Let Us Come not to Honor Gormley, but to Bury Him


Special Guest Column for HarryHurley.com

When one prominent local Republican with ties to former state senator William Gormley was asked if he were attending the dinner to be held in Gormley’s honor on Thursday, November 29, his answer was quick and to the point: "I would rather stick a pin in my eye."

Such sentiments among local republicans, as well as some former Republicans, seem widespread. Bill Gormley, the man who led the Atlantic County Republican organization for nearly twenty five years with an iron fist, is now persona non grata. "Every victory that the republican party in Atlantic County had in the last twenty years could be attributed to his leadership. But so can every disaster. I, for one was glad to see him go," remarked one Republican Committee member. "We did very well in this last election without him."

While some admit that Bill Gormley was good for Atlantic County, bringing forth the new convention center along with substantial redevelopment initiatives in Atlantic City, as his place settles into history, many, embittered by what they perceive as his traitorous support of Jim Whelan, now remember mostly his dark side. The childish temper tantrums he’s so readily disposed to, his intolerance of differing opinions, his all consuming hateful obsessions, and the public largess he parceled out so liberally to very select group of family, friends and contributors.

"When you look at the disastrous shape of the state budget, the massive pension deficits and financial shenanigans that got us there, Bill Gormley was part and parcel of the system. He voted approvingly on all those budgets and even helped broker some of them. According to the Committee member, "Knowing what we know now about the state’s financial crisis and Gormley’s role in it, he shouldn’t honored. He should be pilloried,"

"He is a complete failure of a human being," said one local politico," who, as a testament to any lingering influence the former Senator may still have, prefers not to be identified. "I don’t need him screwing with my business. I don’t know why any credible organization would honor him. To me its symbolic of the moral and ethical vacuum in society today. When an organization such as a Chamber of Commerce honors an individual, they are effectively saying that they want other individuals in the community to be more like that person. Who in their right mind wants more people to be like Bill Gormley? He’s a petty, sick minded, vindictive man."

More than nine hundred guests are expected to attend the dinner the Trump Taj Mahal. Gormley is said to have been personally involved in every aspect of its planning, including who was to be invited and not invited. Anyone who received a highlighted role in the proceedings has been given it because the Senators perceives some future benefit in his doing so.

Among those guests in attendance will be judges who owe their appointments to the former Judiciary Committee Chairman, attorneys, architects, and engineers who were the one time recipients of lucrative contracts steered their way by the Senator. All of who will dutifully be there paying him the homage they feel they have due him. Along with them will be some reluctant, bored casino executives and various state legislators, both present and former, who have some debt of gratitude that they all owe to the Senator. But for the most part the tables, begrudgingly purchased in many cases at the persistence of the Senator himself for a $1000, to benefit the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation, will accommodate average folks who have little familiarity or fondness for the Senator (nor he for they) but who were treated to a night out by their benefactor to avoid the embarrassing spectacle of too many empty seats.

What is more interesting about the tribute dinner is not so much who will be in attendance, but who will not. Long time Gormley friends such as businessman Ed Kline and former Assemblyman Ken LeFevre will not be there. Nor will Republican County Executive Dennis Levinson or Freeholder Chairman Joe Silipena or any members of the Board of Freeholders for that matter. Nor will newly elected Assemblymen Vince Polistina and John Amadeo. Or Congressman Frank LoBiondo. Or Republican party Chairman Keith Davis. In past years their attendance at such an event would have been considered a social and political imperative. They, along with certain others not in attendance, were all long time friends and supporters of Bill Gormley, who stood by him through difficult elections and primary challenges. Now, they have all parted ways with him. The cause of the breakup, in most cases, was that they dared to go against Gormley and support Sonny McCullough as the Senator’s replacement when he resigned a nearly year ago. Throughout his career, Gormley has had a long history of such breakups. Bill Gormley, it seems, was never able to maintain a friendship that could withstand a political difference.

In reality this is not at all about the community coming together to honor Bill Gormley at a tribute dinner It is all about Bill Gormley honoring himself. The dinner was his idea. It is his attempt to appear relevant as he becomes increasingly irrelevant. He knows the routine well. Call in a favor from Governor Corzine for helping to defeat Sonny McCullough and get Jim Whelan elected. Use the Governor’s name, and that of former Governor Tom Kean, as a draw and to give the appearance of bipartisanship. Make the dinner benefit a good cause. Squeeze people who you’ve been good to over the years to buy tickets. If nine hundred people show up, well that must be clear and compelling evidence you are still an important player on the local scene. That is the world according to Bill Gormley.

In the end, the story of Bill Gormley is destined to have a sad and unhappy ending. He has bigger issues to contend with that a thousand tribute dinners, attended by ten thousand sycophants, cannot cure. He has too much hate in him to ever be truly happy and, despite his outward bluster, he is plagued by an gnawing sense of inadequacy. For despite all the accolades he has received over the years, despite having gloried in the company of presidents, governors and a wide assortment of the rich and famous, Gormley failed what he wanted most of all to achieve - a heightened sense of himself. The unquestionable self assurance of truly being someone important. The goal of being a Congressman, the Governor, or United States Senator, people of real power and prestige, have all alluded even his most determined and ablest efforts. Painful failures that still tear at him to this day and become more painful still when they are successfully achieved by younger, more advantaged men.

That, in the end, is the real tragedy of Bill Gormley: to be born bright, good looking, charismatic, but to be continually tormented by a multitude of personal inner demons; To have an impregnable inner self sealed off by self absorption to anyone’s touch; a mind and spirit enslaved by a tyrannical ego that subjects him to sudden, disadvantageous, riotous emotional tumults; an inability to maintain close and abiding friendships and to generate deep and sustainable pleasures in his life.

Perhaps the pedestrian words of the aforementioned Republican Committeeman summarize this tempestuous man best of all. "You know, when you really think about it, it must suck being Bill Gormley."

NOTE: Ken Howard is not the writer's real name. The writer, HOWEVER, is a very real person ... who is a very prominent public figure in Atlantic County. I will never reveal the identity of this distinguished individual. So, don't ask.

Sincerely, Harry Hurley