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Freehold Township Board of Education president Mike Amoroso

Amaroso, Woolley hit incumbents over SDA

LD11 one New Jersey’s few competitive districts

By Nikita Biryukov, April 18 2019 2:26 pm

Assembly candidates Mike Amoroso and Matt Woolley are levying discord at the Schools Development Authority and the troubles of its embattled CEO Lizette Delgado-Polanco into an attack against Democratic incumbents.

“Scandal after scandal, the Schools Development Authority has continued to betray the public’s trust,” Amoroso said. “This is the same authority that could not confirm who approved the hiring of an accused rapist. The future of SDA leadership, and the organization as a whole, deserves serious reconsideration.”

The two Republicans are challenging Assemblywoman Joann Downey and Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling, both of whom are seeking a third term in the Assembly.

Delgado-Polanco, who is also State Democratic vice chair, has come under fire for a series of potentially nepotistic hires following a cull of the authority’s employees.

Earlier this month, the Bergen Record reported New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal was investigating hiring practices at the agency.

That investigation isn’t the first to grace the SDA. The Select Committee on Oversight co-chaired by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin spent several months trying to figure out who hired former SDA chief of staff Al Alvarez.

Alvarez, whose hire predated Delgado-Polanco’s tenure as SDA CEO, was accused of sexually assaulting State Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency chief of staff Katie Brennan in April 2017, when he was in charge of Muslim and Latino outreach for Gov. Phil Murphy’s campaign, for which Brennan would later volunteer.

The governor has largely stuck by Delgado-Polanco, as has State Democratic Chairman John Currie.

That loyalty opens up another avenue of attack for Republican candidates like Amoroso and Woolley.

“It’s unfathomable that Governor Murphy continues to support a CEO who has been accused of blatant nepotism and whose organization is billions of dollars in debt without any sign of improvement,” Woolley said. “Our schools and students are victims in this mess. Yet, Assemblywoman Downey and Assemblyman Houghtaling have been completely absent from calls for accountability.”

The two incumbents were among the first legislators in the state to support an investigation into hiring practices at the SDA.

“We want to look into and find out what’s going on, and if there’s a problem there, we’re going to fix it,” Houghtaling told the New Jersey Globe in February.

The 11th legislative district will host one of an increasingly-small number of competitive Assembly races this year.

Downey and Houghtaling narrowly ousted Republican incumbents in 2015, winning by less than a point each. Their margins climbed to about five points in 2017, but turnout this year will more likely than not reflect that of 2015, as Assembly races were also at the top of the ticket that year.

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