Author Archive: jackstanton

We cannot afford to lose

I am so very happy that the President finally announced his support for marriage equality today. It was a welcome evolution, even if it is long overdue. As we all know, change comes one door, one day, one election at a time. While it may be too early to focus on the politics of this historic milestone, we must be aware that the stakes of this election have just been raised.

The right-wing pundits are hoping that the President’s support for marriage equality and Mitt Romney’s fierce opposition to gay rights will help them in key swing states: North Carolina, Ohio, Colorado etc. In fact, the reason many people felt the President held off “evolving” is due to political calculus.

We know from experience that these fears are not only overblown, but  false; the public trend over the past couple years has moved firmly in the direction of marriage equality. However, we also know that if the President loses the election (especially if it is close), some people will inevitably argue it was due in part to his support for marriage equality.

We cannot let this happen.

For the first time in the history of the gay-rights movement, there is a chance to elect a President who fully supports marriage equality. We have to work hard to reelect President Obama in order to send a resounding message to those remaining voices of dissent: America is a country that embraces all of her children, regardless of race, creed, or sexual orientation.

Why won’t Democrats be Democrats?

And also … Democrats who don’t want to put ‘Democrat’ on the lawn signs. Same deal. – promoted by Rosi

There is a common belief (one that I used to hold) that Democrats running in more conservative areas will fare better if they appear more “moderate” more “independent” more “mainstream.” The rationale is that a Democratic nominee can count on the party base and thus needs to appeal to the center and center-right votes to secure victory. Simple enough really, and appealing to candidates forging ahead against heavy odds.

Look at John Arvanites in the NJ-11 who sent out the invitation to his kickoff event with the words “Independent Democrat” in bold. Or at the Democrats vying in the NJ-5: Jason Castle has billed himself from the start as a “moderate Democrat,” and Adam Gussen is supposedly a “Blue Dog” Democrat.  

Power ranking: Red to Blue NJ House Seats

With just one month to go until primary election day in New Jersey, I thought it might be useful to examine the potential for turning Congressional red seats to blue seats this November. Due to redistricting, if seats remain as they are, NJ will have a 6/6 split with the same number of Republicans and Democrats in Congress. The below ranking is based on an analysis of early factors: fundraising, endorsements, institutional support, grassroots energy, and discussions with various activists.

Most likely pick ups:

1) CD3, Shelley Adler, the widow of former Congressman John Adler, has put together an impressive operation in a short period of time. Not only has she raised upwards of $300,000 dollars, but she has secured the coveted endorsements of Emily’s List and she has been placed on the DCCC Red to Blue List. Her opponent, Jon Runyan, is not only vulnerable (facing his first re-election) but he is a part of the much disliked freshman class of Tea Party Republicans. Although there is a lot of time left on the clock (Runyan would like that analogy), it is a real possibility that we could be welcoming an Adler back to Congress next January. Added bonus: we currently do not have a woman in our Congressional delegation.

2) CD7, after former Edison Mayor Jun Choi and former Congressional candidate Ed Potosnak bailed on this race, it seemed Lance might get 2012 off. However, a formidable candidate stepped forward, Upendra Chivukula, who is the assemblyman for 17th District and Deputy Speaker. Although we will have to wait to see how the race develops, Chivukula brings fundraising experience, name recognition, and an active group of supporters to what was once the most competitive Congressional District in NJ. He also benefits from the fact that CD7 is the fifth most Indian-American-intensive district in the nation.

3) CD5, after a series of establishment heavy weights decided to take a pass on running in the new R+4 (Connie Wagner, Jim McQueeny, Harry Carson), two young candidates emerged, Teaneck Deputy Mayor Adam Gussen and former Marine Jason Castle (Also, LaRouche candidate Diane Sare). While both men seem eager to take on New Jersey’s most conservative Congressman, both suffer from political inexperience and a lack of institutional support. Castle missed a major opportunity when he failed to file for the Bergen County Democratic Line, and as a result he was only able to secure the line in Sussex and Warren County. To make up for this early flaw, he has led a far more active effort to drum up support than Gussen (who for all intensive purposes seems to be sitting the primary out). Nonetheless, Castle has raised a mere $4,000 since entering the race two months ago, while putting $9,000 of his own money in. By contrast, Gussen has raised and invested $0 in his campaign. If either candidate stands a hope of winning they need to begin raising basic funds to put together a campaign infrastructure. This could be a competitive race, but the longer these candidates delay the less likely they are to secure victory.

4) CD11, while this race has received almost no attention, Democrats in the eleventh have a credible candidate. John Arvanites, now of Morristown, is the former Mayor of Roseland and he has proven he can win as a Democrat in Republican territory. With the addition of parts of Essex and Passaic, the eleventh, while still red, has added some significant blue towns. Although Arvanites does not have an online presence, and according to the FEC, has yet to file, there is talk that he may be able to raise enough money to put together an aggressive outing. As with all things, we will have to wait and see if this is just talk.

Tie between the last two:

5) CD2, I have heard little about this race. But there are supposedly two democrats facing off in the primary, Viola Hughes and Cassandra Shober. Both of their websites are still “under construction,” probably like their campaigns. We will have to wait and see what they put together.

5) CD4, Brian Froelich of Monmouth County, a 65-year-old entrepreneur and former American Express executive, won the nomination to run against 4th District Republican Chris Smith, now in his 16th term. It bears to be seen whether Froelich can muster any type of support.

The Jersey Comeback?

promoted by Rosi

New Jersey lost 8,600 jobs in March.

And despite all that talk about how good Christie is for business…. the private sector lost 11,600 jobs while the public sector made slight gains of 3,000 jobs.

And as the Star Ledger wrote two months ago, “the larger issue: Under Christie, New Jersey has lagged behind the nation, and neighboring states, in job growth.”

Under Chris Christie, New Jersey is ranked 47th as a place to do business. Under Mitt Romney, Massachusetts was ranked 47th as well.

With economic policies that are so similar in their failure to create growth for the middle class and to help strengthen business, can we be surprised that Mitt Romney is poised to pick Chris Christie to be his running-mate?

P.S. Under Obama/Biden the country has had 25 consecutive months of private sector job growth.  

Passing the buck on the Supreme Court

In the aftermath of the legislative Democrats finally rallying together to defeat Kwon’s Supreme Court nomination, Governor Christie needed a response. Although the Governor likes to talk tough on responsibility an accountability, those values seem to apply to everyone but him. So he followed Step 1 in the Christie political rule book, he shifted the blame.

Why did Kwon’s nomination fail? According to Christie: “a partisan side show,” “political payback by the Democratic Party,” “appealing back to their base.” In essence, it is not due to his actions or the lack of qualifications of his nominee, but it is the vengeful Democrats who are responsible.

This excuse line is laughably weak, but we must remember that passing the buck is par for the course for Chris Christie. Most notably, when he fired former New Jersey Education Commissioner Bret Schundler, after Schundler “mislead” the Governor on Race to the Top. Schundler vehemently denied the Governor’s false accusations… but that’s old history.

The reason this most recent passing of the buck by Christie is worrisome is that it just might work. Instead of focusing on the mangled mess which was Kwon’s nomination, the narrative appears to be moving towards viewing the events as “political payback.” In particular an article in PolitickerNJ and one in the Star Ledger caught my eye. But after a brief search, they are just two of many that follow the Governor’s accusatory line of blaming.

It plays into a narrative Christie exploits to great applause: him waging war against all enemies on behalf of New Jersey! Christie is supposedly taking on the Union bosses, the free-spending Democrats, the corrupt politicos, the overpaid teachers, the overpaid firefighters and policemen… the list goes on and on. The Governor is most comfortable in a fight.

But the Democrats need to ensure that they don’t fight this fight on his grounds. Kwon’s failed nomination was not about political payback, it was about Governor Christie playing political games with the New Jersey Supreme court!

As Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg have already said, legislators have “a serious responsibility in confirming nominees to the state’s highest court.” This a serious task, that requires serious nominees from our Governor. Not politically convenient choices, not choices that try to deceive the court by claiming to be “independent.” A claim that does not pass the smell test.

At the moment, the argument coming from the Democrats is that Governor Christie was trying to reshape the court in “his own liking.” Supposedly, the Democrats had to stop this. While I understand where they are coming from, I think it’s a losing argument. Criticizing someone for reshaping the court in their own image after just voting down their nominee does not compute. It may be embarrassing for the Governor, but there is only so far you can pursue this criticism before a voter steps back and says, “why are you so worked up? It’s not like his efforts succeeded… no harm, no foul.”

Furthermore, the whole debate was not really about “ideological judges” and “mainstream values.” It was about politics, about court composition, and about Christie trying to railroad his nominees onto the court. We know this, the press know this, voters who have been paying attention know this. So instead of making an argument that does not ring true, I think the Democrats should combat Christie’s “political payback” narrative by calling it as it is: Christie was playing political games with the court and is now passing the buck.

From the start, it was clear that Christie had not chosen the most qualified nominees. I am not saying that they may or may not be qualified to sit on the court, but it is widely acknowledged, even among some Republicans publicly, that Christie passed over many other more qualified potential choices. Realizing the challenges to any standard choice, he decided to pick two candidates who won him applause for diversity and one Republican who he hoped to sneak on as “independent.” This was political gamesmanship at its finest, or arguably, at its worst.

As a lawyer and former U.S. Attorney, one would have hoped that Christie’s criteria would have included more substantive factors. But alas not.

This was a political games show where Christie showed disrespect for the court, for the New Jersey residents who are subject to the court’s decisions, and to the intelligence of all New Jerseyans. It is DISRESPECTFUL. We need to make this argument more vociferously. Governor Christie time and again chooses the politically convenient path or uses political games to advance his agenda. All at the expense of the integrity of the legislature, the voters and our public process.

It ties into a wider narrative of political gamesmanship and disrespect. When confronted with Marriage Equality Bill, Christie played a political game called: “referendum.” He passed the buck. When confronted with the reality that his desired budget was not realistic Christie played a political game called: “inflate projections, and create the most optimistic forecasts in the country.” He passed the buck. When confronted with the reality that his Supreme Court nominees were under qualified, Christie played a political game called: “blame the Democrats!”  He passed the buck.

We need to fight back against this false narrative. We need to ensure the public finger is pointing at the real culprit for this fiasco: Governor Christie.

The Governor is playing political games with New Jersey’s future and when caught he tries to pass the buck. If Christie wants to talk about responsibility and accountability, it is time he practiced both.

Petty Politics in the 9th

promoted by Rosi

When comparing two progressive Democrats with fairly identical voting records, one cannot be surprised that the differences raised between them are more superficial than substantive. After all, I think we can all agree that the Democratic primary in the 9th will do nothing to raise the tone of our political debate. But out of the gate, the Rothman and Pascrell camps have engaged in the petty politics that is both unnecessary and, arguably, unhelpful to both their campaigns.

First off, because of the two Democrats’ similarities, Pascrell’s criticism of Rothman’s decision to run away from a fight with Garrett is strong. How can Rothman claim to be a bold progressive when he was unwilling to make a bold stand against NJ’s most conservative Congressman? It’s an argument that resonates among the progressive community especially, and in many ways, it is an argument that makes itself.

But the move by the Pascrell-Duffy camp to try to reinforce the message, by having Duffy stage a fake, rehearsed flirtation with a Congressional run in the 5th was wrong. In addition, the disrespect Pascrell-Duffy showed the voters of the 5th District in the process weakened their main criticism of Rothman, that he was unwilling to seriously challenge Garrett.

Purple Jersey?

The title question is, perhaps, overly provocative. As any presidential map since 1992 illustrates, New Jersey is a blue state. But as someone who has spent the past year away, serving merely as an enthusiastic observer, I hope you don’t mind me sharing a couple concerns about the state of things headed into the November elections.

While there are many obstacles facing New Jersey Democrats, there are a couple challenges that are paramount. (1) Not having one central democrat to act as a foil to the Governor allows Christie to frame many of the policy debates, (2) Congressional redistricting removed a Democratic seat, (3) factions within the legislative ranks has made it hard to unilaterally oppose Christie’s anti-middle class policies, and (4) a lack of recognition among many that the future of the State Party relies on all of its members working together toward common goals.

I don’t think any of these challenges would come as a surprise to a reader of BlueJersey, which has fastidiously documented them. I did want to list them though, because if we’re not careful, I do think they might come back to haunt us in November.

There is the very real possibility of ending up with an even 50.50 Congressional split, we have a Governor who has no problem forwarding his agenda, and we are facing the prospect of a difficult re-election race for Senator Menendez. It is a worrisome political climate for Democrats. I don’t have any unique insight into any of these issues, but as I wrote at the start, I want to share some concerns as a mere observer.

On the first challenge: until a Democrat emerges as the key opposition to Christie, which might not be until after the Democratic Gubernatorial primary, he has the largest microphone in the state. Coupled with Christie’s penchant for yelling, I don’t see any respite from his loudmouthed politics. I do wonder whether there isn’t more that can and should be done to create a coherent and unified opposition?

More below…