Campaign Trail Makes A Stop At Scene Of Tragedy

ATLANTIC CITY -What do a dog named Spike, Don King and a few slow-moving campaign trucks have in common?

All seemed unable to resist the lure of free publicity on Election Day’s eve, as dozens of reporters and photographers lined up Monday – pens and cameras poised for action – while waiting for demolition to start at the Tropicana garage collapse site.

It started innocently enough with a few campaign vehicle drive-bys, but by afternoon’s end, one thing seemed clear: where there are cameras, there are candidates.

Early on, two pickup trucks with signs promoting state senate candidate Tom Swift, and a red convertible adorned with signs boosting City Council 5th Ward candidate Mike Zingarelli, casually crawled past in traffic as the media waited at the staging area at Brighton and Atlantic avenues.

It got more bizarre after that.

Flamboyant boxing promoter Don King. who donated $100,000 to help the families of the collapse victims. came by the scene with City Council President Craig Callaway. who is running for re-election to his 3rd Ward council seat.

Saying he was in town for humanitarian reasons, King, wearing a sequined jacket and holding two U.S. flags, said he didn’t know about today’s election at first. When pressed, King said he supports Callaway but wouldn’t say if he planned to campaign with him for the rest of the day

“We’re not talking about an electio0n. We’re talking about a tragedy,” King said.

He also took time to promote a fight he has bringing to the resort in December and handed out hugs and autographs to the star-struck, including a Philadelphia TV news reporter who assumed a boxing stance before someone snapped a photo of them together.

But King nearly was outdone when Zingarelli supporter Janice O’Brien hobnobbed at the media staging area with dog Spike.

The canine had campaign signs urging voters to “Get Back to Basics” by electing Zingarelli duct-taped to her fur. The dog also didn’t mind cozying up to spectators who stopped by to watch the demolition, some of whom gave her a pat on the head.

She’s a Democrat,” O’Brien said of the dog.

Fifth Ward Councilman Dennis Mason, who is running against Zingarelli, also briefly slopped by wearing a campaign sweatshirt. Other City Council members, some of whom are not running for reelection, also came to the scene to chat with casino and public safety officials.

Even Emergency Management Chief Bob Levy whose gubernatorial appointment was up last week but who insists he will remain in charge until the state of emergency he declared at the time of the collapse is lifted, got a boost from King.

Mayor Lorenzo Langford’s administration is seeking to replace Levy with former fire battalion chief and ex-Assemblyman Tom Foley, but City Council recently voted to change the chief’s salary to a dollar in an attempt to discourage the appointment which technically is made by the Governors Office.

“This is another one.” King said about Levy, who stood next to him smiling for the cameras, as the boxing promoter joked that he supported Levy even though he is not running for office.

All the campaigning was not lost on spectators some of whom seemed delighted by the personal attention. But others, such as Jean Abraham, 44, of Pennsville, were disturbed by some of what was going on.

“I think- because of the crowds and everything, advantage was taken,” she said. “I think politics and tragedy should be separate. My heart goes out to all the families and friends – and they’re campaigning. It takes all kinds.”

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