promoted by Rosi
As you may know, I was a candidate for Township Council in Berkeley Heights this year. As a Democrat running in a Republican-leaning town in a Republican “wave” year, it’s not surprising that I lost. Union County, however, saw a surprisingly strong victory for the Democratic Party’s County-wide ticket, with Sheriff Ralph Froehlich and Clerk Joanne Rajoppi each garnering 60% of the vote; our Freeholder candidates weren’t far behind.
I can imagine that the Union County Republican Party’s Election Night gathering wasn’t that joyful – neither was mine. When I conceded, however, I certainly did not attack the voters of Berkeley Heights by saying (for example): “You hit them [the Republicans] with a cattle prod, and they’ll go under; there’s no brain power involved.” It would be incredibly offensive, and would do a tremendous disservice to my supporters, some of whom were registered Republicans.
I also didn’t say: “These people [Republicans in Berkeley Heights] are getting what they vote for, and it’s a shame because they won’t open their eyes.” Having knocked on over 2000 doors in a 2-month period of campaigning, I can honestly say that most people voted in Berkeley Heights based on some objective basis, regardless of whether I agree with that basis or not.
The above quotes (in bold) are, as I said, not mine. However, if you switch the words in the brackets to “people in urban areas” and “Democratic voters in Union County’s urban areas”, you do (unfortunately) have actual quotes. They come from two of the five defeated Republican candidates in Union County from their Election Night gathering, and were reported in the Westfield Leader later that week. Two of their running mates joined in the “blame game” that the article was based on.
I missed the online edition of the paper in the aftermath of the election, but stumbled on the article a few weeks later. The relevant portion reads (emphasis is mine):
“Republicans, however were defiant in defeat. Candidate [for Freeholder, Elyse Bochiccio] Medved said, “These people (Democratic voters in urban parts of the County) are getting what they vote for, and it’s a shame because they won’t open their eyes, but we will eventually force them to open their eyes. It’s not over.” Ms. Dickson [Ellen Dickson, Summit Councilwoman and Freeholder candidate] took it one step further, saying “Those who are benefiting from the largesse are getting a bigger and bigger percentage, and that percentage is sucking all the rest of us.”
A further paragraph down sees this “gem” from Arthur Zapolski, the Republican candidate for County Clerk:
“Mr. Zapolski talked about the Democratic Party’s success, saying that the votes are not indicative of good governance. ” You hit them (people in urban areas) with a cattle prod, and they’ll go under; there’s no brain power involved,” he said.
The link for the article can be found here. The article segment is in the lower right-hand corner of the page. The words in parentheses are directly from the article, and reflect the context of what the candidates were saying on Election Night.
Now, I understand the disappointment that comes with defeat – as I said, I experienced it firsthand on November 2nd. That is no excuse for blaming your defeat on “urban Democrats” – and I read that as “anyone who’s not white” – as the Republicans claimed on Election Night.
Union County has become more diverse over the last few decades, as many new families (like mine) joined the ranks of “suburbia” including (ironically) Ms. Bochiccio-Medved. Meanwhile, the Union County Republican Party has kept going in the other direction – more insular, more spiteful, and losing time and time again despite their antics (Google “Tina Renna” to see what I mean) The Party of Arthur Zapolski, Ellen Dickson, Brian Flanagan and Elyse Bochiccio-Medved is not a Party worth voting for – and the voters of Union County get that.
The Democratic Party has won every county-wide race since 1995. They’ve succeeded because they have a razor-sharp campaign team (led by Chairman Charlotte DeFilippo), an excellent slate of candidates that actually reflect Union County’s demographics (there will be 4 women and 3 minorities on the Freeholder board in 2011), and – oh, I almost forgot – doing a good job in helping their constituents, “urban” and “suburban” towns alike. Mr. Zapolski might believe otherwise, but “urban” – again, read “minority” for what Mr. Zapolski calls “urban” – voters are more than capable of reaching decisions and voting for candidates on their own.
Just because people don’t vote for you doesn’t mean they’re cattle, Mr. Zapolski. Just because you live in a city doesn’t mean your vote counts any less than a suburban voter, Ms. Medved. Just because you pay more in taxes (that’s what you’re supposed to do if you’re wealthier in America, last time I checked) doesn’t mean those who pay less are “sucking all the rest of us”, Ms. Dickson. And just because your Party can’t win in Union County because of the issues you stand for, nationally and locally, doesn’t give you the right to insult your would-be constituents when they don’t vote for you!
If the Republican Party in Union County wants to win county-wide again, I can recommend a few things; actually trying to listen to the concerns of the voters that have rejected them for the last 15 years would be at the top of my list. Based on their comments in the Westfield Leader, however, they seem to be determined to be locked out of government for another 15. In the meanwhile, their comments have been noticed, and a growing group of elected officials have signed a letter demanding that the GOP candidates apologize.
As my friend, Councilman Jamel Holley of Roselle puts it, “If they are wondering why their candidacies were rejected by such wide margins in urban areas, they can start by re-examining the disrespectful statements they made. You have to give respect to get it.”
A petition to accompany the letter is available online at http://www.apologizenowinuc.com, and residents are invited to sign it. I, for one, already did so. If the Republican Party in Union County wants to redefine “GOP” as “Governing On Prejudice” – then I can only see further, well-deserved defeats ahead for them where I live.