Another Way To Make History: An Open Letter to State Senator Nia Gill

Dear Senator Gill:

As someone who stood before the members of Essex for Dean and Passaic for Dean in 2003 and passionately encouraged them to support you in your re-election efforts against Leroy Jones and the Adubato machine, because I believed in your commitment and dedication to the same progressive values that led so many of us to support Howard Dean in 2003 and beyond, I have found your 2012 Congressional campaign puzzling to say the least.  I understand that you would like to make history as our state’s first African-American Congresswoman, but as a State Senator you already have more political power that any Congressperson in our state and for more than a decade you have been a force to be reckoned with in Trenton.

In Washington, DC, which is even more dysfunctional than Trenton, if such a thing is possible, you would be one freshperson Congressperson out of 435 with a dramatically reduced ability to advocate for your issues of concern, reduced further by the fact that you chose to not file to run in the special primary election that would enable the winner of the special general election to take office immediately and have a seniority advantage over every other freshperson Congressperson who wins for the first time this November.

Being the savvy politician that you clearly are, you had to know that this decision would not only negatively impact your ability to have a congressional career that was as historic as being our state’s first African-American Congresswoman, but would also raise serious questions about your credibility as a candidate and the credibility of your candidacy.  I was one of the first people at Blue Jersey to wonder if your candidacy was a decoy, first to keep Sheila Oliver from running and second, to keep Newark Councilman Ron Rice from winning, as you are the only candidate in this race who can compete with him for suburban progressives and your candidacy has clearly prevented numerous organizations from endorsing anyone in this race, because of their divided loyalties between you and Ron.  I hope that I am wrong about this, because if I am ever proven right, it will be the single greatest disappointment that I have experienced since becoming involved in NJ politics and I have experienced far more than my fair share.

Even with the party line in Hudson County, it is far more likely that your efforts will serve to elect Donald Payne Jr., who is barely running a serious campaign, because he believes that the party line in Essex County and your divisive candidacy, will be enough to enable him to defeat Ron Rice, than it will enable you to make history this June and November.

What is most confusing and frustrating about this situation is that in 2005, you were on a short list to replace Jon Corzine in the United States Senate and in my opinion, you would have a better chance of beating Cory Booker, Steve Sweeney, and anyone else who is considering a Senate run in 2014 either to replace the retiring incumbent, Senator Frank Lautenberg, or challenge him if he decides to run for re-election than you do to win the primary election in CD10 this year.  I simply do not believe that enough women in the district will vote for you simply because you are the lone woman in the race to overcome Payne’s organizational advantage and Rice’s grassroots advantage.

As Ron Rice continues to rack up the support of elected officials and party leaders at the municipal, county, and state level from all parts of the district and gains the backing of unions like the CWA, his ability to overcome the challenges presented by Payne’s organizational support in Essex County and your ability to divide suburban progressives increases with every passing day.  I believe in my heart and soul that even your divisive candidacy will not prevent him from winning in June.  But that belief aside, I am writing this open letter to you to ask you to end your candidacy in the CD10 regular primary election and endorse Ron Rice, enabling progressives throughout the state to unite behind his candidacy and help drive him to defeat Donald Payne like no establishment candidate in this state has been defeated in our state’s history.

This is not your only opportunity to make history, Sentor Gill.  As I mentioned earlier, this is not even your best opportunity to make history.  Whether or not Senator Frank Lautenberg runs for re-election in 2014, I believe that you have what it takes to become our state’s first African-American United States Senator and only the second one in our country’s history.  I cannot speak for anybody else here at Blue Jersey, but I believe that if you ended your candidacy in the CD10 regular primary election and endorsed Ron Rice, not only would you enable progressives to unite behind his progressive grassroots campaign, you would also inspire them to unite behind you in 2014.

As popular as Newark Mayor Cory Booker might be, there have been times when he has taken positions, supporting Governor Christie’s regressive agenda, which have infuriated progressives.  However, as infuriated as they might be with him, one Democrat who has angered them even more is Senate President Steve Sweeney.  This could change somewhat if Sweeney succeeds in overriding Christie’s veto of the most recent marriage equality legislation, but that notwithstanding, Booker probably has an edge over Sweeney with progressives.  However, if you ran for Senate in 2014, particularly after helping Ron Rice defeat Donald Payne, I believe that you could be the candidate to unite progressives statewide against both Booker and Sweeney.

I believe that if you ran for Senate in 2014, you could win the party lines in Bergen, Hudson, Middlesex, Mercer, Morris, Passaic, and Union Counties.  My guess is that Steve Sweeney would win all eight counties in Norcrossippi and Cory Booker would win the party lines in Essex and Monmouth Counties.  Hunterdon, Somerset, Sussex, and Warren Counties would be tossups that Booker would have to sweep to maintain the image of having any chance to win, but I think that with the support of the progressive grassroots, you could just as easily win all four of them and knock him out of the race.  If I am right about this, Booker could realize that he has no chance in hell of winning and that continuing to run would only help Sweeney and hurt his chances if he hoped to run for statewide office again in the future.  It would be reasonable for him to think that ending his candidacy and endorsing yours would earn your future support just as ending your candidacy in CD10 would earn the support of many progressives throughout the state who agree with me that the way for you to make history should be by stepping forward into the Senate, not backwards, into the House.

Conversely, if you proceed on your current path and neither you nor Ron Rice defeat Donald Payne in June, you might find yourself with less support than you have had in the past going into your re-election campaign next year, just when you might need it the most.  I am not privvy to what goes on in smoke-filled back rooms in Essex County, so I can only guess that your decoy candidacy is part of a deal that you made to protect yourself from being thrown off the party line, once again, next year or maybe you are running, because you know that you are going to be thrown off the party line, once again, next year in favor of Sheila Oliver, who will probably not retain her Speakership if she returns to the Assembly in January 2014.

Either way, if you do not win in June, you will probably need the full-throated support of progressives to win re-election a year from now, and while many progressives probably like you more than Oliver, particularly considering the degree to which her Speakership has been tainted by the control that the Adubato machine seems to have over her, your independence from them has come into question in the years since you defeated them in 2003 as well, and if you continue to play the spoiler role in this race and help to elect Donald Payne, I do not think that I will be the only progressive who remembers this come next year when you are looking for our support.  On the other hand, if you ended your candidacy in CD10 and endorsed Ron, I do not think that I would be the only progressive who would feel eternally grateful to you and would be prepared to stand beside you next year when the Adubato machine tries to end your political career, once again.

I believe that the path forward towards the Senate represents your best opportunity to make history, Senator Gill, and it is the only one that enhances your ability to powerfully advocate for your issues of concern.  It is not the step backwards that going from the State Senate to the House would be.

I am also writing to ask Blue Jersey’s readers to join me in asking you to end your candidacy, endorse Ron Rice, and seriously consider a United States Senate run in 2014.  If you agree with this appeal to State Senator Gill, please comment below.  Thanks in advance for reading this far and participating in this effort to unify progressives behind the grassroots congressional candidacy of Newark Councilman Ron Rice.

Comments (6)

  1. Bill W

    If Senator Gill doesn’t take your obviously sincere and heartfelt advice, and decides instead to remain in the race, I guess the next step will be to appeal to Ron Rice Jr’s better nature, and ask that he drop out in order to avoid splitting the progressive vote?  


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