Democrats denounce race-baiting campaign mailers as ‘hateful and divisive’

Press conference disrupted by GOP House candidate

By: - November 3, 2022 6:16 pm

The campaign ad is a remnant of our country’s oppressive, segregated past, Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter said. (Danielle Richards for New Jersey Monitor)

A press conference held by Democrats in Paterson to denounce race-baiting campaign mailers sent to homes across New Jersey was derailed Thursday when a Republican House candidate began shouting at the officials from the crowd.

The mailers are part of a nationwide campaign by Donald Trump aide Stephen Miller’s America First Legal to sway voters against Democrats on issues like the transgender community and racial diversity in hiring in advance of next week’s mid-term elections.

“I have called to stop the propaganda that is racist … I have called for respect and dignity, and this is a show and proof of disrespect and not understanding the process of running for office,” said Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter (D-Passaic). 

“You guys are the ones spreading the propaganda, you’re spreading lies,” congressional hopeful Billy Prempeh shouted at her. “You called for the Republican candidate to denounce — I have denounced. You’re not going to drag us through the mud.” 

The Paterson chapter of the NAACP hosted the event at the Paterson courthouse to call on Republicans to disavow the mailer, which includes unfounded claims that certain races will be ineligible for jobs, accuses President Biden and “left-wing officials” of discriminating against white people and Asian Americans, and warns that the word “equity” is code for racial discrimination.

“The flyer circulating is a remnant of our country’s oppressive, segregated past. It reflects the very same bigoted statements and sentiments that made affirmative action necessary, and we push to move New Jersey forward,” Sumter said. 

Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-09), Assemblyman Benji Wimberly (D-Passaic), Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh, Passaic County Sheriff Richard Berdnik, and several of the city’s religious leaders were also quick to denounce the mailers.

“Take the mail piece and save it and explain to everyone why you should not choose politics of fear and smear. And afterwards, use it for other purposes, like lining a birdcage,” said Sayegh.

Passaic County Commissioner John Bartlett said his home received the mailer addressed to his wife, who is Indian-American, and said she was disappointed to see the Asian community being weaponized.

“I am outraged that when Republicans get desperate during election season, it results in this kind of hateful and divisive campaign,” he said. “Let’s be clear, the mailer received by voters in Passaic and Bergen County is part of a national strategy funded by the MAGA right that’s targeting voters across the country.” 

New Jersey Democrats called the mailer, sent by a group founded by Trump ally Stephen Miller, hateful and divisive. (Photo by New Jersey Monitor)

America First Legal claims it is the “long-awaited answer” to the American Civil Liberties Union, and is blitzing voters in California, Texas, Washington, North Carolina, and other states with similar mailers and campaign ads.

New Jersey’s 12-member congressional delegation is expected to stay mostly Democratic after next week, though Rep. Andy Kim (D-03) is facing a spirited challenge from Republican Bob Healey Jr. and political observers believe the race in the 7th District between Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski and Republican challenger Tom Kean Jr. will be a bellwether as the GOP attempts to regain control of Congress.

Prempeh, the Republican candidate running against Pascrell in the 9th District, began shouting over the speeches about 20 minutes into Thursday’s press conference, claiming Democrats are the ones spreading propaganda to stoke fears of minorities.

“Our supply chain is falling apart, the crime is increasing in our city, and you spread this kind of nonsense. And you, Bill Pascrell, in Congress for 26 years, and I’ve been trying to debate you,” Prempeh said as Pascrell took the stage, preparing to speak.

Eventually, Prempeh walked away, and he could not be found for comment following the press conference.

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Sophie Nieto-Munoz
Sophie Nieto-Munoz

Sophie Nieto-Muñoz, a New Jersey native and former Trenton statehouse reporter for, shined a spotlight on the state’s crumbling unemployment system and won several awards for investigative reporting from the New Jersey Press Association. She was a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists for her report on PetSmart's grooming practices, which was also recognized by the New York Press Club. Sophie speaks Spanish and is proud to connect to the Latinx community through her reporting.