Ask your local candidate a question.

Saturday, June 15, 2024

The Tell-Tale Campaign Signs

“You’re sure the homing beacon is secure aboard their ship? I’m taking an awful risk, Vader. This had better work,” said Grand Moff Tarkin to Darth Vader as he mulled the benefit of letting the Millenium Falcon escape so they could possibly track it back to the Rebel Base.

In fact, it did work. The Empire traced the Falcon right to the base. OK, there’s that little detail that when the Death Star arrived the Rebels were ready and blew it to smithereens, but that’s just a detail. The trace had worked.

And the concept seems to have worked just as well in Readington, New Jersey, with a new wrinkle in the “Who Stole My Campaign Signs?!? Derby.” And nobody’s ultimate weapon was blown up.

Stealing an opponent’s campaign signs from neighborhood lawns is a rite of passage for local political campaigns. So is blaming your opponent for signs that blew away, as well as stealing your own signs and blaming your opponent.

Now “old-school politics” has met “new-school technology.” According to the New Jersey Globe, a former Readington Township committeeman and former mayor was arrested May 17 and charged with stealing the campaign signs of his opponent.

John Albanese faces charges of criminal disorderly persons, a charge, I think, that could actually get him a little street cred.

The accusations are part of an internecine conflict within the Readington Republican Party that has pitted old guard, anti-Trump Republicans against new age MAGA Republicans. It’s a feud that dates back through several years of sign stealing. The conflict doesn’t need to be recounted in excruciating detail but is rooted in the Tom Malinowski/Tom Kean, Jr. congressional race two years ago when the GOP Old Guard got behind Democrat incumbent Malinowski and the MAGA faction got behind Kean, Jr., the eventual winner.

To taunt and tempt the Old Guard, the MAGA alliance repurposed old anti-Malinowski signs from the 2022 Kean campaign with even more potent vitriol. And they equipped them with Apple AirTags should anyone take the bait.

And they got a bite, apparently. New Jersey Globe reports that the MAGA alliance followed the pings right to Albanese’s yard. Committeeman Vinnie Panico, having followed the scent, called police, who reportedly found six anti-Malinowski signs on his property and arrested Committeeman Albanese.

The pro-Trump and anti-Trump factions of the Republican party will be competing for the party’s nomination on June 4, and the Old Guard could reclaim he majority on the committee. Or the MAGA alliance could retain power. Neither Albanese nor Panico are on the ballot, though their factions are.

Really, though, anybody outside of this Hunterdon County town of 16,000 probably doesn’t really care about Readington’s internal party politics. This primary election is like hundreds of others around the state with barbs exchanged between the old and the new.

Readington is perhaps best known as the hometown of actress Taissa Farmiga (“The Gilded Age,” “Justice League vs. Teen Titans”) and for hosting North America’s biggest hot air balloon festival each year. Insert gasbag joke here.

Now it has the homing beacon campaign signs. That’s up there with the two guys who broke into a house and took pictures of each other—and neglected to take the camera. Or the florist who was caught taking items from a cemetery—and reselling them in her shop. Things like that just can’t be ignored.

Of course, Committeeman Albanese is innocent until proven guilty, and he does have a hearing scheduled for this week. But at the very least, the Old Guard has to get a little more tech savvy.

Joe Phalon
Joe Phalon, Contributing Writer
Contributing Writer

Joe was lured out of retirement by the opportunity to be a part of the Ridge View Echo. During a decades-long career in publishing and journalism, he has covered government on many levels from local school boards to the United States Supreme Court.

Along the way, Joe has worked at American Lawyer Magazine, The National Law Journal and The Record among other publications, and as the Press Officer of Columbia Law School. His work has been recognized with several first place awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the New Jersey Press Association.

Being part of the Ridge View Echo brings Joe back to his roots and the kind of news coverage he loves: Telling the stories of people and local communities as well as keeping an eye on how their money is spent by their government officials.

Joe lives in Blairstown with his wife Rose, the founder of Quilting for a Cause, and their two wiener dogs. He is an artist in his spare time.