Author Archive: Rosi Efthim

You probably don’t know Gordon Sell

A couple of days ago, Democracy for America endorsed Linda Stender for Congress. And she thanked me in what she wrote. And it’s cool to be mentioned – with Nathan Rudy – in a public thank you from somebody who’s going to be sitting in Congress next year.

I help run NJ for Democracy, the state DFA group, with Jeff Gardner. (and Nathan ran Dump Mike in ’06). Frankly, I get thanked a lot, and it’s often for the work of a whole lot of other people.

That brings me to Gordon Sell. Gordon’s a member of the Hunterdon DFA group I started 5 years ago. That’s him standing to the right. He’s a Viet Nam vet, which automatically makes him different from virtually everybody else who walks through the door at DFA. And plenty of times he reminds us how our opposition to the Iraq War needs to recognize the people we have sent to fight it. And he’s right.

A couple of years ago, the Stender campaign got an idea that veterans should be the ones to talk to other vets about Stender’s support of better benefits for them – like these. The idea knocked around Stender HQ for a while, but nobody took ownership of it. So I asked Gordon if he could take charge, he shrugged his shoulders and said: Yeah, maybe.

Calls started, out of the Hunterdon Democratic HQ in Flemington, a tiny office always too hot or too cold. First it was just Gordon, then word got out and some more Viet Nam era vets drifted in. Once a week, then twice. By the end of the campaign the Vets-to-Vets calls for Stender were Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, after people’s work. And the room was full.

Gordon wanted the calls unscripted. No clunky phone bank scripts written by 20-year-olds. These were conversations – about where Stender was on their issues, and why vets voting matters.

This Has Never Happened Before, not Here

There is an 18-year-old high school senior in Hunterdon who got a surprise today when he went to vote for himself, in his first election as a candidate. Soham Gupte, who is headed to George Washington University soon to study politics, found himself listed on the ballot as the female candidate for County Committee. Soham is a male.

In the crimson heart of what used to be solid-red Hunterdon County, is Readington Township, a particularly hard nut to crack if you’re an active Democrat. And that’s what Soham intends to be; among his accomplishments is as co-founder of the 134-member Hunterdon High School Students for Obama facebook group. He goes to Hunterdon Central HS in Flemington.

The male/female glitch – apparently originating in the county clerk’s office – is interesting enough. But what I find remarkable is that in a county where County Committee seats often go begging there are two males competing for that spot. That’s a big deal in a county like Hunterdon.

In the last hour, the young candidate called me, I called the Board of Elections, who called the County Clerk, and they consulted with lawyers from the Attorney General’s office. And I called NJSDC Exec Cirector Rob Angelo, so he’d be in the loop. And I learned something I didn’t know – according to the Attorney General’s office, the laws reserving one county committee slot per voting district for a female and one for a male, were changed some years ago. Nobody’s quite sure how Soham’s situation will be resolved yet. Lawyers are talking to lawyers, and certain issues like whether the county party bylaws would have to also be updated, are answers I just don’t have yet.

Oddly enough, this is Soham’s first election as a candidate, but it’s not the first time he voted. He turned 18 a few days before the cutoff to register before Super Tuesday, and sent his application in before the deadline. But when he got a letter saying he was registered to vote but not in time for the Presidential Primary, I took him to court along with a lawyer donating his time for election protection work for ACLU-NJ. Hunterdon Superior Court Judge Steve Rubin determined Soham was not at fault and ruled he could vote. Soham’s a bit of a veteran.

Two things seem remarkable here:

1. An 18-year-old is so determined to exercise his civic responsibility that he goes to court to safeguard his right to vote, and places his name on the ballot the first time he can. Hats off to Soham Gupte for that.

2. That things are changing so much, even in Hunterdon County, even in Readington, that County Committee slots are competed for. Hats off to everyone who makes sure that 50-State Strategy is 21-County Strategy in NJ, for that one.  

Quote of the Day: Sexual Specialties

At the WABC News Debate of the Democratic Senate candidates, televised this morning, Morristown Mayor Donald Cresitello took the last question, on the marriage equality issue:


Yes, I had to decide whether as mayor of Morristown I would perform civil unions for gays, lesbians and for other kinds of sexual specialties.

In other news, Happy Sexual Specialties Day 2008 Pride Day, everybody, kicking off in just a few minutes in Asbury Park!

Pump your progressive campaign muscles at DFA Training Academy this weekend

Looking for something cool to do this weekend? There’s still time to RSVP for the national DFA Campaign Training Academy, rolling into the Garden State in a matter of hours.

Field strategy and targeting, volunteer recruitment, fundraising strategy, candidate call-time discipline, voter contact, GOTV, media, running phone banks & canvasses, internet strategy, issue organizing, precinct organizing, and voter file are all among things covered in the fast-paced, comprehensive and fun 2-day session, which starts tomorrow morning on the campus of Monmouth University.

It’s not too late to RSVP, right here.

Newark Councilman Ron C. Rice and DFA Chair Jim Dean will sit in on a session we’ll do just for the candidates in attendance Sunday morning (let us know if you’re running!). Rice was the first nationally-endorsed DFA-List candidate from the Garden State. He’s also a founding member of Essex DFA and governs from the West Ward (pop. 66,000) in the state’s largest city. Sponsor of one of the most sweeping ethics reform packages in the state’s history, developed with input from Center for Civic Responsibility, Rice, a delegate for Barack Obama, credits his success to a bedrock progressive outlook, and that’s what he wants to talk to candidates about.

As heard on Blue Jersey Radio last night, with DFA Training Director Matt Blizek guesting, DFA Chair Jim Dean will be around all weekend along with progressive organizers and candidates from all over the state – woo hoo!

It still matters who the war hawks are – on April 4, 1967 and on April 4, 2008

One year to the day before Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot to death on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN., he spoke to a standing-room-only crowd at Riverside Church in NYC. The speech was called Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.

Here’s some of the text of that speech, with new pictures that give it fresh life and relevance. Forty-one years after the King assassination, we’re still waist deep in the big muddy, only this time it’s a sandtrap. It matters who got us there, and who was slow to figure out what a big mistake it was. That’s what’s on my mind as I mull over a choice between Rob Andrews and Frank Lautenberg.

Fighters for peace and justice, rejoice. It is you this magnificent man still stands beside. Here’s the full text of the speech for those remembering Martin Luther King today, on the 40th anniversary of the assassination. h/t Chip Robinson of Morris DFA/PDA.  

How it’s New Jersey news

So New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, who was swept into office as a hotshot ethics reformer, has been caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

It’s no laughing matter. One’s thoughts immediately go to his family – wife Silda and three children. Finding out your husband and father is caught up in a prostitution ring is bad enough. Now imagine it all with CNN, the New York Times and the Republican Party breathing down your necks. One also feels for the people of New York; they deserve better.

But for those of us on this side of the Hudson River, well, we’ve been here before.

The wronged wife, looking like a deer in the headlights, standing to the right of her husband in the standing-room-only press conference, shoulder-length hair loose and gently coiffed, outfitted in the tailored light blue suit with a tasteful strand of pearls. Maybe a little pressure’s lifted off Dina Matos McGreevey today, she’s got a sister.

And then there’s the commuter train, that which is traveled everyday by politicians, and businessfolk hurtling from New York to Washington by Amtrak. According to the federal affidavit that kicked off this news Spitzer paid big bucks to have the prostitute he knew as “Kristen” travel from New York to Washington by train to have sex with him in a D.C. hotel. That train goes right through New Jersey.

And finally, clearly, both governors’ undoing was sex, the kind that surprises people. McGreevey managed to detour mounting ethical challenges of his own with his gay American announcement. And wiretaps appear to reveal Spitzer as what might be called a “john” if Client 9 was a little more low-rent.

But I’m sure that’s not where the comparisions end. Who has more? Be snarky or be sincere, and drop your thoughts in Comments.

It’s hard to believe the Democrats took control of Congress.

Last year, for the first time since 1994, the Democrats took control of both houses of Congress. I was confident that the war would be placed on a path of finally winding down. But, unfortunately, the president has continued to receive the funding he needs to continue his insane war policy.

Democratic leaders Pelosi and Reid have been mostly powerless to achieve their agenda as they lack a veto-proof majority.

This week a new twist and turn occurred in the Iraq War that does not bode well at all: the New York Times headline read “U.S. Helps Turkey Hit Rebel Kurds In Iraq”. This is a firm reminder of how the Administration has not at all thought through all aspects of this war. It also is shades of exactly how the Viet Nam War became expanded in to Laos and Cambodia, as that war expanded in to the entire region beyond the borders of Viet Nam.

According to the Times article, “The United States is providing Turkey with real-time intelligence that has helped the Turkish military target a series of attacks this month against Kurdish separatists holed up in northern Iraq, including a large airstrike on Sunday, according to Pentagon officials.”

“Sunday's airstrikes provoked outrage in Baghdad”…Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdish regional government, called the attack “a violation of Iraq's sovereignty.” He blamed the U.S. military, which controls Iraqi airspace, for “allowing Turkish warplanes to cross the border.” And our “Allies” the Iraqi parliament “condemned the attacks”
“The American role in aiding Turkey, a NATO ally, could complicate U.S. diplomatic initiatives in Iraq, particularly efforts to push Iraqi political leaders to enact legislation aimed at promoting political reconciliation.”

Finally, “Turkey has threatened to mount a full-scale, cross-border incursion to clear out PKK camps in northern Iraq. That could effectively open a new front in the Iraq war and disrupt the flow of supplies to the U.S. military in Iraq, which receives 70 percent of its air cargo and a third of its fuel through Turkey.

A very strong argument can be made that our continued presence in Iraq continues to de-stabilize the region even further. Yup, the ‘surge’ is working just fine.

Howard Dean is coming for breakfast

Chairman Dean

Gov. Howard Dean, seen here about 2 minutes after his unanimous election a couple years ago as DNC Chair, is coming to the Garden State on Friday, October 5, to raise money for the NJ State Democratic Committee.

Dean’s faced down criticism from 2006 DCCC Chair Rep. Rahm Emanuel, and a howling call for his resignation from the DNC Chairmanship from (Hillary Clinton supporter) James Carville. In his paradigm-shifting 50-State Strategy, which shifts money and power out of the beltway over to state and local organizing, Dean’s found his first line of defense in the netroots and in the grassroots. And 50-State Strategy means something in New Jersey.

This is breakfast. For $35 bucks, with the money going to NJSDC. Event details here.

Wrong Finger, Sir


President George W. Bush coming to the Garden State today, bringing with him his 28% approval rating and the dark cloud that follows him everywhere he goes. Fun!

Anti-Bush Rally details here and here. We’ll crank up the Springsteen, and have a few things to say ourselves. Who can bring the beachballs?

In his 6 years in the White House, this is the first time ever that Bush has come here just to raise money for the Jersey Republicans. And yeah, the Republicans really need the cash. Dems have a staggering fundraising advantage, with Dem incumbents going into ’07 with $15.5 million to the Repubs’ $5.3 million, and Dems with more $$ in the bank.

But it’s more than that. Star-Ledger calls it right:

Not since Watergate have New Jersey Republicans endured such a painful losing streak. It’s been a decade since voters last elected a GOP governor. They hold their fewest number of seats in the Legislature since 1979. A Republican presidential candidate hasn’t won the state since Bush’s father ran for office in 1988. And they haven’t won a U.S. Senate seat since before the disco era.

The NJ GOP’s in malaise. From the same Star-Ledger piece, a longtime Republican consultant is quoted, anonymously:

We don’t have an identity of being good at anything or being for anything

They got nothing. And by contrast, the state Dems are surging, with incursions into bastions like Cape May and Bergen counties, and recently Howard Dean’s spirited 50-State Strategy helping to drive surprise Special Election wins in hard-to-crack red areas like Hunterdon, Morris and Ocean counties. And there’s an unprecedented, though still-wobbly sense of cooperation between the NJ State Democratic Committee and activist groups.

So, welcome to New Jersey, Mr. President. The Republicans need the cash you can generate real, real bad. But there’s a huge price to getting too close to you right now. They’ve already got their own dark clouds, after all.

28-Point Approval Rating Man Coming to NJ


In search of Garden State Republican cash, President Bush will be in NJ on Wednesday afternoon, May 30.  It’s $300 for one ticket, and couples don’t get a price break – that’s $600. If you want your picture taken with President, you’re going to pony up $5,000 smackeroos.

That’s a pretty high price for a man with a national approval rating of 28%. In fact, hey, that’s $178.57 per approval rating point, but I hope the Republicans can hold that smile.

Republican state Chair Tom Wilson, Sen. Leonard Lance and Asm Alex DeCroce co-host.

Democrats ought to be able to enjoy the President’s visit too. Stay tuned for details on that.