I live in the Third Congressional District. Neither of the major party candidates has convinced me that he deserves my vote.
On the Republican side, we have incumbent Congressman Tom MacArthur. The wealthiest member of the New Jersey delegation (MacArthur pushed Rodney Frelinghuysen out of that slot two years ago), MacArthur is a doctrinaire member of the GOP who supports Donald Trump (and by extension, the Trump agenda). He’s not an unpleasant man – in another world, he could easily be among my several Republican friends. But his voting record is such that I could never support him.
On the Democratic side, we have perennial candidate Frederick John LaVergne. Two years ago, he ran against the Democratic party’s nominee as a third party candidate. His poorly-funded campaign is no match to MacArthur’s millions. The policies he espouses on his web site are hardly specific. His support from the party establishment is minimal. (How he got the nomination is a story for another time.)
So my only other option is a write-in. Whose name should I choose?
There are several excellent Democrats in the area. The only disqualifier in my mind is someone who lives outside the District. Although it is perfectly legal to elect someone who lives outside the District (for example, MacArthur), the local Democrats have been burned by this issue too many times (Carl Lewis when he ran for NJ Senate, and Shelley Adler when she ran for Congress come to mind). So my arbitrary rule eliminates several great contenders: Assemblyman Troy Singleton, who represents much of the legislative district, but lives outside the congressional district. Jim Keady, who lost the primary to LaVergne. Steve Steglik and Raj Bath – chair and vice-chair of the Burlington County Young Democrats who are up-and-coming forces in local politics.
So here are some names that come to mind. I suspect some of them might opt out of a real Congressional race, but it’s fun to speculate.
Aimee Belgard. The Democratic candidate from two years ago would make a great congresswoman. Smart, hard-working, and progressive, she would be my first choice. But fortunately for her, Chris Christie appointed her to a Superior Court judgeship in Burlington County, where she is enjoying her time immensely. The youngest judge in the county, she’s sure to rise in the judiciary over the next several years – perhaps to the New Jersey Supreme Court.
Bill Belgard. Aimee’s husband is a force in his own right, Bill is a local municipal elected official who would also advance a progressive agenda. And his Old Man’s Garage Band would bring some great music to Capitol Hill.
Andy Douglas. The Mount Laurel municipal chair, in his 70s, has more energy than many of the 20-somethings I see going door-to-door on the campaign trail. A retired union official, he would be very good for labor in Washington.
Herb Conaway. The doctor/lawyer/assemblyman has run for Congress before. One of the smartest members of the state assembly, he would be successful in reaching across the aisle to get things done, especially in the critical areas of health care and the environment.
Barry Bendar. The Ocean County database professional primaried John Adler from the left in 2010. He got 25% of the vote with minimal campaigning and would be a great counterpoint to MacArthur.
Hilary Beckett. Why not vote for two Hillary/Hilarys this time? Assemblyman Singleton’s chief of staff just turned 25, the minimum age to serve in the House (she’s older than Joe Biden was when he was first elected), is an up-and-coming star in Burlington County politics and works just as hard as her boss.
Wyatt Earp. I don’t know much about the Ocean County Democratic chair – I’ve only met him a couple of times. But the sound of Congressman Wyatt Earp has a nice ring to it.
So who should it be? Who have I left out? Take the informal poll below, and let me know who you think I should write in.