Good Luck to Our New Members of Congress

New Jersey’ Progressive community is thrilled that Bonnie Watson Coleman will be sworn in as our first female African-American member of Congress on Tuesday. It takes an outstanding person to fill the seat vacated by Rush Holt, but Watson Coleman is up to the task.

But there’s another new Congressperson from the Garden State being sworn in this week. In the Third Congressional District, where I live, there’s a changing of the Republican guard. Jon Runyan, whose claim to fame was hitting big men on the NFL football field, is being replaced by Tom MacArthur, whose claim to fame is his purchase of a congressional seat with $5 million of his own money – a national record for a self-funded campaign.

One might be tempted to find a silver lining in all of this. After all, by self-funding his election, MacArthur is not beholden to the Burlington or Ocean County political machines. Indeed, the reason the North Jersey mayor received the nomination in the first place is his ability to fund the campaign himself.

But we should beware of false optimism. On the campaign trail, MacArthur’s positions were to the right of Runyan’s and in line with the Tea Party rhetoric that has stained the House of Representatives for the past decade.

Yet, like it or not, he is my Congressman. So I wish him luck and will give him the benefit of the doubt. At least for a nanosecond. If he works for us and does things right, like save the Joint Base, the region’s largest employer, from losing missions or being closed entirely, then I’ll give him the praise he deserves. But if he votes the way I fear he will – for the 1 percent at the expense of the rest of us –  he’ll hear from me, too.

Happy New Year, Mr. MacArthur. Even though your family still resides outside the district, I hope you’ll keep the best interests of all of your constituents in mind.

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