NJ police union says endorsing right-wing group’s leader was ‘simple mistake’
The state chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police pulled their endorsement of an Assembly candidate after learning he leads the right-wing group Oath Keepers, which the FBI believes was involved in planning the Jan. 6 insurrection on the Capitol.
The second largest police union in the state re-issued a list of their legislative endorsements on Thursday and said it was amended because one candidate was endorsed in error and one candidate was omitted in error. The release did not specify which candidates were involved.
Sean Lavin, of the FOP's Legislative Committee, told New Jersey 101.5 that that the candidate removed from the list was Edward Durfee, the Republican Assembly candidate in the 37th District in Bergen County. Incumbent Democratic Assemblyman Thomas P. Giblin was left off the initial list.
"Plain and simple is we endorsed Edward Durfee by accident and forgot to put on Assemblyman Giblin. It was just an accident," Lavin said. "A simple mistake."
Lavin said the FOP has a third party research the candidates that may have been confused by the handwritten notes included in the material they were sent.
"It's a big list of 200 and something candidates. It marks off who responded, who we endorse, who we didn't endorse. Because it was at the end of a page it was confusing maybe the way it scans," Lavin said.
After the mistake was made with Durfee and Giblin, the FOP went line-by-line to ensure the list was accurate.
Durfee's running mate Perley Patrick remains on the list of endorsed candidates.
Durfee does not appear to have a website or social media presence.
Oath Keepers believes the government has been taken over by a conspiracy to take rights away from Americans. Bergen County chapter leader James Breheny, 61, of Little Ferry was charged in connection with the riot. According to the complaint against Breheny he attended a meeting in Pennsylvania just weeks before the insurrection.
FOP members can decide who will be best for law enforcement
The FOP in its release of endorsements said it would not be endorsing a candidate for governor in the general election. FOP President Robert said it will be up to members to decide on their own.
"We've seen Governor Murphy. He's done some positive things for law enforcement and he's done some negative things for law enforcement through his attorney general. Our members can go in the booth, look at the names and think about what's happened the past four years and think if they should go a different route and make their decision and not go by what we said," Fox said.
The New Jersey Globe was first to report about the endorsement.
The state's other local police union, the Police Benevolent Association, has not yet released an endorsement in the race for governor, and might not. PBA President Pat Colligan says they are still weighing their options.
The union that represents rank-and-file state police troopers, the State Troopers Fraternal Association, endorsed Murphy last month.
Previous reporting by Eric Scott was used in this report.