CAPE MAY - It began with an anonymous campaign flyer, in late October,claiming Cape May City Council candidate Chris Bezaire is a domestic abuser. The flyer was distributed to Cape May voters by a self-identified “Populist Empowered SuperPAC.”
The flyer represented a public attempt to link Bezaire to a 2015 incident, where his then-girlfriend, Amanda Francis, alleged he punched her and blackened her eye. Bezaire denied the allegation of violence.
Police records show that Bezairewas arrested by the Lower Township Police Department Sept. 27, 2015, for violation of the Domestic Rights Act. He was never convicted of assault.
The campaign for one of Bezaire’s opponents in the council race, Patricia Hendricks, publicly denied any connection to the flyer, as did Francis. Francis, earlier that month, posted a statement on her Facebook page accusing Bezaire of abuse and laying the groundwork for the accusations in the flyer with which she claimed no involvement.
The race for the council seat was a particularly intense one, with Bezaire, along with mayoral candidate Zack Mullock and council candidate Mark DiSanto, going to Superior Court over, what they claimed was, the manipulation of the order of candidates on the ballot. The court deferred to the discretion given the Cape May County clerk to design the ballot.
Bezaire Nov. 3 won the council seat, with 49% of the vote, compared to 39% for Hendricks, his closest competitor. The allegation of serial domestic abuse resurfaced Nov. 4 on a Facebook page labeled “Impeach Chris Bezaire,” stated to be the work of a nonprofit organization.
Once again, as with the flyer, the attack on Bezaire is not publicly owned by a specific person, but rather by a self-identified nonprofit organization.
The Facebook page also contains a Go Fund Me link to an effort by organizer Shannon Wallace to help Francis and Briana Bodkin with legal fees as they pursue their “legal battle against their (alleged) abuser.”
Bodkin is also an ex-girlfriend of Bezaire. Wallace is the daughter of Aimee Schultz, an Ocean City marketing consultant who works for JSAM Consulting, a firm, public records show, the Lear-Hendricks campaign paid over $15,000 for work on their race for reelection.
Bezaire Nov. 13 went to Superior Court, seeking an injunction against four women, he said, were harassing and defaming him with their social media posts. Bezaire Nov. 18 was granted a temporary injunction order against the four women: Francis, Bodkin, and Stephanie Zuzulock, all women Bezaire admits he dated, along with Stephanie Mahon, whom Bezaire said is a friend of Zuzulock.
Prior to gaining the temporary injunction, Bezaire obtained restraining orders against Francis and Bodkin. Francis had a restraining order against Bezaire since 2016.
Francis claims Bezaire violated that 2016 restraining order Aug. 23, when he contacted a friend of hers attempting to prevent publicity about the 2015 alleged domestic violence.
Bezairewas arrested for violation of the order Nov. 12, pled not guilty, and is awaiting a court date. The case was transferred to the family division of the court Dec. 3, 2020.
Bezaire sees the claims by Francis that he violated the 2016 restraining order in August as “spite and retaliation” for his restraining order against her for cyber harassment. He claims she filed her claims of a violation “only minutes after a restraining order was issued against her.”
Asked if he thought politics was behind the public airing of abuse claims, Bezaire said, “I am extremely confident all this is aimed at two goals, both political. The first is to get me to resign, and the second is to begin laying the groundwork for, what appears to be, a campaign by Mrs. Hendricks for Mr. Mullock’s vacant seat coming up in November 2021.”
Hendricks said that “the claims that I have anything to do with Mr. Bezaire and the women he has filed action with in court are categorically false.”
Hendricks, who serves as the city’s deputy mayor, added, “I have not made any decision on running for political office in the future.”
Speaking about the “Impeach" page on Facebook, Bezaire said it “is full of Hendricks supporters liking and commenting on posts, including Amy Keene, Mrs. Hendricks’ treasurer, as well as Mrs. Hendricks and her husband themselves.”
A look at the page, as of Dec. 6, showed it had 70 followers, fewer than 40 posts, and 66 likes regarding those posts. The likes by Hendricks or her husband were on general posts about the national problem of domestic abuse, posts that did not name Bezaire.
Most of the likes on the page are from one of the four women named in the injunction Bezaire obtained Nov. 18.
Bezaire said much of the controversy stems from a “messy breakup” with Francis. In October, Bezaire responded to 2015 allegations of domestic violence and a driving under the influence (DUI) arrest made in an anonymous spout in the Herald (https://bit.ly/3a2YGbx).
The paper published Bezaire’s response, in which he said, “While I am the individual connected to those charges – neither of which resulted in a conviction - I am far from being the same person today.”
He said the attacks “only make me stronger and more determined than ever to remain in office and serve the people of Cape May that believe in me and my campaign promises.”
To contact Vince Conti, email firstname.lastname@example.org.