Tuesday, June 26, 2007

K.O. Karrow and the Art of Bully Politics

As the 2008 elections draw near, the eternal battle between Light & Darkness, Good & Evil, Right & Wrong, (and I’ll leave you to decide which side of The Force your political party is aligned with), begins to heat up as the job security of many full-time public officials treads on shaky poll-driven ground.

However, not all of the conflict takes place in that vast no-man’s-land of dubious ideology that supposedly exists between the two equally infallible political parties. High stakes primaries and changes in the power structure can create enemies among the most devoted party members. This is what the press likes to refer to as ‘infighting’. The fighting can be fierce, but is seldom physical.

But in New Jersey, where the weak are killed and eaten, infighting takes on a whole new meaning. This is especially true in the 23rd District, where the blows being traded by Marcia Karrow and Chris Harcar have escalated from sound bites to shoving matches. Harcar is currently down for the count due to unnecessary roughness, while Karrow is well on her way to establishing a new chapter of G.L.O.W., soon to be known as the GOP Ladies of Wrestling.

The friction between these two has been heating things up since 2002, when they chose to back different primary candidates. Harcar’s decision to cross party lines and support Democrat Jeff Marshall for Mayor in 2004 didn’t go over well with her Republican friends, and since then she’s been the Black Sheep of the Party. Adding to the animosity are an overturned drunk driving charge in 2005, and her unflinching support of ex-husband county Sheriff Peter Harcar, who resigned in a plea bargain after allegedly discharging his gun accidentally in a local health club last October. Land-grabbing real estate deals are always guaranteed to raise tempers, and Karrow’s recent attempts to move along the township’s acquisition of the Urbach farm drew sharp criticism from Harcar, and increased the rivalry between the two.

As can be expected, some local Republicans feel the need to keep their distance from Harcar. Karrow might have taken the desire a bit too recently, when she allegedly ejected Harcar from a volunteer-driven Republican phone bank with all the love and compassion of a strip club bouncer.

As could be expected, the story differs depending on who tells it. According to Karrow, she simply "informed Harcar she was not welcome" and took away phone script, after which she simply left. Harcar’s version includes some body checking before her untimely exit, as she claims Karrow shoved her up against a nearby podium a couple times hard enough to break her arm before throwing her out.

Just to sweeten the tea, Karrow also alleges that Harcar was “stinking drunk” when she ‘trespassed’, that she could smell a "strong odor of alcohol on her breath.", and that several witnesses can attest to Harcar being three sheets to the wind and rowdy as a rugby player. Not too surprisingly, GOP Chairman Henry Kuhl unflinchingly backs Karrow’s story. Did I mention the phone banks were being operated at Kuhl Corporation, Kuhl’s family business? Kuhl and Karrow, by the way, backed Tony Critelli in an unsuccessful primary bid for Hunterdon County Sheriff. He came in third behind Deborah Trout, who was backed by Harcar. See a pattern forming?

Also interesting was Karrow’s insistence to responding police that she wanted "this whole incident dropped."

Normally, this kind of nonsense isn’t even worthy of daytime television. Strip away the political affiliations, and you’ve got two soccer moms slap-fighting in the electronics section of Target. But add the strong-arm bullyboy tactics, slanderous accusations meant to take advantage of a recent controversy, and vicious power plays delivered with anything-goes gusto, and you have…

…well, New Jersey Politics. And I have a feeling that things aren’t going to slow down anytime soon.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just when one needs a kiddie pool and grape Jell-o, there's none to be found...