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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

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Well-known Cape May Businessman Launches Senate Campaign

Christopher South
Curtis Bashaw, center, at a fundraiser at the Lobster House Feb. 15. Bashaw is trying to become the first U.S. senator from Cape May County.

By Christopher South

CAPE MAY – Curtis Bashaw, perhaps Cape May’s best-known businessman, has begun his campaign to capture the U.S. Senate seat held by Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez, who is under indictment over alleged influence peddling.

Bashaw, a Republican who said he voted for Donald Trump twice, and said he would support the entire Republican ticket, has a number of similarities with the 45th president, the biggest that he has no political experience and brings with him an extensive business background.

Bashaw took over Congress Hall some 35 years ago, restoring the hotel that once belonged to his grandfather, the Rev. Carl McIntire. He has also expanded his holdings in Cape May, as well as in Atlantic City and New York City. The hotelier/restaurateur has approximately 1,300 employees.

“There are a lot of reasons why our business shouldn’t have worked,” Bashaw told the Herald. “The Covid years were a real wake-up call, and there wasn’t a seat at the table for us.”

Bashaw said the state government came up with a one-size-fits-all response to Covid, which he said did not work for a Cape May economy that is based on three months – June, July and August. He said after the lockdown in March 2020, county representatives came up with a workable plan to keep the local economy functioning.

“We sent the plan to Trenton and it was ignored,” he said. “Walmart was considered essential, and the small men’s store on the mall was not. Then the governor marched in a protest march when we weren’t allowed on the streets.”

Although the Covid restrictions were imposed by the state, Bashaw said they were a sign of an overall attack on American freedoms, the nation’s core values.

Bashaw, a self-described conservative, believes that freedoms need to be protected at the national level, and that the nation needs to protect its borders from people who want to hurt the country, bring in drugs “to make a fast buck” or to “hang out on social services.”

“The border threat is a humanitarian travesty and a threat to the security of the country,” he said. “We need a legal, safe and robust immigration policy.”

He said people are becoming afraid due to the massive influx of undocumented migrants.

Bashaw was asked why he was starting his political career at the level of the U.S. Senate and not at the local level.

He said Congress is where he sees a lot of dysfunction now. He said if Congress was a vehicle, for example, you would take it apart and put it back together to get it to run properly.

He is a political outsider with a business mind, he said, who has been running a business for 35 years. He was also the executive director of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority for two years during the McGreevey administration.

As a lifelong Republican who worked for a Democratic governor, Bashaw was asked where he fits on the political spectrum.

“Labels are not fair or accurate, and we are not one-size-fits-all,” he said. “I don’t think it is useful to be constantly dealing in labels.”

Bashaw said he has always felt small businesses need support, and the government is often inefficient; he feels there must be those in government who will protect liberty. Echoing a quote usually attributed to Thomas Jefferson, he said, “The price of liberty is, in fact, eternal vigilance.”

He said he sees a lot of acrimony in a nation with such divided voters, an ineffective Congress and a lot of people telling each other what to do. He said the Menendez “corruption” was the final piece of the puzzle that pushed him toward deciding to run for office.

“If not now, when?” he said. “The business is stable. I have the time and willingness to attempt to help bring a business sense to Washington, and to hopefully change the dynamic in our state.”

Bashaw said a shortage of police officers and bail reform personnel has people feeling less safe. He said parental rights issues have people upset, particularly over the threat of their child’s possibly having a life-altering procedure done without parental consent.

State Sen. Mike Testa is serving in Curtis Bashaw’s campaign to win the U.S. Senate seat now held by Democrat Robert Menendez. Photo Credit: Christopher South

He said Democrats seem intent on having a Murphy dynasty, with Tammy Murphy, wife of the governor, also vying for the U.S. Senate seat. He said he believes he can appeal to the 2.5 million independent voters in New Jersey with his message of “Freedom, opportunity and security.”

“I believe there is a path to get us back to government ‘Of the people, by the people, for the people,’ as Abraham Lincoln said,” Bashaw said.

“We can’t just sit around and yell at the television. If real people won’t serve we will just end up with a political class. Experience can matter in Congress, but career politicians can elicit cynicism in the public sector.”

Bashaw said he got a “baptism” of sorts into politics when he was the director of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority in 2005 and 2006, but he has always been open to community and public service. He believes citizenship calls on residents to be engaged in governance, something he said he has contemplated over the years.

“The time seemed right,” he said.

Bashaw said the “three Mikes” working with his campaign – political strategist Mike Duhaime, who is Bashaw’s senior campaign advisor, state Sen. Mike Testa, his campaign manager, and county GOP Chairman Mike Donohue, along with political director Josh Sepino – were all instrumental in helping him decide and then launch his campaign.

Testa said Bashaw has already received strong backing in Ocean County, and if he can develop support in Salem, Cumberland, Atlantic and his home county of Cape May, he believes he will win the primary. He said Bashaw’s background is enough to help him appeal to voters.

“His story is such a great story,” Testa said at a fundraising event held at the Lobster House Feb. 15.

Bashaw, if successful throughout the election process, would be the first U.S. senator from Cape May County. Thomas Hughes, who founded Congress Hall in 1816, was later elected to Congress, prompting the name.

Competing with Bashaw for the Republican Senate nomination are Michael Estrada, Albert Harshaw, Shirley Maia-Cusick, Gregg Mele, Justin Murphy, Christine Serrano-Glassner and Alex Zdan.

Menendez is being challenged for the Democratic nomination by Patricia Campos Medina, Kevin Cupples, Lawrence Hamm, U.S. Rep. Andrew Kim, Patrick Merrill and Tammy Murphy.

The Senate field also has Green Party candidate Christina Khalil and independent Nick Carducci.

Contact the author, Christopher South, at csouth@cmcherald.com or 609-886-8600, ext. 128.

Reporter

Christopher South is a reporter for the Cape May County Herald.

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