SEASIDE HEIGHTS — Republican Mayor Anthony E. Vaz said his reason for endorsing Democrat Gov. Phil Murphy’s re-election bid is simple: the governor “supports our community.”
“It’s no secret that I am a conservative Republican and he is a progressive Democrat,” Vaz said.
Vaz’s endorsement drew the scorn of Matt Rooney, editor of the conservative news blog Save Jersey, who sent out a tweet saying he’ll support any Republican who “wants to step up and challenge” the mayor in the 2023 GOP primary.
Vaz declined to comment on Rooney’s statement.
As for the governor, Vaz said he believes Murphy has “done a lot for Seaside. I have to appreciate that…I have to focus on my constituents,” and that’s why he chose to endorse him instead of Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli.
Vaz cited as examples the “good communication” from the governor’s office during the pandemic, assistance from the state when YouTube stars the Nelk Boys drew more than 2,000 people to town for an unauthorized event, and help in restoring power to the town after storms last year.
The mayor announced his endorsement earlier this month, saying he chose to support Murphy even though he does not agree with many of the governor’s policies. Polls show Middletown resident Murphy with a double-digit lead over Ciattarelli, a former state assemblyman from Hillsborough in Somerset County.
Murphy came to Seaside Heights July 9 to sign a package of clean energy bills. Vaz and police Chief Thomas Boyd attended the event.
Vaz said he received about “two dozen” negative comments on social media after he became the first GOP mayor to endorse Murphy, but almost no push-back from people who live in Seaside Heights.
Seaside Heights boardwalk smoking ban: No cigarettes, no cigars, and no marijuana either
“Not that I kept it a secret,” he said. “The Republicans knew it for weeks.” He said he has never met Ciattarelli and has nothing negative to say about the GOP candidate.
Like most towns in Ocean County, Seaside Heights is reliably Republican: President Donald Trump received 62% of the vote here in the November 2020 election, while Murphy garnered just 35% support in the borough in the 2017 gubernatorial election against Republican Kim Guadagno, the former lieutenant governor.
In the June GOP primary, Ciattarelli received 48% of the vote in Seaside Heights, compared to nearly 31% for Hirsh V. Singh and almost 19% for Phil Rizzo.
Vaz said he voted for Guadagno in 2017, and also strongly supported former GOP Gov. Chris Christie.
“If you had told me three years ago that I would support him for re-election, I would have told you that you were crazy,” Vaz said of Murphy. He said Murphy has understood the unique challenges faced by Seaside Heights, which is heavily reliant on summer tourism, with a ratable base that has still not completely recovered from 2012’s superstorm Sandy and 2013’s boardwalk fire.
“I believe he’s sincere,” Vaz said. “I don’t agree with his policies (but) he’s become a friend, and we’ve developed a working relationship.”
Vaz has been mayor since July 2015; he was a member of the borough council at that time, and was appointed to the mayor’s post after former Mayor William Akers resigned. Vaz won a full, four-year term as mayor in November 2015, and was re-elected in 2019 with no opposition.
All six of Seaside’s borough council members are Republicans .Vaz and borough council members have been working to transform Seaside into a more family friendly resort; see some of the efforts in the video above.
Jean Mikle covers Toms River and several other Ocean County towns, and has been writing about local government and politics at the Jersey Shore for nearly 37 years. She’s also passionate about the Shore’s storied music scene. Contact her: @jeanmikle, [email protected]
Source: Asbury Park