Congressman John Adler's campaign and the Camden County Democratic Committee recruited ""NJ Tea Party'' candidate Peter DeStefano to confuse conservative voters and hurt Adler's Republican challenger this fall, Democratic operatives say.The bogus candidate is still on the ballot. He sounds like an idiot.
"The goal was to take 5 percent of (Republican Jon) Runyan's vote,'' said a Democrat with direct knowledge of the Adler campaign and CCDC operations.
"Steve Ayscue designed the plan with Geoff Mackler following his lead.''
Ayscue is a high-profile Democratic consultant who runs the CCDC. Mackler is Adler's campaign manager.
Several South Jersey Democratic operatives with direct knowledge of the Adler campaign and CCDC operations spoke to the Courier-Post on condition of anonymity because of what they described as ethical qualms with Adler's campaign.
"From the beginning, orders have flowed from Cherry Hill,'' said one Democratic operative, referring to CCDC headquarters at Garden State Pavilions shopping center off Route 70.
Adler, who is in a knife-fight with Runyan in the conservative-leaning 3rd district, is aware of the DeStefano plan, Democrats said.
Regional Tea Party groups had never heard of DeStefano until the Adler campaign released partial results of an internal poll last summer that indicated he might be a viable third-party spoiler.
Up until and immediately after a July 19 Courier-Post story on DeStefano's candidacy, the Adler campaign was largely unresponsive to media queries. In early August, at a grand opening of his Marlton campaign office, Adler told the Courier-Post, "I know we weren't part of it.''
The Democratic operatives - one of whom helped Adler's 2008 bid but is not on staff this time around - said there was immediate disagreement among the rank and file about the DeStefano plan.
After another failed attempt to meet him Thursday, DeStefano said in an e-mail, "I became a canidate (sic) of my own free will. No one promised me ANTYING (sic) before, during or for after this campaign.
"NO one has rewarded me for becoming a canidate (sic)!"
A Democratic operative with knowledge of the Adler campaign's operation said Ayscue is in charge of the campaign website, Facebook and Twitter accounts promoting the DeStefano campaign. DeStefano announced online he is holding a fundraiser tonight at the Indian Chief Tavern in Medford. Tickets are $50.