I have a lot of affection for Democratic candidates in CD11. I don’t really know Mikie Sherrill, but I’ve known a succession of principled people who softened the ground for her for years before anybody there knew her name. That includes my friend Tom Wyka, a big open-sandwich of a man who makes it easy to like him, who ran headlong into a race he knew he would lose, and all my friends ran headlong into it right behind him.
Sometimes a race’s losers are better men and women than the winners. In fact it happens a lot, particularly in my home district CD7, and in CD11.
Rest in Peace former NJ State Senator Frank Herbert, the only only candidate in New Jersey history to win a Federal primary election as a write-in candidate. In 1994, Democratic Party officials asked Herbert to run in the primary against John Kucek in CD11, a self-professed “Christian populist,” Holocaust denier and public admirer of KKK Grand Master David Duke. Jewish orgs in CD11 helped organize the voter outreach, knocking the racist white supremacist off the ballot in the primary. Brendan Byrne, then NJDSC chair, said “the first thing we had to do was convince people not to vote for the Nazi” before convincing voters to cast a write-in ballot for Herbert, who had represented Bergen County in the Legislature. Kucek denied he was racist or anti-Semitic, insisting he was merely “pro-American”. Current-day white power fans still say that.
Herbert lost to the Republican, as expected. His name? Rodney Procter Frelinghuysen, the year he was elected in 1994. He had 23 years. And this year his constituents have had enough; their rise was his downfall.
And if Brendan Byrne and especially Frank Herbert were here, they’d want you to get out and vote – in their memory, for yourselves, for a country that rejects throwbacks like Kucek, and like our president. 39 days.