Racism Charges Heats Up Jack Surrency’s Cumberland County Freeholder Race

By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media

BRIDGETON – Charges of racism flew by week’s end in the Cumberland County Freeholder Democratic primary that appears to be growing more contentious by the day as the body’s lone African-American Jack Surrency fights to keep his seat against the party establishment.

The freeholder and his supporters charged Friday that a Facebook ad against Surrency changed his skin tone and was racist. One member of the county’s Democratic Party, who is African-American, told the Vineland Daily Journal, though, that the ad was not adjusted.

In a press release Friday, a group of Cumberland County Democratic Committee members called for the resignation of County Party Chairman Steve Erickson for the negative ad against Surrency, who is running for re-election without the support of party leaders.

The ad allegedly shows Surrency in different skin tones, one depicting a “Good Jack,” a smiling and agreeable, and darkened “Bad Jack” with a frowning. 

The county party is resorting to race baiting to win an election,” Ricky Basset, a Millville Democratic County Committee member said in the statement. “Our chairman needs to be held accountable by resigning.”

It listed supporting members Bonnie Martin, Marvin Thomas, Shirley Thomas, Diane Walker, Ryan Thom, Damita White, Amie Babischkin and Celestine Bonner.

Todd Edwards, a longtime Democratic Party activist from Bridgeton, told the Daily Journal

 helped make the attack ad and called Surrency’s racism claims “sad.”

“We took it off of Jack’s Facebook page,” Edwards told the newspaper. “We were more worried about the black on the print on the article, than blackness of someone’s face. Because we don’t play those games, bro.”

Cumberland Democratic bosses have been using a heavy hand in attacking Surrency and his team, made of up African-Americans Donna Pearson, the first black to serve as a county freeholder and Tracey Wells-Huggins.

On its Facebook page, Cumberland County Democrats have accused the Surrency team of lying, campaign finance fraud and dismissed an endorsement from the South Jersey Progressive Democrats.

Surrency’s team is running against Cumberland County incumbents Carol Musso and George Castellini and newcomer Bruce Cooper, an African-American Millville committeeman.

Surrency and his fellow Cumberland freeholders have squabbled over measures to protect Cumberland County Jail inmates and workers from the coronavirus. Surrency’s team won support of the PBA Local 231, but the county pushed back with a Facebook video describing what the county under warden Richard T. Smith has done to protect jail staff and inmates.

Smith is the president of the New Jersey State NAACP.

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