A Brick Township councilman became the second local elected member of the Democratic party to announce he would become a Republican. A day after endorsing GOP U.S. Sen. candidate Bob Hugin, Councilman James Fozman said the party had “left me.” Fozman made the announcement at a council meeting Tuesday night.
But Mayor John Ducey, who also serves as Democratic party chairman, hit back at Fozman’s claim that he was leaving the Democrats because they had become too liberal. Instead, he said Fozman took it personally after he was not appointed as the township’s public works director – a claim Fozman vehemently denied.
“It’s a lie, it’s an absolute lie,” said Fozman, adding that he is retired and has not been looking for a job.
“Jim said he’s interested in being more fiscally conservative, and I’d put my record as mayor up against anyone in the history of this town in terms of most conservative spending,” said Ducey, who has kept expenditures to a 3.1 percent increase during his time in office and was able to offer a tax cut in 2017.
Fozman, however, said the Democratic party in Brick engages in “the silencing of any dissent, concerns or discussions in public,” rarely holds any committee meetings and “makes up the rules as they go along.”
Fozman said a political consultant working for the party recently told him he was not welcome at caucus meetings “because they feel I no longer share their political philosophy.”
“For the past two and-a-half years, it has become increasingly evident that my colleagues moved further to the left, and aligned their philosophies with those of the Hillary Clinton Democrats,” Fozman said, referencing the unsuccessful 2016 presidential nominee. “I represent the values of Brick, not the mayor, council or political advisors. My values are shared with the people of Brick, and have always been fiscally and socially conservative, and more in line with the Republican party.”
Ducey shot back that Republicans in Brick have a history of appointing elected officials to public jobs. Fozman, he claims, asked the Municipal Utilities Authority and the township to send him to school for qualify to become DPW head, but both requests were denied.
“The main staple of our platform, one of the main staples we ran on, is the fact that we would never give township jobs to sitting council people or their family members,” said Ducey.
Fozman said he did ask to take a class a Rutgers to better qualify him to serve for free on the MUA and with his duties on council, but he was not looking to be a paid employee. Fozman then said Ducey’s brother-in-law serves as a public defender in Brick and his sister-in-law recently landed a job with the Motor Vehicle Commission.
“He brokers deals,” said Fozman.
Ducey dismissed the allegations about his party and fiscal record.
“It seems like he’s switching for the wrong reasons, and it’s obviously not true,” he said.
Fozman is the second local elected official to leave the Democratic party this summer. Last month, Toms River Councilman Daniel Rodrick left the party after Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill cutting school funding to his town. Brick is struggling with a similar cut.
No Republican has been elected in Brick since, ironically, Fozman’s ticket swept a council majority in 2011. As a member of the GOP, Fozman will deal with a council stacked 6-1 against him.