By Michael Hill
Until now it was an under-the-radar race between four-term incumbent Congressman Leonard Lance and political upstart Peter Jacob — a social worker, Christian and the son of Indian immigrants.
“I grew up in this community. This is home for me. We never felt like we needed to put cameras up outside our home,” Jacob said.
But today, Jacob stood near the newly installed surveillance camera and swastikas spray-painted on his family’s house — and as he pondered whether mischievous teenagers did this, he quoted Frederick Douglass.
“It is easier to heal misguided children than it is to fix broken men,” he said.
The Jacob campaign accuses the Lance campaign of sharing this blog post on Facebook. It quotes Jacob as saying the Orlando nightclub killer was more than just a product of radical Islam but also “felt challenged by internalized homophobia” and it put the killer and Jacob’s pictures side by side.
“A message that basically says here is a brown skinned person next to another brown skinned person who was a terrorist. Is this the person you want to vote for?” Jacob asked.
Lance’s campaign said it did share blog. The blog does not compare Jacob to the killer and Jacob’s campaign is trying to drag Lance in to Jacob’s beef with a blogger.
The swastikas drew a slew of political and religious leaders condemning this second attack in three days. The first targeted Jacob campaign signs and the sidewalk.
“When you say the kinds of things that the Republican nominee has said you are sewing a lot of ill will and a way for people to feel that that’s OK,” said Social Justice Matters member Joan Peters.
“It is dangerous. It is inhuman and it creates nothing but violence and separatism amongst the peoples,” said Council on American-Islamic Relations New Jersey Communications Director Abdul-Alim Mubaraka-Rowe.
“It’s important that we, as a community, come together and reject this kind of hate,” said Anti-Defamation League Regional Director Joshua Cohen.
“I want to sound this shofar for justice for us all,” said Temple Beth Ahm Yisrael Rabbi Mark Mallach.
“Whether it is a candidate for Congress or a citizen, we take this seriously. This is not reflective of what happens here in the Township of Union,” said Mayor Manuel Figueiredo.
Republican incumbent Congressman Leonard Lance wanted to attend Peter Jacob’s news conference but was told, among other things, he was not welcomed.
“We’re not making this a political event. We’re not making this to score any political brownie points or things like that. We’re doing this to unify the community, talk about racial issues, talk about religious bigotry that exists. That’s what we’re trying to do,” Jacob said.
But Lance said he wanted to stand with Jacob at this time in unity.
“I respect that. I appreciate that. But, we as a community, we’re standing together right now and I’m comfortable with this,” Jacob said.
Lance says he repudiates some of what Donald Trump says but still supports Trump and that may have earned him the rejection to stand with Jacob.
“I think we should unite as Americans to make sure that this sort of horrible behavior never occurs and we should criticize it to the greatest extent possible,” Lance said.
Behavior and crimes Union Township Police are investigating.