NJ leading a progressive revolution

The New York Times points out progressive House candidates are increasingly rattling primary elections around the country, and they promise to grow as a disruptive force in national elections as younger voters reject the traditional boundary lines of Democratic politics. They are flouting the Democratic establishment, demolishing archaic party machinery or pressuring Democrats in moderate areas to tack left.

With about two months left in the national primary season, New Jersey is leading the way with restive progressive candidates.

The NY Times’ national analysis used four individual groups that endorsed liberal House primary candidates. Of the primaries so far the number of endorsed Democratic progressives in New Jersey was exceeded only by those in NY (a much larger state) with NJ having 10 such candidates and NY having 19.

The endorsing groups selected were NJ Working Families Alliance (NJWFA), Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC), Our Revolution (OR) and Justice Democrats. Below are the NJ primary candidates they endorsed: 

  • CD 01  Donald Norcross  (NJWFA)
  • CD 03  Andy Kim (NJWFA) and (PCCC)
  • CD 04  Jim Keady (NJWFA) and (OR)
  • CD 06  Frank Pallone (NJWFA)
  • CD 07  Peter Jacob (OR)
  • CD 08  Albio Sires (NJWFA)
  • CD 09  Bill Pascrell (NJWFA)
  • CD 10  Donald Payne (NJWFA)
  • CD 11  Mikie Sherrill (NJWFA
  • CD 12  Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJWFA)

The endorsement season is far from over. Other NJ candidates may enter the above ranks and other groups will release their own endorsements. Nonetheless this is a testament to the powerful movement in our state. 

So powerful is this movement that during the primary campaign Democratic progressive candidates competed with each other, but in NJ getting the party line is paramount. Alison Heslin, an “unapologetic progressive,” ran against Mikie Sherrill (CD 11.) Jeff Van Drew (CD 02) (the least progressive of our candidates) defeated Tanzie Youngblood.

Giovanni Sce, a 55-year-old software engineer from Summit, said, “I don’t think that the Democratic Party is doing a good job of reconciling the two souls of the party (Clinton and Sanders)’ at an event in support of progressive Peter Jacob who lost to Tom Malinowski (CD 07). Progressive candidates whose views put them in the Senator Bernie Sanders wing of the party often were shunned by NJ party establishment focused on endorsing candidates officials believed to have broader appeal. Even nationally we see the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Red to Blue program now supporting only Tom Malinowski (CD 07), Jeff Van Drew (CD 02) as well as Mikie Sherrill (CD 11).

We also have two “Josh” candidates who are running in more traditionally Republic Districts who probably would be ill-served positioning themselves as too progressive. In CD 05 incumbent Josh Gottheimer is progressive on social matters,  supported by Planned Parenthood and will get strong help from national and local Democratic leadership groups. In CD 04 where Josh Welle defeated Jim Keady in the primary, Welle is challenging incumbent Republican Chris Smith in office since forever. Welle is progressive on almost all issues.

Nonetheless as we now face the November elections, we have learned in the last Presidential election the horrendous consequences of Democrats particularly in the swing electoral states not voting sufficiently for the Democratic candidate. In the current campaign we have the opportunity to take over the House and put a stop to many of President Trump’s worst actions. To not turn out and vote for a NJ Democratic House candidate because he or she seems insufficiently progressive could be disastrous. (The time to fight that battle is during our next primary.) Even the least progressive Democratic candidates in November will generate a more liberal voting record than their Republican counterparts. 

We have earned our stripes in leading the progressive revolution. We now have to get our Dems elected.

Comments (2)

  1. Bertin Lefkovic

    NJ progressives should not be patting ourselves on the back. We are not leading anything. In every congressional primary election where a less progressive candidate was running against a more progressive candidate, the less progressive candidate was the choice of the Democratic establishment and the less progressive candidate won. This is not an indictment of the efforts of true progressives like Peter Jacob and Jim Keady, but an indictment of the lack of leadership and organization in our community.

    With an incumbent Senator as damaged and disgraced as Bob Menendez, the strongest opposition that our community could offer him is Lisa F’N McCormick. And thanks to that farce of a campaign, she and her significant other, Jim Devine, are running around the state claiming to be the leaders of the progressive movement in NJ.

    Of course, Jeff Van Drew is preferable to Seth Grossman just like every Democrat is preferable to every Republican, but that does not mean that “we have earned our stripes”. If anything, we are lagging, not “leading the progressive revolution”.

    If you remove Working Families from the above list of endorsing organizations, the number of endorsed candidates becomes significantly smaller. With all due respect to the well-meaning people at WFNJ, they have an agenda that they have to achieve, which means endorsing candidates who are not really progressives like Norcross, Pascrell, and Sires and others on the list above are marginal.

    It also doesn’t help the Working Families brand that they endorsed and are now stuck with Joe Crowley on their general election ballot line in NY instead of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. If he wins re-election and the Republicans reclaim the House, I would not be surprised to see him caucus with them going forward.

  2. Bill Orr (Post author)

    I pointed about above ” Progressive candidates whose views put them in the Senator Bernie Sanders wing of the party often were shunned by NJ party establishment focused on endorsing candidates officials believed to have broader appeal,” and indicated that some of the progressives lost to others less progressive.

    Nonetheless we had a large number of progressives in the Primary, more than other states except NY, which is an accomplishment and something to build on.

    “The line” dictated by local parties, the need to raise significant funds and the sheer difficulty of defeating incumbents remain as problems.

    I agree that “it’s in the community” where particularly during primaries that the more progressive candidates need more support.


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