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Van Drew has kept promises to Black community, Callaway says, unlike Democrats
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Van Drew has kept promises to Black community, Callaway says, unlike Democrats

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ATLANTIC CITY — The Democratic Party’s poor treatment of a loyal African American party worker is one of the main reasons Craig Callaway decided to work for Congressman Jeff Van Drew, R-2nd, in the general election, Callaway said this week.

The longtime Democratic organizer of get-out-the-vote efforts worked for Democrat Amy Kennedy in her primary race against four other Democrats but switched to backing Van Drew in the general election.

In a recent financial disclosure form, Van Drew’s campaign listed a $50,000 payment to a Callaway company for get-out-the-vote efforts.

“The way the Democratic Party treated Durwood Pinkett, I find it to be abhorrent,” Callaway said.

Pinkett declined to comment.

Pinkett had worked as an aide to Van Drew for several years and was his community relations director when Van Drew got to Congress. Pinkett resigned Dec. 14 after staff were notified Van Drew was switching parties to Republican.

Van Drew had refused to vote to impeach President Donald Trump, angering Democrats who vowed not to support him further.

Pinkett said at the time that party loyalty led him to leave Van Drew, with whom he always had a good relationship.

“He didn’t land on his feet. All the white people in that office landed on their feet,” Callaway said of other aides to Van Drew who quit rather than work for a Republican. “The African American landed on his backside. They treated him like crap.”

Pinkett’s specialty is field organizing, however, and the COVID-19 pandemic may be part of the reason he has not had as much work as others may have gotten.

“A lot of people are pissed off with Craig for working for Jeff,” said Michael Suleiman, chair of the Atlantic County Democratic Committee. “We plan on winning for Amy Kennedy, and we’ll deal with the consequences after.”

Suleiman said Callaway will have to explain to people how he supported a candidate who backed Trump with his “racist, xenophobic views.”

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The Kennedy campaign has declined to comment on its relationship with Callaway.

Callaway said he considers Trump “evil,” but that doesn’t stop him from supporting Van Drew. He said Van Drew lived up to all his promises, including having Pinkett in such a high position in Van Drew’s congressional office to help the Black community in Atlantic City. He cited Van Drew getting federal funding to hire more firefighters in the city, and Van Drew’s robust constituent services.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in Washington, D.C., kept Pinkett and other Democrats who left Van Drew’s employment on the payroll for six months, during which time they sought other jobs. Pinkett returned to Atlantic City and supported Pamela Thomas-Fields in her unsuccessful mayoral run in the Democratic primary in July.

No one from the DCCC responded to requests for comment Friday.

Callaway said the Democratic Party takes African Americans for granted.

“We don’t owe them anything. They owe us,” Callaway said. “I find it very easy for me to support Jeff, not as a Republican, but as a person who is sincere, honest and keeps his word. The Democratic Party has not done that.”

But some political insiders who spoke on condition of anonymity said Callaway simply works for whomever pays him the most.

“It has absolutely nothing to do with money,” Callaway said when asked about financial motives. “I could have made more money with the Democratic Party.”

Callaway has a controversial past, having spent time in federal prison on bribery and blackmail charges related to his time on the Atlantic City Council.

His support for Kennedy became an issue in the primary, when seven of the eight Democratic county chairs in the 2nd District signed a letter asking all candidates to disavow working with Callaway because of allegations of improper handling of vote-by-mail ballots. Only Suleiman, the Atlantic County chairman, did not sign it. The seven who did sign were backing Kennedy opponent Brigid Callahan Harrison, of Longport.

Callaway said he chooses whom to work for not by political party but by what type of individual the person is and what he or she has done.

He isn’t worried about falling out of favor with the Democratic Party.

“We’re looking at party and not looking at people. That’s where we’re making our mistake,” Callaway said. “It’s the Democrats who haven’t delivered anything.”

Contact: 609-272-7219

mpost@pressofac.com

Twitter @MichelleBPost

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Staff Writer

In my first job after college got paid to read the New York Times and summarize articles for an early online data base. First reporting job was with The Daily Record in Parsippany. I have also worked in nonprofits, and have been with The Press since 1990.

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