Bayonne mayoral candidates clash over ‘Dirty Davis’ ads, Peter Franco

The May 10 municipal election is officially an angry mud bath

Bayonne’s mayoral candidates are clashing over an attack website and an independent challenger for the Third Ward City Council seat.

Mayor James Davis is calling on City Council President and mayoral candidate Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski to release the names of the donors who are funding an anonymous “mudslinging” campaign against him.

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According to Davis, the efforts are being run by a Washington, D.C.-based “Dark Money” organization called Citizens for Strength and Security, which have labeled the mayor as “Dirty Davis.” The political action committee (PAC) was registered out of D.C. in 2011, but has been inactive since 2013 until recently.

Who’s behind ‘Dirty Davis’ ads?

The ad campaign began in December with the website dirtydavis.com and an accompanying attack ad. Soon it escalated to other efforts such as a billboard outside of the League of Municipalities Convention in November of 2021, although there hasn’t been much movement from the “Dirty Davis” campaign since.

The Davis campaign called the organization shady and alleged it was aligned with Ashe-Nadrowski. According to Davis, the organization has spent months spreading “lies about him” using “unsavory tactics,” like through the use of a billboard truck at the high school homecoming football game in 2021.

“This sleazy smear campaign has been going on for months to benefit Sharon Nadrowski and she needs to come clean and identify the dark money donors who are funding it,” Davis said. “Her fingerprints are all over this and she cannot deny responsibility any longer — Bayonne residents deserve better than that.”

In response, the Ashe-Nadrowski campaign spokesman Andrew Casais denied that she had any ties to the attack website, calling it another lie from Davis referencing his recent about-face regarding donations from Suez.

Casais also pointed to Davis’ connection to political consultant Sean Caddle through former State Senator Ray Lesniak, as recently reported by Politico. Caddle has plead guilty in a murder-for-hire plot that led to the killing of his former associate, Michael Galdieri.

“Once again, Mayor Davis is lying,” Casais said. “Sharon has no connection to dirtydavis.com. The only candidate who has admitted to coordinating with dark money is Jimmy Davis funded by big developers through Ray Lesniak and convicted murderer Sean Caddle – as reported by the media.”

Davis campaign highlights Franco’s past

The Davis campaign also took aim at Peter Franco, who helped produce a “Dirty Davis” video ad in 2021. They noted that Franco was convicted of having sex with a minor in 2008 resulting in a military court martial, according to reporting by the Hudson County View in 2019 and later by the Bayonne Community News. According to army records, Franco had sex with the 14-year-old boy “by force and without consent” and was sentenced to a reduction in rank, the forfeiture of all pay and allowances, served three years in confinement, and was later given a bad-conduct discharge.

“Nadrowski supporter Peter Franco is even sleazier than her dishonest dark money group,” said Davis spokesman Phil Swibinski. “Peter Franco shouldn’t even be allowed to run for office with his criminal record, and no decent person would allow themselves to be associated with him. Sharon Nadrowski should know that when she lies down in the mud with someone like Franco she dirties and dishonors herself in the eyes of Bayonne voters.”

Franco is running for the Bayonne City Council as an independent candidate in the Third Ward. Swibinski noted that Franco was soundly defeated by City Councilman Neil Carroll in a special election for the First Ward Council seat in 2019.

“Franco is obsessed with slandering Mayor Davis and the only person who benefits from his attacks is Sharon Nadrowski,” Swibinski added. “There is a clear rule in this kind of Dark Money politics: whoever benefits from it is responsible for it, and there is no doubt that the only person who benefits here is Nadrowski. We demand that she identify who is funding her dark money group and denounce Franco immediately.”

Ashe-Nadrowski spokesman Casais continued: “As far as Peter Franco is concerned. Last I checked, Franco is an independent candidate running against our third ward candidate Maria Valado.”

Franco defends himself

Franco said his track record speaks for itself.

“I have a decade-long record of civic activism and volunteerism in the community,” Franco said. “Since 2012, I have been a regular voice at Bayonne city council meetings raising concerns with the city’s aggressive redevelopment to the lack of transparency and public oversight. I have taken on developers, contractors and politicians.”

According to Franco, he is not phased by Swibinski’s attacks and is willing to discuss anything in a public setting.

“I really don’t care what Mayor Davis’s out-of-town public relations firm has to say.” Franco said. “Nor do the residents of Bayonne. Unlike the Hudson County politicians Phil Swibinski represents, I’m not a fan of doing business behind closed doors. Let’s have an actual debate in a public setting and I will answer any and every question. I sure hope members of Team Davis will participate this time.

Franco faces off against Davis-backed incumbent Councilman Gary La Pelusa and Ashe-Nadrowski-backed Valado in the May 10 contest for the Third Ward City council seat.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com. 

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