Yeah, we’ll be discussing NJ-5 for a while. Again. Still. – promoted by Rosi
Every two years we all jump on Blue Jersey to discuss if we can find a candidate to beat Scott Garrett. So far it hasn’t happened. In my humble opinion, one of the big reasons that we haven’t been able to find a good candidate to stand up is simple: The party line on the ballot.
The BCDO line candidate won the fifth district primary yet again yesterday. Looking at the numbers of the Democratic Primary in the Bergen County part of the Fifth is a near useless endeavor. The reason Gussen did so well in Bergen is simple: the party line. This is a sad but very real reality. In years where there is a low primary turnout, the majority of primary voters are uneducated on the candidates. So what they do instead of educating themselves and making an intelligent choice, is vote straight down the line. Time and again we have seen Fifth district candidates be able to put their campaigns into cruise control and coast to victory on the line. The result of the line is that potentially good candidates are scared away from running. While the candidates that do run don’t let themselves get fully invested in their campaigns, because everyone who has been around Bergen politics long enough know that you have to get the line and not getting it puts months of hard work to waste.
My mother (Camille Abate for anyone that doesn’t know) is a perfect example of why the line dilutes potential fifth district candidates. Following her first run for Congress in 2006, she wrote a less than tactful email that was “leaked” stating that Joe Ferriero ran the BCDO like a mob. She then decided she was going to run again in 2007–this time with a much more professional campaign. At the BCDO convention that year Mr. Ferriero told every committee member in his pocket to vote for Dennis Shulman, the vast majority of them did. Even though we didn’t get the line, our campaign didn’t think much of the results. After all we were running a real campaign this time and had raised a bunch of money ($290K by primary day). We were very confident, feeling we had marketed our campaign significantly better in 2008 than in 2006. However the result–much like this year–was nearly identical to 2006. I’m not saying whether she should have won or lost the primary–thats old news–but to spend that much money and have the result be basically identical is telling. We had campaigned from June 2007-June 2008, spending 40-60 hours a week raising money on the phones, and spending the rest of our time canvassing (usually to a positive response). Despite all of that, the line still proved to be more powerful.
My mother said afterward she didn’t think she would ever run again. She couldn’t afford to spend that much time of her life campaigning only to have it potentially be torpedoed–at the BCDO convention–before the primary ever takes place. I think many potential fifth district candidates feel the same way. In the two election cycles (counting this one) since 2008, no candidate has made a full time committment to running for congress. I believe the party line has a lot to do with that.
As I said in a post earlier today, Adam Gussen raised no money, had almost no social media presence, and did almost no campaigning. Yet Adam Gussen won 55% of the vote. If it isn’t clear now, I don’t think it ever will be: we need open primaries throughout New Jersey. We need to force citizens to educate themselves on the candidates. Until this happens, our party bosses will continue to hand pick our candidates, and much of New Jersey (and most of Bergen) will essentially continue to be a Democratic Oligarchy.
If we really want to beat Garrett, we need a system that encourages potential candidates to make running for congress a full time gig, encourage them to take the hours, days, weeks, and months it takes to adequately fundraise, and promote primary competition. I believe open primaries and eliminating the line would do this.