It’s been a long-standing tradition for the past 3 hours to announce the Deciminyan Awards (“Decis”) to the year’s most deserving New Jersey elected officials and political activists in several categories. So here they are:
The Energizer Bunny Hardest Worker Award – Awarded to the person who manages to get the job done by somehow being multiple places at once and finding more than 24 hours in a day. This year’s award goes to Chesterfield’s Andrea Katz – a member of the Board of Education who was just elected to the Town Council. Andrea is a fierce fighter for her neighborhood, working to stop an unnecessary high-pressure gas pipeline from endangering her community. This mother of three young children has found the political Lagrange point where the competing forces of activism and family come to a stable equilibrium. A passionate advocate for her causes, remember the name. You’ll see it much more in the future.
Runner-up: Assemblyman Troy Singleton
The Paul Robeson Community Activism Award – Awarded to the person who exemplifies the best in activism in the face of adversity and never gives up working to make the world a better place. Even before he entered the dark world of New Jersey politics, Jim Keady was an outspoken advocate for workers’ rights – here and overseas. He’s been at the Nike sweatshops in Indonesia, and has challenged Chris Christie on workers’ rights here in New Jersey. Despite his unsuccessful bid for the New Jersey Assembly, and his quest to unseat the only New Jersey congressperson who openly supported Donald Trump, Keady remains active and vocal for progressive causes and the plight of the downtrodden here and abroad.
The Don Quixote Tilting at Windmills Award – Awarded to the person brave enough and committed enough to challenge the strong and powerful. When you’re an ambitious twenty-something, quitting a secure job with a multinational corporation to challenge an entrenched political machine is the epitome of optimism. But that’s just what Alex Law did this year when he challenged the Norcross Political Machine by primarying Congressman Donald Norcross in New Jersey’s First Congressional District. Running a campaign staffed mostly by his contemporaries, even in a loss Law has set an example for young people to get involved in the political process – something that can only help this state and nation in the days ahead.
Runners-up: CD-4 Congressional Candidate Lorna Phllipson, CD-7 Congressional Candidate Peter Jacob
The Chewbacca Rookie of the Year Award – Awarded to the best successful newly-elected politician. Back in 2011, when New Jersey lost one seat in Congress and reapportioned its congressional districts, there was an unwritten unholy alliance between the parties to gerrymander the map so that there would be an even number of Democrats and Republicans in our delegation. This worked until 2016, when Democrat Josh Gottheimer eked out a victory over The Worst Congressman in New Jersey, Scott Garrett. While he is not really a rookie (Gottheimer worked in the Clinton Administration), his upset victory was a result of effective fundraising and helps align the delegation more toward the Democratic-leaning views of New Jersey’s population.
The Barack Obama Community Organizing Award – Awarded to the person who has a positive and lasting impact on his or her community. Burlington County has not had an effective Democratic Committee in a long time. With the exception of John Adler’s single term, the county, which is fairly evenly split along party lines, has not sent a Democrat to Congress in decades. But there’s hope. An effective shadow organization, the Burlington County Young Democrats, has been started by two recent Hofstra University graduates, Stephen Steglik and Raj Bath. Judging from the attendance at their events, they have managed to energize the youth of the area while still welcoming old farts like me into their programs. They not only deal in the political realm but are active in community events such as food drives, working to make Burlington County a better place for all of its residents.
The Abraham Lincoln Sane Republican Award. – Awarded to the person who most exemplifies the principles of the once-great GOP. This was a tough decision, but given the importance of preserving our environment, the award goes to New Jersey State Senator Christopher “Kip” Bateman. Senator Bateman has occasionally been at odds with his GOP colleagues on environmental protection issues and has worked to preserve the beauty of the state and the health of its residents. I would have been more comfortable in granting this award if he had voted for marriage equality, but that issue has been decided favorably by the courts.
Runner-up: State Senator Diane Allen
The Sasha and Malia Obama Future POTUS Award – Awarded to a person, generally unknown, who shows the smarts, desire, and potential to become president some time in the next half-century. This year’s award goes to Cherry Hill native Amy Myers. A graduate of Mount Holyoke University, she is currently pursuing an advanced degree in History at King’s College in London. She was a tireless campaigner for Aimee Belgard’s congressional run two years ago, and you should remember the name. You’ll see it again when she returns from England.
The John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage Award – Awarded to an elected official who puts his or her career on the line by advocating for an unpopular but correct position. – No award this year.