Assemblyman Reginald Atkins, the Democratic political boss in Roselle and a candidate seeking re-election to the state legislature, recently made comments that critics claim raise questions about his commitment to the interests of New Jersey voters.
Atkins was responding to the challenge led by Roselle mayoral candidate Jamel Holley, who has recruited a legislative slate consisting of Angela Alvey-Wimbush, Reverend Charles Mitchell, and Dr. Mrylene MA Thelot, who is popularly known as Marie Dupont.
In his comments, Atkins appeared dismissive of the challenge and expressed confidence in the political machine’s performance, suggesting a lack of concern for the democratic process and the desire for change expressed by the challengers.
Atkins stated, “I’m not concerned, because everyone in Roselle that I speak to wants everything to move forward; we don’t want to go backward.”
Atkins claimed incumbent Mayor Donald Shaw, who is running for re-election, will be rewarded for not imposing tax increases but the current administration could be vulnerable because the average Roselle home is losing value in recent years while inflation is eating away at the ability of ordinary workers to make ends meet.
Homes in Roselle, Union, and Kenilworth have been losing value while prices in Elizabeth have been somewhat stable.
However, by dismissing the challengers’ calls for change, Atkins also seems to be disregarding the democratic process and the legitimate concerns and desires of the voters who are seeking an alternative to the political machine, which seems to be geared toward benefiting political bosses in Middlesex County.
Atkins’ running mate, Senator Joseph Cryan, is executive director of the Middlesex County Utility Authority, where he has a compensation package worth $273,704 in 2023, in addition to his $49,000 state Senate paycheck.
Cryan also has a legion of family members on government payrolls soaking taxpayers and earned national attention when he was involved in a sordid sex scandal.
Cryan, “has an insatiable lust for bondage, oral sex and spanking,” according to a report in the New York Post after the newspaper obtained a trove of secret e-mails. While he collected a taxpayer-funded paycheck and should have been working, Cryan used government computers to send more than 150 emails to Karen Golding, a lobbyist that the Union County politician allegedly beat up for having an abortion after he impregnated her in 2004.
Atkins is not concerned about the possibility that voters will respond to Cryan’s sex scandals, self-serving enrichment at taxpayer expense and flagrant nepotism.
Atkins is not concerned that the chief executive in Union County, Edward T. Oatman, 46, has never lived in Union County.
Oatman lives in Woodbridge, a Middlesex County community where he is active in the Little League, the Youth Soccer Association, the Woodbridge Middle School PTO, and Woodbridge High School PTO.
Oatman does not do any of that stuff here in Union County, where his salary increased from $150,000 to $220,977 in less than three years. and he earns extra income by providing services to people under his supervision as public employees, whose political campaigns pay his private consulting firm.
For six years, Oatman was chief of staff for state Senator Nicholas “No-Show Nick” Scutari and before that he worked for Assemblywoman Linda Stender, who was forced not to run for re-election in 2015 as a result of a scandal involving Hurrican Sandy relief funds.
A NJ Advance Media investigation found that Richard Stender, the Assemblywoman’s husband, had applied for aid from Coastal Habitat for Humanity to demolish and then rebuild his house in Manasquan, which was severely damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
The financial disclosures showed the Manasquan property was the only one owned by either Stender or her husband. Stender registered to vote from a Scotch Plains address and claimed that she lived with her mother while her husband resided in Manasquan.
Atkins is also not concerned that Scutari, who is the county political boss and president of the New Jersey Senate, has been inattentive to many details. The Senator’s former chief of staff, Antonio ‘Tony Tex’ Teixeira, 43, of Elizabeth—who succeeded Oatman in the job—remained on Scutari’s payroll for months after he pleaded guilty to federal tax evasion charges and wire fraud conspiracy.
From 2014 to 2018, Teixeira conspired with Sean Caddle, who confessed to masterminding a separate murder-for-hire scheme. Teixeira and Caddle defrauded various campaigns, political action committees, and non-profit 501(c)(4) organizations of at least $107,800.
Teixeira then failed to report his illicit income on tax returns that he filed with the IRS.
Atkins is not concerned that Teixeira remained on Scutari’s staff, at New Jersey taxpayer’s expense from the time he signed a plea agreement on July 29, 2022, until he made an appearance in court pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge John Michael Vazquez and publicly admitted his guilt on November 21, 2022.
Caddle was hired by former state Senator Raymond Lesniak while Teixeira served as his chief of staff. Caddle orchestrated the creation of dark money PACs and nonprofits so that they could use unreported, tax-free funds to advocate the election of candidates in local races around New Jersey while Teixeira coordinated these activities for Lesniak.
Dark money groups have spent roughly $1 billion — mainly on television and online ads and mailers — to influence elections in the decade since the 2010 Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court ruling that gave rise to politically active nonprofits.
When traditional political groups include candidate committees, political parties and Political Action Committees (PAC) engage in spending, donors must be disclosed, contribution limits apply and organizations are allowed to coordinate their efforts to help elect a candidate.
Atkins is not concerned about Lesniak’s dark money groups, which clearly circumvented these legal requirements, or the fact that state investigations were scuttled by the administration of Governor Phil Murphy.
Caddle pleaded guilty to hiring two hit men for $15,000 to murder Jersey City political operative Michael Galdieri in 2014, while he was working in Union County and elsewhere at the direction of Lesniak, Teixeira, and others.
Atkins is not concerned about his peers employing a killer as the principal political fixer in the county for nearly a decade.
Atkins himself was caught stealing from the unemployment fund and he accepted thousands of dollars in questionable Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The fact that Atkins is dismissing his challengers, suggests that he does not expect voters to rise up against the political machine that has employed criminals, allowed home values to decline, ignored the impact of inflation and a deadly pandemic.
This statement may undermine the challengers’ credibility and commitment to representing the interests of the voters in the district.
By attributing their campaign solely to Holley’s influence, Atkins may be attempting to downplay their legitimacy and dismiss their concerns, rather than engaging in a meaningful discussion about the issues raised by the challengers.
It is also worth noting that this is not the first time that Holley has challenged Atkins and his allies. In 2021, Holley ran a primary campaign against State Sen. Joe Cryan, who is supported by Atkins, and recruited a slate of Assembly challengers to run against Atkins’ running mate, Assemblywoman Annette Quijano. Although Holley’s slate did not win, they performed well in Roselle, indicating significant support for Holley’s platform and the challengers’ message.
In contrast to Atkins’ dismissive comments, the challengers, Angela Alvey-Wimbush, Reverend Charles Mitchell, and Marie DuPont, are presenting a clear platform focused on police reform, improved education, and greater prosperity for working people.
They have a track record of community involvement and advocacy for social justice, education, and mental health. Their campaign represents a call for change and an alternative to the current administration’s policies and priorities.
Atkins may be failing to acknowledge the legitimate desire for change expressed by the voters in Roselle and the rest of the 20th legislative district because he is out of touch with the genuine plight of the people he represents, or he might feel that voters are too ignorant and powerless to embrace the opportunity to change instead of merely accepting more of the same.
Such dismissive comments raise questions about Atkins’ commitment to representing the interests of all constituents, including those who seek an alternative to the current administration.
As elected representatives, it is important for politicians to listen to the concerns and desires of their constituents, engage in meaningful discussions about the issues, and show respect for the democratic process.
Atkins’ recent comments, however, suggest a lack of receptiveness to these democratic principles and raise concerns about his commitment to truly representing the voters of New Jersey.
Voters deserve elected officials who are willing to engage in open, respectful, and inclusive discussions about the issues that matter to them, and who are responsive to their concerns, even if they challenge the status quo.
It remains to be seen how Atkins will respond to the challengers or address the concerns raised by the voters, but he says he does not care.
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