chairman in Gloucester, and by Wyatt Earp of Ocean, Brendan Sciarra of Cape May, Steve Caltabiano of Salem, Steve Errickson of Cumberland, and Joseph Andl of Burlington.
With the exception of Earp, the other county chairs have endorsed Brigid Callahan Harrison for the Democratic congressional nomination.
Atlantic County Democratic chairman Michael Suleiman was not on the letter.
“Callaway’s syndicate of allies have even more documented instances of immoral, illegal, and reckless behavior that is unbecoming of our Party — from knife fights, assaults, harassment, threats, and stalking to outright voter fraud — strong-arming voters in poor communities of color to allow Callaway cartel soldiers to vote by mail on their behalf,” the chairmen said.
They paint an ugly picture of Callaway, who the allege “staged his post-prison political comeback by masterminding the mayoral election of Frank Gilliam” in 2017.
Gilliam resigned last year after federal prosecutors charged him with stealing more than $87,000 from a youth basketball program he ran.
“That’s yet another Callaway associate led away in handcuffs, further contributing to the embarrassing legacy of Atlantic City mayors,” they said.
Gilliam also ran with the support of Senate President Steve Sweeney, a close political ally of Beach and Madden
The chairs want the six candidates to agree that they “will not accept direct or in-kind donations, organizational support, endorsements from, or provide payments to, Craig Callaway or his affiliated entities.”
“The story gets much worse for Craig Callaway,” the seven chairmen told the congressional candidates. “He was convicted in state court for blackmail and sentenced to three more years in prison in a repulsive scheme of arranging for a prostitute to provide sexual favors to his Council rival, an elderly widower, and videotaping the encounter in a rented motel room. He used the video footage to try to force his rival to resign from public office, but the plot backfired when his victim took the threat to law enforcement. It made national news.”
In 2018, Jeff Van Drew, then a Democratic state senator running for an open congressional seat, worked with the Callaway organization to secure votes in Atlantic City and Pleasantville.
Van Drew switched parties in December and is now seeking re-election to a second term as a Republican.
The letter went to Kennedy, Harrison and four other candidates: Atlantic County freeholder Ashley Bennett, West Cape May commissioner John Francis III, former congressional aide Will Cunningham, and retired FBI agent Robert Turkavage.
Turkavage told the New Jersey Globe that he has not received the letter from the county chairs, but isn’t interested in Callaway’s support anyway.
“I know who they are,” Turkavage said. “I absolutely 100% would not take any support from that organization.”