The Bayonne mayoral contest has become scorching hot this week, with the latest chapter seeing Mayor Jimmy Davis’ campaign calling on Council President Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski to “identify who is funding her dark money group.”
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“This sleazy smear campaign has been going on for months to benefit Sharon Nadrowski and she needs to come clean and identify the dark money donors who are funding it,” Davis said in a statement.
“Her fingerprints are all over this and she cannot deny responsibility any longer — Bayonne residents deserve better than that.”
Back in October, the Washington D.C.-based Citizens for Strength and Securities Fund came out with a “Dirty Davis” website and attack ad.
The group was registered out of DC in 2011 and had been dormant since 2013, with the website now defunct and the PAC closed, evidenced by no longer being listed on the Federal Election Commission (FEC) website.
In November, they took out a billboard ad in Atlantic City during the week when they host the League of Municipalities and they largely haven’t been heard from since.
Donors to the group have never been able to be identified publicly and that prospect now seems virtually impossible.
3rd Ward council candidate Peter Franco, a longtime Davis administration political adversary, told HCV in October that he helped produce the digital ad and have it displayed on a video truck during Bayonne’s homecoming high school football game.
Davis campaign spokesman Phil Swibinski said that given Franco’s 2008 court-martial conviction of having sex with a minor, Ashe-Nadrowski “dishonors herself in the eyes of Bayonne voters” by accepting his help.
“Peter Franco shouldn’t even be allowed to run for office with his criminal record, and no decent person would allow themselves to be associated with him,” he stated.
Franco, who is running independently, says his track record in the Peninsula City speaks for itself and added that he’d be happy to answer a full breadth questions at a 3rd Ward debate.
” … Since 2012, I have been a regular voice at Bayonne city council meetings raising concerns with the city’s aggressive redevelopment to the lack of transparency and public oversight. I have taken on developers, contractors and politicians,” he began.
“I really don’t care what Mayor Davis’s out-of-town public relations firm has to say. Nor do the residents of Bayonne. Unlike the Hudson County politicians Phil Swibinski represents, I’m not a fan of doing business behind closed doors. Let’s have an actual debate in a public setting and I will answer any and every question.”
Franco lost a four-way contest to Davis-backed candidate Neil Carroll in a 1st Ward special election in 2019, a race that saw no public forum or debate.
“Franco is obsessed with slandering Mayor Davis and the only person who benefits from his attacks is Sharon Nadrowski,” Swibinski added.
“There is a clear rule in this kind of Dark Money politics: whoever benefits from it is responsible for it, and there is no doubt that the only person who benefits here is Nadrowski. We demand that she identify who is funding her dark money group and denounce Franco immediately.”
Ashe-Nadrowski campaign spokesman Andrew Casais hit back that the mayor again has to get his facts straight, referencing him saying that he did not take money from Suez earlier this week when he actually did, as well as that Davis is the only candidate relying on dark money.
“Once again, Mayor Davis is lying. Sharon has no connection to dirtydavis.com. The only candidate who has admitted to coordinating with dark money is Jimmy Davis funded by big developers through Ray Lesniak and convicted murderer Sean Caddle – as reported by the media,” he stated.
“As far as Peter Franco is concerned. Last I checked, Franco is an independent candidate running against our third ward candidate Maria Valado.”
On Tuesday, former state Senator Ray Lesniak confirmed to Politico that he founded the Government for the People super PAC to give Davis a financial boost this election cycle, though things didn’t go according to plan when consultant Sean Caddle pleaded guilty to murder-for-hire in January.
The PAC paid Caddle $2,500 on December 15th, New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (NJ ELEC) records show.
Davis is backing Councilman Gary La Pelusa for re-election in the 3rd Ward, making for what looks to be an exciting three-way dance.
The Bayonne municipal elections are on May 10th.