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Jim Keady: Retrospective and Lessons Learned

What once seemed destined to die in erudite political circles has now captured the political zeitgeist of NJ-4’s election.

By Ian Nugent in goings on · Jan 28
Jim Keady speaking at the Beach Haus debate. Photo by Ali Nugent / The Hum.

The fallout caused consternation among those directly involved, confusion among non-enlightened onlookers, and havoc among Democrats. It has resulted in near universal condemnation and loss of a platform while those left remaining loyal take to a Fox News-esque conspiracy theory for justification.

Background

At hand is an action of Jim Keady; former Asbury Park council member, three time Congressional candidate, and NJ-4 progressive mainstay. Recently, he has withdrawn from the 2020 Congressional race.

In Nov. 2019, Keady typed an email to four women with the purpose of refuting allegations of sexual misconduct and anti-semitism. He accused them of creating a “whisper campaign.” Further, in an apparent act of transparency, Keady also CC’d prominent women from the district along with his lawyer.

Coupled with this was a message to cease spreading this information as Keady asserted they were falsehoods. This is something not foreign to Keady as he has often been plagued with gossip of his sexual adventures following a period of bachelordom after a marriage-ending affair. A fact that he himself readily admits stating “I’ve had a lot of sex” at the Jan. 13 Congressional debate at the Beach Haus Brewery. He also clarified it as “all consensual.”

Within, the email contained personal details conveyed through explicit terms as well as screen captures of previous conversations from some of the women addressed; their lives on full display for all. Keady explained that if his demands for silence were not followed, then the email would be shared with whomever inquired to him about this “whisper campaign” with an ultimate threat to make them public at large.

Undoubtedly, every individual is entitled to their self defense if they feel aggrieved, but Keady’s action in correcting what he perceived as falsehoods are hardly the matter at hand. Instead, it is the form of the contents enclosed, which contained intimate details presented in an inflammatory manner with apparent threats of distribution.

Debate Night

“Writing an email to 10 women saying you fucked someone in a truck is not acceptable for a Congressional candidate.”

While previously confined to word of mouth transmission, in respect to those involved, the ramifications of the email surfaced Jan. 13 at the Wall Democrat’s Candidate Debate moderated by Eric Brophy, Deputy Vice Chair of Monmouth Democrats and Chairman of the Wall Dems, and Allison Connolly, another Deputy Vice Chair of the Monmouth Dems, at Belmar’s Beach Haus Brewery.

Remaining an open secret for the first hour and twenty minutes of the debate, the totality of any public response was a small but noticeable congregation in the back turning their backs to Jim Keady every time he spoke.

In the end, silent protest became inadequate when candidates were asked “in light of recent revelations regarding women in New Jersey Politics, what specific actions will you take to protect the women working on your campaign and what congressional action do you believe is necessary to address this issue?”

A question of pressing pertinence in contempory New Jersey politics in the wake of one time NJ-4 hopeful Tiffany Kaszuba withdrawing her Congressional nomination as a result of harassment from a then Democratic party affiliate with a history of impropriety and issues at the statehouse with sexual assault that resuluted in a mishandling of the issue.

Once asked, the room became afixed on a plateau as the email was well-circulated through a prominent minority of the attendees. As palpable tension in the room rose, eyes cut between confidants waiting for Keady’s response and if there would be any retort from the crowd as he was placed last to answer this question.

In a moment of seeming serendipity prior to Keady speaking, Stephanie Schmid was able to address the brewing undercurrent present in the Beach Haus that night, without any implications of those involved or acknowledgement of the situation. She launched a ravenous indictment of actions such as Keady’s that had yet to be revealed to the masses:

So, I just would encourage everybody in this room and everybody up here on stage to look deep within their heart and reflect on what you could be doing to do more, to support a survivor, to support a colleague and to make sure that you yourself are walking the walk and not just talking the talk. Because the worst thing that we have is people who stand up and say they’re an ally and then go behind in quiet rooms and closed doors and do the exact opposite. Those hypocrites deserve exactly what’s coming for them.

Keady took the microphone and said “I understand, particularly when women talk about the impact that sexual assault, sexual harassment have had,” and those turning their backs were then joined by Schmid as tensions culminated with chants of “bullshit” from the back gallery.

With the dam broken wide open, a refrain built from the back gallery with outbursts to “drop out” and assertions of his public persona being “phony” reminiscent of the repressed voices from women once victimized escaping from the Senate gallery during Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination hearing.

Between a rock of those who were in the know and the hard place of the audience, Keady was forced to explain that he “had a young woman who was volunteering in our campaign reach out to me about a month ago… very upset that she had been told a number of things about me by people in this room… I said to her that everything that was shared was a lie and I shared everything happened and have the text message and email receipts that why that was a lie.”

Keady battled to expose his truth as the room developed into fevered pandemonium. Three distinct factions developed: anti-Keady, pro-Keady, and pro-decorum. This forced the event’s hosts to seize control and redirect the conversation, however futile, as the event’s energy was now co-opted. Then, Keady promised to stay after the event to address any questions.

With 40 minutes remaining, although the candidates continued to field questions, energy for the evening’s original intent dissipated as the room unraveled with some becoming consumed by the scene and others visibly distraught.

Rest Of The Evening

Unable to escape the moment, the room succumbed to the incident resulting in under-the-breath banter, removals of individuals determined to be heard, and calls for civility from the minority still focused on the task at hand.

The event’s moderators soon asked the candidates “is there anything that could embarrass yourself, your supporters, or the democratic party,” a question carefully articulated for this moment. Again, Keady was last to answer leaving a now fully altered crowd waiting in the suspense of what is to be said.

Maybe out of curiosity, maybe out of disbelief, maybe out of the looming threat of removal from the room, the crowd watched silent throughout the majority of his response. Relieving not only past alliances among other personal issues, Keady discusses the details of the email itself, in selective terms, as he characterizes himself as standing up to bullies and then harkens his fight for health care to that of his battle against this “whisper campaign.”

It became evident that the debate was now a referendum on Keady’s email, shifting focus from conversation among the candidates to ruckus among the audience. There was nothing to do but wind down for the evening. With the last question put forth, the debate’s moderators asked “will you endorse and or campaign for whoever gets the nomination” in reference to NJ-4.”

Placed artfully, this question holds importance to the moment and NJ-4’s history. This addresses Keady’s actions during 2018’s Congressional election in which — after losing the nomination to Josh Welle — Keady championed NJ-3’s candidate in the general election. While causing some consternation among NJ-4’s constituency, and arguably a bad-faith move, there is still an argument that this was pragmatic because the NJ-3 race seemed more winnable than Welle beating Smith in NJ-4.

Among the candidates’ responses, three of the five were mundane affirmatives across the board in Conforti, Applefield, and Shehadeh. However, contrasted was Keady who took this opportunity to give a fickle “I don’t know” with his reasoning being the same as it has always been.

When Schmid spoke, she seized the moment to summarize her own feelings, as well as many others in attendance, about Keady by offering a particularly strong rebuke of any potential future aid.

Aftermath

Immediately following the debate, word spread of the night’s commotion through news articles and social media of the incident. While reverberating, the future of Keady’s campaign and any ramifications remained in flux, with the email still not public. However, as confusion lingered, area leaders took decisive action and denounced his actions through coordinated statements.

Most aggressively was a joint statement released by Democratic leaders primarily based in Ocean and Monmouth County denouncing his actions and asking for his withdrawal from the election. Among the listed are State legislative representatives, powerful organizations, and past supporters of Keady’s. This was a powerful indictment.

The InsiderNJ report of Congressional candidate Jim Keady’s conduct towards women details unacceptable behavior. It is not acceptable to verbally attack women and attempt to shame them into silence.

We strongly feel the fourth congressional district primary should continue without Jim Keady. Enough men in power already behave badly. We do not need to elect another.

Signed,

  • Ocean County Young Democrats
  • New Jersey Young Democrats Women’s Caucus
  • Sunrise Jersey Shore
  • Indivisible NJ 4th District
  • Vin Gopal, State Senator
  • Joann Downey, State Assemblywoman
  • Hazim Yassin, Councilman, Red Bank
  • Erik Yngstrom, Councilman, Red Bank
  • Geri Jannarone, Chair, Brielle Township Democratic Municipal Committee
  • Eric Brophy, Chair, Wall Towship Democratic Municipal Committee
  • Allison Connolly, Vice Chair, Wall Township Democratic Municipal Committee
  • Cristina Kocsis, Chair, Neptune City Democratic Municipal Committee
  • Giuseppe (Joe) Grillo, Chair, Asbury Park Democratic Municipal Committee
  • Mike Beson, Chair, Ocean Township Democratic Municipal Committee
  • Marissa Lambert, Vice Chair, Ocean Township Democratic Municipal Committee
  • Liz deBeer, Co-Chair, Fair Haven Democratic Municipal Committee
  • Shervyn von Hoerl, Co-Chair, Fair Haven Democratic Municipal Committee
  • Susan Boyce, Chair, Rumson Democratic Municipal Committee
  • Lauren Albrecht, Committeewoman, Wall Township Democratic Municipal Committee
  • Tricia Maguire, Committeewoman, Middletown Township Democratic Municipal Committee
  • Anna-Marta Visky, Our Revolution Monmouth County; Committeewoman, Oceanport Democratic Municipal Committee
  • Jess Alaimo, President, Asbury Park Young Democrats
  • Matt Anderson, President, Millennials for NJ
  • Devon Mazza, Co-Chair, Action Together Ocean County
  • Christine Luland, Co-Chair, Action Together Ocean County
  • John Shaw, Co-Chair, Action Together Ocean County

Following this collective denouncement was one from Our Revolution — Monmouth, a group that shares Keady’s ethos.

There was a Fair Haven debate scheduled just a few days after the Beach Haus one. Interestingly, the municipal club proceeded to reiterate their anti-harassment policy which precluded Keady from participating. This, essentially, disinvited Keady from the debate.

These efforts culminated on Friday, Jan. 17 as Keady tendered his resignation from the NJ-4 race.

However, Keady did not sit silent between the Monday of the Beach Haus debate and his Friday resignation. Shortly before his withdrawal, on Thursday evening, a site dedicated to convervative politics published the email in question unredacted after receiving it from Keady Monday night after the debate.

Further included was a narrative perpetuated by Keady that Monday evening’s occurrences were an orchestrated attack on part of the event’s moderators and Stephanie Schmid, although he did not offer any evidence beyond conjecture and hurt feelings.

Perspective

At the start of the debate, the moderators juxtaposed a resurgent Monmouth County Democratic party that now fills breweries in January to six years prior when fifty people in attendance would be hopeful. Only through this maturation — one that has been driven by women leadership at the elected and grassroots level — was a rebuke of substance possible.

Keady’s actions deserved this widespread condemnation. While the impetus, as Keady asserts, was to defend from accusations, something that anyone is entitled to, the resulting form was that of harassment or bullying.

With the click of his mouse, Keady sent an inflammatory email to four women exposing intimate personal details and screenshots of their conversations with six more cc’d as onlookers in efforts to silence them.

Humiliating and misogynistic, actions such as these have no place in polite society, let alone in the repertoire of someone looking to represent others in Congress.

Still not satisfied, he purported a gaslighting conspiracy campaign, empty of any retrospection, that was reminiscent of Orwellian fiction through a rag that opposes not only his own values, but his party’s at large in an effort to hit back with the turning tides.

It’s not what you say, but how you say it.

In the end, Keady’s hopeful defense precipitated his own demise, and his actions were only another innoculation against social issues for a party barring scars from incidents at both the state and local level.

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