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Former Running Mates in Rift Over Leadership of Brick Democrats

Mayor John Ducey and Councilman Jim Fozman. (Photos: Daniel Nee/Shorebeat)

Mayor John Ducey and Councilman Jim Fozman. (Photos: Daniel Nee/Shorebeat)

Mayor John Ducey and one of the township council members he first ran with in 2011 are now opponents, both seeking to lead Brick Township’s Democratic organization.

Ducey and Councilman Jim Fozman have both submitted letters of intent to run for municipal Democratic chair. Fozman said when he initially submitted his letter, he was told there was no competition for the post, but was later informed Ducey had thrown his hat in the ring. The campaign, which will be decided at a party meeting on Monday, is a rare display of a rift in the Brick Democratic organization, which has seen overwhelming electoral success over the last seven years and is being used as a model to unseat Republicans across Ocean County. The current chair, Councilwoman Heather deJong, did not seek re-election.

“John’s a good guy. He’s a very good mayor,” said Fozman. “But the problem I see is that he’s the mayor for Brick Township – he’s responsible for Republicans, independents, Democrats, everyone in town. If he was the party boss in Brick, that would be a conflict.”

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Ducey and Fozman ran on the same ticket in 2011, the first of several council elections and one mayoral election that have all been handily won by Democrats. A Republican has not won an elected office in Brick this decade – an extreme rarity in GOP-dominated Ocean County.

“All around the state, it’s very common that chairs are elected officials,” said Ducey. “A lot of people already look at me as the unofficial party leader in Brick because I am the mayor, and it’s a chance to improve the municipal committee.”

Ducey said Fozman likewise represents all Brick residents as a councilman and would “have the same conflict,” even though he does not believe one exists.

“Obviously, if he wins, based on his comment I guess he’ll be resigning since he’d have the same conflict,” said Ducey.

Both Ducey and Fozman are running on a platform of ramping up participation within the Democratic organization and making it a larger presence in the community. Fozman is running alongside Robyn Gedrich, who would serve as vice chair. Gedrich, part of an active contingent of young Democrats in both the township and county organizations, was recently appointed to serve as a commissioner on the township’s Housing Authority board.

“I’m retired and I have the time,” said Fozman. “Mayor Ducey has his regular law business, he’s the mayor of the town and he’s all over. Does he have the time to actually do this?”

Fozman also said he is also concerned that 18 write-in votes for Democratic county committee posts were not counted in Brick due to an election machine issue. The votes will need to manually identified and certified on Monday by the county. The county committee members – one man and one woman from each voting district in town – are responsible for selecting the municipal chair.

“I am concerned that the current party leadership wants to hold this election without due regard for or consideration of the new voices that have been elected as committee members,” Fozman said. “I am saddened that Mayor Ducey refuses to step in and insist that these voices be heard. Instead, he prefers to have this election decided the old-fashioned way: behind closed doors and in the backroom with a mixture of threats and the promises of jobs.”

Ducey, however, brushed off the criticism and said he wants to put in the time to energize the party in town, specifically with regard to community-oriented events.

“I’d like to see the party take a more active role in the community – township cleanups, getting our name out there,” said Ducey.

Fozman said he is running to help attract newcomers to the party.

“I am running for Chairman to give a voice to the men and women of our party who labor to get us elected but often feel neglected, or worse,” he said.

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