Author Archive: Rosi Efthim

For the homeblog: What you can do for Blue Jersey

Last week, a bunch of you dropped a nice comment about Blue Jersey in The Fix. That ramps up the likelihood Chris Cillizza’ll add us to the Washington Post’s state blog roll again. And that helps drive our traffic. Thanks! Not too late

So – it’s a good time to let you know what else you can do for your homeblog. All easy, but incredibly important.

Advertise – The care and feeding of this blog takes a budget. Individuals can become Blue Star supporters for as little as $5 bucks/month. But you can also talk to your candidate, your company or your group about advertising at Blue Jersey. The readership’s well-read, politically-active, chock-full of opinion leaders and seriously good-looking.

Advertising and traffic are tied. The more readers, and the more users, the more attractive the site is for someone who wants to reach an audience of people like you. So …

Sign on –  Blue Jersey’s a community blog. We have a staff, but our readers are our writers, too. And you can’t do anything but lurk unless you get yourself a username. So, sign up. You’ll get an email with easy instructions and you’re in business.

Log in –  Every time you visit. Let us know you’re there.

Write – What’s going on in New Jersey politics that matters to you? Here’s your chance. Read the Rules first, please.

Comment – Jump into the conversation.

Don’t be an ass – The same rules for diary writing apply to comments. I’ll add one: Hostile mano-a-mano fights with another reader are boring as hell. Be cool.  

For the homeblog

Last week, a bunch of you dropped a nice comment about Blue Jersey in Chris Cillizza’s blog at the Washington Post. That ramps up the liklihood that he’ll add Blue Jersey to his state blog roll again this year. Ad that helps drive our traffic. Thanks! It’s probably not too late to join the fun

It’s a good time to let you know what else you can do for your homeblog. All easy, and free, but incredibly important.

Log in. Every time you visit. Let us know you’re there.





side, and their care and feeding (along with the site’s) requires a seven-figure budget. Where does the money come from? Almost entirely from ads, which in turn depend on a huge number of page-views and a healthy group of advertisers willing to pay to reach those readers. Many political communicators have come to realize that starting a blog is not a casual ac

Iowa gets marriage equality

New York Times:

The Iowa Supreme Court says the state’s same-sex marriage ban violates the constitutional rights of gay and lesbian couples, making it the third state where gay marriage is legal.

Iowa. Freaking Iowa.

I mean, I’m happy for people in that state. Good on them. But I want leadership in my own state of New Jersey, which has earned its reputation for progress.

I have a Governor who says he will sign Marriage Equality if it comes before him. Where is my Senate?  

Vote for Blue Jersey or the terrorists win

Can you spare about 40 seconds to do a solid for Blue Jersey?

Chris Cillizza, who writes the political blog The Fix, for the Washington Post’s website is freshening up his blogroll for state political blogs, and asking readers to chime in on their favorites.

Last year’s blogroll included Blue Jersey and PolitickerNJ for this state, and this year – as intrepid SmartyJones points out – the Republican-loving blog Save Jersey is racking up a few mentions (and so are we). Please get your growl on and help us get some good mentions, and leave the Save Jerseyites in our dust.

Here’s what you can do: Visit The Fix and drop into their Comment section and post one mentioning us.

The Fix is worth checking out anyway, and we sure would appreciate it.  

Rob Andrews declares for Governor

Standing in front of his Haddon Heights home at 11am this morning, and surrounded by what he admitted was a hastily-assembled group of supporters, Rob Andrews announced he will give up his seat in Congress representing NJ’s 1st Congressional District, and challenge Jon Corzine for his party’s nomination for Governor.

From his statement:

I did not intend, or plan, to challenge my Governor in the primary process. I do so with regret, and respect. But New Jersey needs fresh stewardship, and new ideas. I have decided that I will place my name and my credentials before the people of New Jersey to serve as their new Governor. The people of New Jersey deserve to choose their governor. With respect for Governor Corzine and his public service, I will offer them that choice in this historic year of change, of challenge and of opportunity.

The news was a surprise, even for Andrews, who made headlines – and not a few enemies – with an unexpected primary challenge to Senator Frank Lautenberg, just days after promising the entire NJ Democratic delegation that he would not. The acrimonious nature of the race, including repeated references to the incumbent’s age (Lautenberg was 84, Andrews 50) forced Democrats to take sides. Most sided with the eventual winner, Lautenberg, but the process may have further alienated South Jersey Democrats from their counterparts further north. It also damaged Andrews’ credibility quotient, with wife Camille Andrews accused of merely keeping his seat warm for him in the event of his failure to capture the nomination from Lautenberg. When he lost, badly, to his elder, he did indeed return to that seat he swore he was done with.

Last year’s race was largely seen as Andrews’ test-run at a real state-wide campaign this year, but after a crushing defeat by a Senator he had made out to be, well, addled and well past his prime, the conventional wisdom was that he’d learned a lesson, and would live to fight another day.

A day perhaps come rather sooner than is convenient for Corzine. It’s a bad time to be an incumbent governor with the economy – state and national – in the shape it’s in. And that has been reflected in bad polling news for the Governor.

A trio of state Senators introduced Andrews to the group; Ray Lesniak, Joe Vitale and Bob Smith, who were in turn brought to the microphone by Asm John Wisniewski. Newark Democratic powerbroker Steve Adubato was there but did not speak. SJ Democratic Chairs Beach, Angelini and Perr and Norcross were also not called to the microphone. Today’s announcement is seen as another sharp challenge to the balance of power by Norcross.

Barbara Buono, who endorsed Andrews last year, was not there. She is rumored to be on Corzine’s shortlist for Lieutenant Governor. Democratic heavy-hitters who endorsed Andrews in ’08, but were missing from this morning’s announcement, included included Majority Leader Steve Sweeney, and Speaker Joe Roberts. Andrews mentioned both in his remarks, expressing deep respect, and that both had been informed late last night of his intentions.

Andrews’ track record over the last year is widely seen as hubris, over-reaching and a notable failure of an ascendant South Jersey politician to capture the Senate seat in the name of the power structure in South Jersey. There was considerable resentment inside the Democratic Party, but particularly inside the Democratic Congressional delegation, with Pascrell and Pallone the most vocal.

Andrews briefly flirted last year with the possibility of leaving politics altogether and going to Goldman Sachs which, ironically, Corzine used to run. But now, the loss of support among his House colleagues – not to mention what Lautenberg may think of him – may be a factor in Andrews’ choice to switch playing fields entirely, and compete with an incumbent Governor struggling with a national economy in freefall, a mountain of inherited state debt, and a likely challenger, Chris Christie, who fashions himself a heroic corruption-buster.


Last night’s DFA parties in NJ & Howard Dean’s new mission

I don’t have health insurance. Is it possible 1.4 million New Jerseyans aren’t insured? Are you?

Last night, Howard Dean rolled out an initiative on health care on the occasion of his return to the organization he founded – Democracy for America – and its fifth birthday. NJ DFA members and allies, including Gov. Corzine, were at gatherings all over the state and connected on a national conference call.

Corzine at DFA Party

There was outrage in some quarters when President Obama passed Dean over for HHS Secretary once, then again. But Dean has a history of walking right past disappointment and finding alternative ways to make change. This time he navigates right between those demanding nothing less than single-payer and the culture of those worried that that would mean losing their own insurance options, and suggests we can accommodate both.

Dean lauded President Obama’s actions on health care reform, and the president’s assertion that those who like their current health insurance policies should be able to keep them. Dean’s focus is on pressuring Congress to make sure there is a public insurance option for those who cannot get, or cannot afford private health insurance. An option to buy-in to a Medicare-style insurance coverage.

The health care system is broken, even for those who are covered, some of whom find themselves denied coverage when they get sick, can’t get coverage for pre-existing conditions, or get private insurance where their dollars are funneled into profit-making for the insurance company. We know that, and it’s revolting, that this country cannot do better.

Dean anticipates using DFA’s million-strong email list to generate a quarter-million petition signatures, clearly aiming to pressure Congress for a public option, and perhaps to encourage Obama not to step back in that resolve. Much of DFA’s focus over the next year will be about this, including here, with canvasses, house parties and lobbying among the tactics.

Sign the petition.

New Jersey was well-noticed in last night’s Dean hook-up. There were several mentions that Corzine was in attendance, at the party in Hawthorne organized by Jeff Gardner, where Corzine spoke for 30 minutes in a packed house of about 75 people. And DFA presented three stories, recorded in the voice of DFA activists, telling Dean what he’s missed since he’s been gone from DFA for 4 years. One of them was mine, about how we used both DFA and Dean’s 50-State Strategy to win in crimson red Flemington. The New Jersey story and the rest of the call are here.

Full-disclosure: Jeff Gardner & I are both co-Chairs of DFA-NJ, and staff members here. Blue Jersey & DFA are separate entities, but there sure is a lot of cross-over.

A Victory Garden in Flemington

Let us know if community gardens are popping up by you too- – Rosi

Today, next to her kids’ shiny new swingset, Michelle Obama will begin digging for a little vegetable garden, the first food-producing garden at the White House since Eleanor Roosevelt planted her Victory Garden.

Cilantro, tomatilloes, hot peppers. Lettuces. Spinach, chard, collards, kale. Berries. Herbs and heirloom tomatoes. That’s what the Obamas will plant, alongside school children and a local-foods expert the family brought to Washington.

On Monday night, some people in Hunterdon will ask Flemington Borough Council for permission to plant on a grassy plot by one of its water towers. Iff they say yes, we’ll plant an organic garden we’ll call The Victory Garden.

It will be a community garden, meaning many will participate, growing things together on one blessed, slightly sloping piece of land.

How is this political? This idea emerged from a group I’ve worked with for five years, Hunterdon’s Democracy for America (DFA). These folks have become a permanent progressive community where – believe me – nobody expected one.

The group’s met in the same hip little coffeehouse since 2004 in Flemington, a red town in a red county. We’ve made that town a kind of workshop for grassroots action. A tipping point came one frigid February day in 2007. That same heady night, the first candidate to emerge wholly from Hunterdon DFA, announced she’d run next. And with that win, this town’s direction shifted. Democrats now drive the agenda.

None of them owe us anything; they owe their voters more. But we hope that this new Council will see The Victory Garden as an opportunity to strengthen community bonds, improve nutrition and environmental awareness, and provide for our neighbors in need, some of whom will tend garden and some simply receive good food.

This feels like a very American, progressive and patriotic thing to do right now, and we’re encouraged by how many people show up ready to work and advise. We have a new President who speaks of self-reliance, community-building, and responsibility for the people around us. The economy is dark, and the times are challenging. But we remember our elders and the resourcefulness, how 20 million Americans on the homefront produced up to 40% of the vegetables consumed nationally.

Community gardens are popping up all over, in nearby Readington, East Amwell, maybe in High Bridge. The Victory Garden, if we get the land, will have a built-in mission of addressing some of the needs of people living paycheck-to-paycheck, or worse. If you’re a local, join us Monday.

Does this get you thinking about NJ’s incumbents?

Blue Jersey Radio’s excellent interview with Jeff Hauser is here.  

When Accountability Now – a new national PAC – rolled out a couple of weeks ago, there were some dustups about what its purpose was. Were founders like Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos and Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake and the high-octane groups aligning with them really going flat out after moderate electeds of their own party? That’s the kind of thing some of the headlines suggested.

But Accountability Now’s new Executive Director Jeff Hauser, who ran Dennis Shulman’s interesting but ultimately unsuccessful challenge to Rep. Scott Garrett last year, has it clear:

He talks about watching Democrats, the new power, being showered with lobbyist attention, and the risk that incumbents of his own party might begin to toe K Street’s line or succumb to D.C. groupthink, just like Republicans did. The rationale makes sense. Incumbency is a cushy advantage; reelection almost a reflexive privilege. That leaves incumbents vulnerable to losing touch with their own districts, and caving to the demands of corporate interests. The organizational support AN hopes to provide – to challengers – is designed to making it more likely that if incumbents get out of touch they’ll have a serious primary challenge.  It’s designed to get them looking over their shoulder and not too comfortably. Incumbents doing right by their districts, he says, have little to fear from AN.

How will AN zero in on their targets? Watershed votes on issues like economic recovery, the budget, healthcare, Employee Free Choice, energy/climate change and immigration reform will be watched. And polling will study the districts.

Hauser sat down for an on line chat with Blue Jersey yesterday. He calls the current system dysfunctional:

[snip] Unlike you or I, who are reviewed in our work constantly, members of Congress too often get a free pass.

AN wants to connect prospective candidates – viable candidates with fundraising mojo or the clear ability to attract resources – with national, people-powered movements, like MoveOn, SEIU, DailyKos,, 21st Century Democrats and BlogPAC. And Democracy for America (DFA).

DFA Chair Jim Dean called in on Blue Jersey Radio last night, to underscore DFA’s enthusiasm for the way vigorous primaries empower voters. Dean:

If this party embraces that, we’re going to be around end prosper for a long time. But if it reverts to the power of incumbency we saw during the Clinton administration we’re going to be out on our ass.

Jersey City Independent launches

What with shrinking news holes, drastic staff cuts, struggling news bureaus, looming financial crisis, brethren in the online world facing uphill struggles and poignant efforts to rescue the traditional newspapers we all grew up with, it’s been a demoralizing year for New Jerseyans who depend on newspapers to help them comprehend and analyze the world – and the state – we live in.

Today, in one corner of the Garden State – Jersey City – a handful of journalists officially flipped the light switch on in a new venture, a non-profit website covering that city’s news, politics and culture: The Jersey City Independent. Some of you may remember City Belt, the progressive independent news site, also based in Jersey City. This is largely the same team, and their background is wide-ranging, including alt-weeklies, community newspapers, online news outlets, media research, video production and grassroots service organizations in New Jersey, Los Angeles, Beirut and Bogotá, Colombia.

Sometimes there’s a little ham-handedness when news organizations endeavor to slip tentative, figurative toes into internet waters. But by contrast, the JCI founders are accustomed to presenting information on the interwebs and – bonus – have background in the rich tradition of alternative weeklies, a sometimes saving grace for intelligent readers in the cities lucky enough to have them.

With the Jersey Journal in apparent trouble, here’s hoping JCI adds some vitality to the news scene in the state’s second largest city.