Bolstered by the uproar that ensued over a-woman's-place-is-in-the-kitchen social media postings by an Atlantic County freeholder, an Egg Harbor Township woman on Wednesday announced that she intends to run as a Democrat for his seat.
Ashley Bennett, 32, was among a contingent of women who packed a Jan. 24 freeholder meeting to confront Republican John Carman over his Facebook postings regarding the Women's March in Washington in January. He had attended President Trump's inauguration days earlier.
On his timeline, Carman posted a retro image of a woman cooking dinner with the line, "Will the Women's March be over in time for them to cook dinner," and his own comment, "Just asking."
He later took the post down, but left up one featuring Kermit the Frog drinking a cup of tea and asking whether there would be a "sandwich making party" at the march.
"I don't know her, so I can't comment on her candidacy," Carman, 58, said Wednesday. "I do know that I will run against her on my record and I will not allow one misguided meme to define me as a person or as a candidate."
In a previous interview, Carman said he hadn't made the Facebook postings to offend anyone, but "some people just have to get a sense of humor."
The postings and Carman's subsequent comments about them set off a cry from dozens of women across Atlantic County, who crammed the aisles and formed a line that trailed outside the door at the normally sparsely attended freeholder meeting.
One woman carried a box of macaroni and cheese. Another was armed with takeout menus, and still another brought a feminist book to share with the freeholder. Many made impassioned statements about Carman's postings.
Carman did not apologize and said that in contrast to the protesters, the women in his life were "strong and confident" enough to not be offended by his joke. He did say the postings were a "bad choice and in bad taste."
At that point, most of the women walked out. Outside they vowed to organize and take Carman's freeholder seat from him for "mocking" and "belittling" them on the postings and at the meeting.
And that is how, in a lemonade-from-lemons twist, Bennett, a lifelong Atlantic County resident who works as a psychiatric emergency screener in the crisis department at Cape Regional Hospital, said she decided to seek public office for the first time.
"Like so many women across the state, I was offended and disgusted by Freeholder Carman's misogynist Facebook posts. This kind of behavior simply cannot be tolerated anymore," said Bennett. "When I was discussing my disgust about this whole thing with my family, they said, `Well, why don't you run.' And when I thought about it, I realized that we do need leaders in office who will respect all of our residents regardless of gender, race, creed or sexual orientation."
On Wednesday, Carman said he had "certainly learned a lesson" about social media postings, but again said he had "never intended to hurt or offend anyone."
"I do apologize if I offended anyone," Carman said. "I felt that at the meeting, they really didn't give me the chance to apologize before they all walked out."
Carman, a carpenter, said he is prepared to run against Bennett as he would any other candidate.
"That's what an election is about, candidates running against one another. I plan to run on my record," said Carman, who was elected to his first term a little over three years ago and previously served for 20 years as an Egg Harbor Township committeeman.