promoted by Rosi
For those of you who don’t know who I am, I fought the good fight and stood up to Goliath and ran for Sussex County Freeholder as a Democrat. Running my own political race in the most beautiful part of New Jersey has been the greatest experience of my life. I have no regrets and I would change absolutely nothing about the way I conducted my campaign over the last seven plus months. Heck, I even received the endorsement from Sussex County’s daily, The New Jersey Herald, who doesn’t usually speak highly of Democrats up here.
The thing that I love most about Blue Jersey is that many of you feel my pain; you live in a blue state but reside within deep red. And it’s not just people like me living in a deep red county. While places like Bergen and Passaic produced great victories last week, there are readers of this very site who live in towns there that are as red as my beloved home county of Sussex.
There has been a continuous/ever evolving debate on Blue Jersey about a 21 County Strategy similar to the vision former Vermont Governor Howard Dean (just for the record, a political hero of mine) had and executed when he was DNC Chair.
Just to give you the background of my race: I moved to Sussex County’s largest municipality (Vernon Township) when I was ten and graduated high school there in 1999. I went to our county’s community college as well. I made a lot of friends and personal contacts over this time. I bring this up because Sussex County, while vast in geographical size, is really a small town. Newark and Jersey City trump it in population while Paterson and Elizabeth give it a strong run for it’s money.
Since March, my life has consisted of two things: working to put a roof over my head and gas in my car, and shaking as many hands and knocking on as many doors as humanly possible. Knowing that I couldn’t raise the kind of money that my fellow candidates could (I did raise a bit over 3k, which I am very proud of), I decided early on that I would need to out hustle them, which I did. And the final tally was this: best out hustle-er, Jim Tighe; last in votes, Jim Tighe.
Now I know the institutional disadvantages that I was up against (D v R party registration, their party machine v ours, money, electoral history, etc). But my long winded monologue brings me to this point: how do we counter this? I have had a week to mull on the words that I am about to say so I choose them carefully but they could have put “Ham Sandwich” and “Turkey Club” on the ballot and I still would have lost (again, just for the record, I tip my hat to my Republican opponents who ran a professional, issue oriented race. In fact, I was told on Election Night, that one of them praised and thanked me and my fellow Democrat).
So, Blue Jersey, how do we turn red counties and red towns in our great state blue? My take? We build from the bottom. Recruit county committee members, run them for things like council, board of ed, or even try to get them appointed to something like a land use board. Dean’s 50 State Strategy didn’t have anything to do with winning Utah and Alaska nationally, but more to do with winning races there for council and dog catcher. Have at it.