Can there be more than one? An Open Letter to Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and the WPCNJ

Dear Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and the Women’s Political Caucus of New Jersey:

Ronald Reagan coined a phrase, “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican,” when running for Governor of California in 1966, which became known as the 11th Commandment of Republican Party politics.

Since the Democratic Party has always been known as the party of the circular firing squad, I would not expect State Senator Nia Gill to refrain from criticizing her opponents in the CD10 primary election, but I was shocked to read PolitickerNJ today and find that Gill dismissed the candidacy of Shelley Adler in CD3 and every other woman, running for Congress throughout the state this year, in an attempt to raise money from donors who are committed to sending more NJ women to Congress.

In a fundraising letter sent this week, the Gill campaign asked donors to “ensure that the New Jersey Congressional delegation will include at least one woman.”

“Unless Nia Gill wins, it won’t,” the email sent to prospective donors proclaims.

Knowing that both Adler and Gill have been endorsed by both of you in the CD3 general election and the CD10 primary election, I would be interested to know what you think about one of your endorsed candidates disrespecting the candidacy of another endorsed candidate to the degree that Gill has.

I could be wrong, but I think that it is safe to assume that there is at least some crossover between Adler’s and Gill’s donor prospecting lists and it clearly does not benefit Adler, who probably needs to raise $1-2 million to be in a position to defeat Jon Runyan this fall, compared to Senator Gill, who is probably not going to raise much more than $100K during the primary election cycle and will not need to raise much at all if she is fortunate enough to win the primary election, considering the degree to which CD10 is a safe Democratic district.

I recognize that it might not be my place to say this, being male, but aside from the fact that it is not nice to spit on the efforts of other women who are running for Congress in NJ, particularly those of someone like Shelley Adler, who recently lost her husband, the late State Senator and Congressman, John Adler, and has been inspired by his example and memory as well as a personal commitment and dedication to public service and a desire to continue his legacy, I think that a very strong argument could be made that Adler has as good a chance of winning in November as Gill does, if not a better one, primarily because Adler is definitely going to be on the general election ballot in CD3.  There is no such guarantee that anyone will be seeing Senator Gill’s name on a general election ballot this year or in any other year to come.

Shelley Adler is running unopposed in the primary election for CD3, while Senator Gill is a longshot candidate to say the least (I am still not convinced that her candidacy is anything more than a decoy, dividing the suburban progressive vote that Newark Councilman Ron Rice needs to overcome Essex County Freeholder and Newark Council President, Donald Payne’s institutional advantage in the Essex County part of the district) in the primary election in CD10.  While it is fair to argue that Adler will be facing an uphill climb againt Runyan in November in the recently redistricted CD3, which replaced Democratic voter-rich, Cherry Hill, with Brick Township, which has traditionally been a Republican stronghold, but has seen recent Democratic victories at the local level, it would be just as fair to say that the obstacles that Senator Gill have to overcome to defeat Payne and Rice in CD10 are even steeper.

Following is the Adler campaign’s response to Gill’s slight:

“As the only Red to Blue endorsed candidate in New Jersey and the only Emily’s List recommended campaign, we hope Shelley Adler will be the first woman in more than a decade to join the delegation,” Muller said. “We hope that more will join in the next 10 years.”

The challenges represented by their respective primary and general election opponents and the demographics of their respective districts notwithstanding, the fact that Senator Gill did not even bother to file for the special primary election to serve the remainder of the late Congressman Donald Payne’s term, which will give whomever wins it and the regular primary election a significant seniority advantage over the other freshperson Congresspersons who will be sworn in for the first time this coming January, should give anyone, who takes the historic opportunity that Senator Gill’s candidacy represents seriously, reason for pause.

I truly believe in the mission of the Women’s Political Caucus of New Jersey, which is:

Our Mission

The Women’s Political Caucus-New Jersey is dedicated to increasing women’s participation in the political process, increasing the number of progressive women in elected and appointed office, protecting reproductive freedom,  and creating a women’s political power base to achieve equality for ALL women.

To this day, one of the most important elections that I have participated in since becoming involved in NJ politics is the 2000 Congressional primary election in CD7, where Maryanne Connelly, who had come closer to defeating the incumbent Congressman, Bob Franks, than any of his previous challengers, was passed over in favor of Michael LaPolla for the party line in Union County that year, when the seat became open due to Franks deciding to run in the Republican Senatorial primary election.

As we all know, thanks to a shrewd campaign strategy, Connelly was able to upset LaPolla in the primary election, but lost to her Republican opponent, Michael Ferguson, when the Union County Democratic Organization, led by Chairwoman Charlotte DeFilippo and party boss, State Senator Ray Lesniak, turned its back on her and ordered the party organization’s union supporters to stay out of the district.  I could be wrong, but it has always been my sense that the people who founded the Women’s Political Caucus of New Jersey were inspired into action as a result of the way that she was treated.  Or it could have been when Assemblywoman Linda Stender was passed over in favor of then-Freeholder Nick Scutari to replace Joe Suliga in the State Senate after the late Senator was forced to resign in disgrace.  Or it could have been so many of the other women who were forced to take a back seat to less-qualifed men.

Knowing how Senator Gill almost joined the ranks of these women in 2003 when the Adubato machine threw her off the party line in favor of her primary election opponent, Leroy Jones, I think that she, a WPCNJ-endorsed candidate, has done a great disservice to this organization’s extremely important mission when she so casually and thoughtlessly dismissed and disrespected the candidacy of another WPCNJ-endorsed candidate, Shelley Adler, as well as the candidacies of every other woman running for Congress in NJ this year, Democratic and Republican.

As someone who similarly felt the bull’s eye of your county party organization on your back, SML Weinberg, and not only survived, but successfully ascended from the Assembly to the Senate and eventually to the high position of Senate Majority Leader, not to mention being our party’s candidate for Lieutenant Governor in 2009, your opinion of Senator Gill’s behavior toward her fellow women Congressional candidates is as important, if not moreso, to me than anyone’s, because you are such an icon in progressive politics in NJ.

I write this open letter to you and the WPCNJ to ask that you condemn the actions of Senator Gill, demand that she apologize personally to Shelley Adler and generally to all of the other women running for Congress in NJ this year, and rescind your endorsements of her primary election candidacy in CD10.  I also call upon my fellow Blue Jersey readers to join me in this request to you.  Your consideration of this request is greatly appreciated.

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