My first contact with Helen Duda, the author of this post, was at a diner about halfway between my home in Burlington County and hers in Atlantic County. I had expressed interest in helping Tanzie Youngblood’s challenge to Congressman Frank LoBiondo and Helen was among several enthusiastic volunteers helping to organize the effort. We talked about the campaign, arranged for some video production, and became friends. When LoBiondo decided to retire, the establishment Democrats anointed George Norcross Jeff Van Drew to run in Helen’s district. Of course, as they say, the rest is history. The establishment Democrats ramrodded Van Drew to the nomination despite the unbelievably hard work of Helen and her peers.
The good news is that Helen decided to stay involved. The bad news is she’s working within a system that is still an old-boy’s network. Here is Helen’s story.
I attended my first Atlantic County Democratic reorganization meeting last night, since my foray into politics has left me wanting to learn more about the messy and murky processes of politics here in NJ Congressional District 2. The election of Atlantic County Democratic Committee Chairperson, Vice Chair, and other officers was held at the reorganization meeting last night, at which only certain elected officials and newly elected County Committee people have a vote. I was not an eligible voter or candidate, but a mere Democratic spectator.
The woman who was challenging the incumbent Atlantic County Chair said she was denied access to the contact information for the County Committee people who were elected June 5th, which the incumbent had access to, to reach out and ask for their vote, putting her at a disadvantage.
Also, for anyone running for an Atlantic County Committee seat, if they want the optimum chance to be elected, they need to be on “the LINE” on the ballot. The Atlantic County Chair makes the decision as to who gets “the LINE”, so of course, he puts people on “the LINE” that are loyal to him, and he can count on their vote to re-elect him as County Chair. Another disadvantage for his challenger and this also gives the County Chair far too much power and control over election outcomes, in my opinion.
At the beginning of the meeting, a woman asked a question I couldn’t hear clearly, but it had to do with County Committee people whose elections hadn’t been certified by the County Clerk. Her question was basically brushed off, and something garbled was said to the effect that everyone was certified, he was pretty sure, and on went the nominations for the County Chair position.
The nominators and the 2 candidates for County Chair spoke very briefly, then the voting for County Chair was announced.. The program said there would be nominations and votes for each County Committee position, and I thought it was odd that they didn’t vote at one time for all of the positions. Were they going to do this for every County Committee position, because if they did, it was going to be a very long night!
After the outcome of the incumbent Chair winning reelection ( not a huge surprise ) and taking over the meeting, he ramrodded the people on his slate through, never even giving the other people running a chance to be nominated, or voted for! He basically treated these votes as if his people were unopposed, and simply held voice votes for them. I’ve never witnessed any election like this in my life! The most blatantly rigged election I have ever witnessed!
This morning I learned that the woman of color who asked about being certified and able to vote had a good reason to ask. It turns out that the two major cities in Atlantic County, Atlantic City and Pleasantville, have still not had their elections certified by the County Clerk. Because their elections had not been certified as of the reorganization meeting last night, there was much confusion as to who was eligible to vote. My personal observation was that the crowd was very, very white, which surprised me since both Atlantic City and Pleasantville have large populations of people of color. I actually decided to call the Atlantic City County Clerk myself to verify that their election had indeed not been certified by the County Clerk. My call was redirected to the Board of Elections, and it was confirmed that the Atlantic City election had not been certified by the County Clerk. When I asked why this was, I was informed that they were still counting ballots??
I find the fact that the Atlantic County Democratic Committee went forward with the reorganization meeting with total disregard to the confusion concerning the elections not certified yet, as well as not making certain every newly elected County Committee person knew whether or not they were eligible to vote, very concerning. That and the absolute disgrace of an election process during the reorganization meeting, totally disregarding the other candidates who were running for office was deplorable. Much like the convention, and so-called votes for endorsement, the process is terribly tainted. Two Democratic Club Presidents were asked why they were supporting VanDrew with his right wing voting record, over more progressive Democratic candidates in the June 5th primary for House of Representatives.T heir answer……because we were told to.
This is not how democracy works. The more I see of the NJ Congressional District 2 Democratic Party underbelly, the more I realize why NJ politics are so often referred to as corrupt.