'People Get Crazy': It's Politics Time In Cherry Hill

Posted: March 07, 1987

On a recent trip to his mailbox, Jeffrey M. Solondz learned a valuable lesson about the untamed world of Cherry Hill politics: Everybody is a potential target.

He found a letter on state Senate stationery, sent to dozens of homeowners in his area, attacking him as "a political hack" and making a variety of other allegations. It was from Cherry Hill's biggest Republican, Sen. Lee B. Laskin.

Solondz, 37, is an architect and the new president of the Barclay Area Civic Association, a group that represents about 1,700 homes in an upper- middle-class development of Cherry Hill.

He is also a Cherry Hill member of the Camden County Democratic Committee, working for eight years on municipal campaigns in relative obscurity - up to now.

Now, he is in a one-on-one political fight with Laskin.

"It's crazy," said Barclay resident Sue McNaughton. "We're at a time now when politics colors everything in Cherry Hill and people get crazy."

It began in the fall last year when Cherry Hill was going through a divisive campaign over a referendum that would change the township's elections

from May to November.

Republicans, in particular Laskin, favored the move. It was opposed by Democrats, who are in control of township government and feared a shakeup if the elections were moved to November.

As a loyal Democrat, Solondz did his part. He wrote several letters to area newspapers attacking the "misguided power-hungry greed" of Laskin and the GOP.

At the ballot box, the Republicans won. This year, the elections will be held in November. But Lee Laskin did not forget about Jeffrey Solondz.

The two-page Laskin letter describing Solondz as "a political hack" arrived about a week ago in the mailboxes of dozens of Barclay homeowners. It

went on to say that Solondz has been "directed" by Cherry Hill Mayor Maria Barnaby Greenwald "to write such nasty letters." Greenwald is a Democrat and one of Laskin's harshest critics.

"It's a shame that ignorant people like Mr. Solondz are granted space in a daily newspaper," wrote Laskin, who lives in Barclay and is a dues-paying member of the civic association. "Just take a good look at the enclosed clippings from the mouthings of a sick mind."

On Thursday night, the civic association met at the Solondz home to formulate a response to Laskin. In an interview yesterday, McNaughton, who is a registered Republican, said most Barclay residents would "dismiss" Laskin's letter.

"I just would give it no credibility," she said.

Nevertheless, Solondz said, the letter has been very "upsetting," an embarrassment that destroyed his standing as a "dedicated" member of the civic association.

"I would have gladly met with the man," said Solondz. They have never met. "But this stuff? You don't do this kind of stuff. My feeling is that until we spell America with a k, I have a right to get my letters printed in the newspaper."

Laskin, whom many consider the most powerful Republican in Camden County and who is running for re-election this year, said a constituent sent him copies of Solondz's letters. He said he wrote the response to Solondz only after he found out that Solondz was elected civic association president on Nov. 19.

Asked whether he thought his response was worded too harshly, Laskin responded, "No."

"I responded to his three letters with one," said Laskin. "As far as I'm concerned, it's over."

In the letter, Laskin said Solondz's election could be part of a "grand scheme of Mayor Greenwald and the Democrat organization to very quietly . . . install their people as presidents of the various civic associations" in Cherry Hill. Barclay is made up of four districts that traditionally vote heavily Republican, according to county records.

In an interview, Greenwald said both of Laskin's accusations were "totally false." She had nothing to do with Solondz's election, she said, and does not interfere in the internal affairs of township civic associations.

"It seems to me," said Greenwald, "that Sen. Laskin wrote that letter in anger and without much forethought. And that's not very bright."

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