Last night, so much win, particularly for people crushed by Donald Trump’s victory – one year ago today. I’m proud of a lot of friends today. My friends – they got chops. Top of my list is Union Twp. Dem Club, whose co-leader Christina Russoniello is my sister on the Progressive Hunterdon Democrats board. Nobody expects a damn thing out of crimson Hunterdon. But Christina and co-leader Lauren Grober turned living rooms into war rooms fueled by wine and pie, and turned volunteers into clear-eyed field monsters. All for Christine Chen, Laura Shaw and Charles Boddy, the 3 most extraordinary challengers LD23’s ever seen. Damn, some great people lost last night, but not because they didn’t rock it hard. Sometimes you win even when you lose. We see you, and we’re proud a f. Now, to my winner’s list: Trump-style dogwhistles failed miserably; friends invested sweat & tears; ground was broken – all over the place. These are my favorite wins. What are yours, Blue Jersey?
Item: Your bullshit don’t scare Hoboken – Ravi Bhalla is Hoboken’s mayor elect, his triumph coming after anonymous mailers pictured him with the word TERRORISM (all-caps screaming) above his head. Bhalla said “we won’t let hate win” and will now be the city’s first Sikh mayor in history.
Item: Matt Hersh re-elected: The guy who makes me jealous I don’t live in Highland Park (shout-out!), Blue Jersey writer Matthew Brian Hersh, tireless advocate for his cool, progressive little town, funster and cool-eyed analyst of NJ political life. All’s right with the world.
Item: Somerset rising – In a squeaker of an election, Somerset Dems Chair Peg Schaffer declared victory last night in the county clerk’s election for Dem Steve Peter based on unofficial results posted on the county website: Steve Peter 43,511 votes (50.07%) over Brett Radi 43,383 (49.93%). Important because this is the first county win for Dems in more than 35 years.
Item: Parsippany surprises – Cheers, hugs, tears last night in Parsippany as Democrats swept the mayor’s office and 2 council seats, radically shifting the political landscape. Congratulations Mayor-elect Michael Soriano, and incoming council members Janice McCarthy and Emily Peterson. Long time coming. #ILIKEMIKE
Item: Truth wins over BS propaganda in Piscataway: Shantell Cherry, Tom Connors and Alexandra Lopez were the top 3 vote-getters in the P’way Board of Education race. All three were targeted by a well-funded effort claiming they backed an expensive stadi – – oh screw it, I’m not going to repeal the opposition’s lies. Congrats to the team 3,4,5 – and my friends, the mighty mighty organizers.
Item: Making history – Viva Danica Roem! Virginia Delegate Bob Marshall, 25-year Republican incumbent, was the force behind VA’s “bathroom bill,” which would have prohibited transgender students from using the bathroom that felt appropriate to them. When Danica Roem ran against him, he refused to debate her and refused to use the proper pronoun to refer to her. He refused to call her she/her – so now he can call her Delegate. VA’s first out transgender state rep. Even Marshall’s sister slammed her “homophobic, judgemental” brother. As for Roem, she started her term off with more grace decency (read this) than she was shown. Boom.
Item: Maybe he can learn to cook now – The Atlantic Freeholder who wrote “Will the Woman’s March be over in time for them to cook dinner?” on Facebook and wore a Confederate flag patch just lost reelection to a woman, Ashley Bennett, 32, a first-time candidate. Karma’s a bitch.
Item: Edison won’t teach hate – Jerry Shi and Falguni Patel are the high vote-getters in the Edison school board race. Targeted in an anonymous mailer calling them “outsiders,” DEPORT ‘stamped’ over their photos, accusing Chinese and Indian people of “taking over” town. Both the Hoboken and Edison wins (in two diverse cities) are especially sweet because both stories made national news, giving NJ a bad rap as a racist state.
Item: Senator-elect Vin Gopal – This is what happens when a damn smart, dedicated person becomes Monmouth Democratic Chair and builds the infrastructure, enthusiasm and confidence of a whole county of Dems before stepping up to represent them in Trenton. Goodbye Jen Beck. Democrats pick up a Senate seat thanks to Vin. Not long ago, LD11 was Republican controlled. Now it’s represented by a team of Democrats; Vin in the Senate, and Joann Downey and Eric Houghtaling, who Vin helped elect to the Assembly two years ago, re-elected last night.
Item: My favorite pickup – Two years ago, physicist Andrew Zwicker stood on a chair to address his supporters and concede his hard-fought run for Assembly to the winner, Donna Simon – in the district where I live, LD16. Only, Simon hadn’t won. It took weeks of meticulous counting before every vote was counted. In the end, Zwicker won by only 78 votes, and he got the news he was now an assemblyman while addressing physics students at a conference in Savannah. Or someplace. He called me, as he was walking around telling people who, just like both him and me, think politics should be populated by people who take facts more seriously than ideologies. Last night, Zwicker won his re-election, narrowly, but this time his running-mate Roy Freeman was elected along with him. The first two Dems to ever rep this LD16. BOOYA.
Item: Sheila Oliver does it again – Lieutenant Governor-elect, State of New Jersey. In 2010, when she became Speaker, Oliver became the first African-American woman to hold that office in NJ’s history, and only the second black woman to lead a legislature in American history. Upon inauguration January 16, 2018, Oliver will be NJ’s first African-American LG, in an office created only in the last decade, as first in the line of succession. Oliver has promised to be a ‘very different’ lieutenant governor than her predecessor Kim Guadagno, whose inability to distinguish herself from Chris Christie lost her the NJGuv election to Phil Murphy. Madame LG, we’re going to hold you to that.
Item: Murphy, Northam, Fairfax, 1-2-3:NJ & VA were America’s first big wins in the Trump era, along with NYC Mayor Bill DiBlasio, a Bernie Sanders Dem who won last night by 40 points, becoming the first Dem to win a second chance since Koch in 1985. Phil Murphy took NJ by such a commanding lead (55%-42%) that the race was called seconds after polls closed at 8pm. In Virginia, LG Ralph Northam won easily (55%-45%), in a race against GOP lobbyist and George W. Bush aide Ed Gillespie, who took his moves from the Trump playbook, on Confederate monuments, and raising white fears of sanctuary cities and undocumented immigrants. He also went out of his way to praise reflexive, flag-waving patriotism and criticize Colin Kaepernick for taking a knee. Virginia’s incoming LG Justin Fairfax became a national progressive priority, with endorsements from DFA, PCCC and others. Fairfax will be VA’s second African-American in statewide office.
Item: Sí, se puede in Virginia – Elizabeth Guzman and Hala Ayala defeat Republican incumbents to become Virginia’s first-ever Latinas elected to the House of Delegates. Guzman is Peruvian-American. Ayala helped organize the Women’s March. Both ran against white Republican men who have always won by large margin, or run unopposed. And both women flipped their districts from R to D.
Item: Paul Wellstone would be so proud – This is Melvin Carter, 38. Last night, he was elected mayor of St. Paul, Minnesota. Their first-ever black mayor. I haven’t seen Melvin for 12 years, but he made a very big impression on me. He was my Trainer at Camp Wellstone D.C. in 2005, just two years into the intensive political training based on the life work of the late Senator Paul & Sheila Wellstone, killed in a plane crash in 2002. Melvin was just 26, a thin reed of a man, who bounced around the room, and threw fun-sized candies at anybody with great answers. He brought Paul Wellstone into the room for me. And there isn’t a win I’ve had since that didn’t had some Melvin in it. And when I’ve trained local candidates, I always have in mind his lessons about respecting the community you seek to serve – everybody in that community. Melvin talked about both his parents; his father is co-founder of Save Our Sons, which works with at-risk African-American youth. His mother is Toni Carter, the first African-American ever County Commissioner in Minnesota. Melvin told me he wanted to make history someday like his mother. Last night he did. Thanks, Ron Rice, for reminding me.