A year ago, Frank LoBiondo was a shoo-in for another term as Congressman from New Jersey’s Second District – the state’s largest, encompassing all or parts of eight counties in the southernmost part of the state. Two years prior, he had defeated a young, highly intelligent and enthusiastic challenger with almost 60% of the vote.
Enter Tanzie Youngblood. A Blue Star Mother, a retired schoolteacher, and political novice threw her hat in the ring to challenge LoBiondo. Any challenger to a long-term incumbent would have a difficult time pulling off the upset, but Youngblood went into the race with her eyes open, assembled a low-budget staff along with a cadre of enthusiastic volunteers, and was ready to slay the tiger.
But then something absurd happened, and Donald Trump was elected President. The Republican congressman who rode the Tea Party wave in 1994 decided it was time to hang up his spurs and LoBiondo announced his retirement.
Almost immediately, the South Jersey political machine sprung into action. Not to endorse a woman of color who had the capacity to run a winning campaign with the support of the party establishment, but rather to push her aside and anoint one of their own, State Senator Jeff Van Drew. And while the primary election is still a bit more than a week away, those inside the establishment – moderates and progressives – have jumped on the Van Drew bandwagon. Maybe this is “normal” and might even be grudgingly acceptable – except for the fact that Van Drew’s record belies the values of the Democratic Party. He has a 100% rating from the NRA and fought against marriage equality.
But Youngblood is not deterred. Despite the loss of key campaign staff due to health and other issues, she is marching on. Yesterday, she spoke to volunteers at a phone bank in Buena, NJ about her progressive platform and the undemocratic Democratic establishment in South Jersey. Here are some of her remarks.