Tv Ad Becomes Issue In Camden County Surrogate's Race

Posted: November 02, 1995

CAMDEN — For a week, Republican Thomas J. Shusted Jr., a candidate for Camden County surrogate in Tuesday's election, had complained to reporters about a television ad promoting his Democratic opponent, Bart R. Mueller.

The ad features Mueller and Freeholder James Beach, a Democrat running for county clerk. It starts with snapshots of both the surrogate's and clerk's offices in the county Hall of Justice and includes an off-screen voice that intones: "Two Camden County offices we only hear about when there's trouble."

The voice adds, "We need people to run these offices honestly and efficiently. Beach and Mueller have outlined specific plans to make these offices operate more economically without scandal."

Yesterday, Shusted scheduled a second news conference to blast the ad as unfairly tainting the office he wants to lead for the next five years.

Worse, said the son of a former county prosecutor and assemblyman, it cast a shadow over the last elected surrogate, Maria Barnaby Greenwald. A former Cherry Hill mayor and freeholder director, Greenwald was starting her third year as surrogate when she died in an auto accident last January.

Only one reporter showed to meet with Shusted just outside the surrogate's office in the county Hall of Justice.

But so did Louis D. Greenwald, Maria Greenwald's son, who is now a Democratic Assembly candidate in the Sixth District.

And suddenly, the two men were involved in an impromptu debate of sorts. Seated in chairs in a hallway, directly in front of much-used rest rooms and a few feet from a trash can catching drops of water leaking from the ceiling, they fielded questions by the reporter.

Greenwald said he had been dismayed that Shusted was linking his mother's memory to the ad. He said that after learning of the news conference 45 minutes before it was to begin, he altered his schedule to confront Shusted.

Shusted began by saying the ad is faulty because it makes the surrogate's office appear as corrupt as the clerk's office was under Michael S. Keating. Convicted of bribery and other charges in July, Keating, a once-powerful Democrat, began a 10-year prison sentence last month.

"If there's a problem in the surrogate's office, come clean today. I want to know what the problem is because I think it's relevant to the public," Shusted said. Otherwise, he added, the ad should be pulled off the air.

Greenwald said the ad should continue. He also said that the only ones casting a pall over his mother's memory are Republicans.

"I find it ironic that a party that fought for 20 years against my mother holding office will now stand at her grave and throw roses at her legacy," Greenwald said. "I think this should be put to rest and allow with it her name to be put to rest."

For their part, Mueller, the former Oaklyn mayor, and Beach later flatly rejected any notion that their ad cast a bad light on the surrogate's office or Maria Greenwald. Both Democrats insisted that they believe the surrogate's office is unblemished.

Beach is running against Republican Susan R. Rose, the register of deeds and mortgages. The register's and clerk's offices will be merged after Dec. 31 as mandated by the state legislature this year.

Barbara Rosenbleeth, who was deputy surrogate under Greenwald and has been acting surrogate since March, said the ad "made me tinge a little bit" when she first saw it.

But Rosenbleeth said she understood that her fellow Democrats were "trying to address the issue in the clerk's office" and that Shusted and other Republicans upset with the ad "are trying to twist the issue."

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