The NJ Democratic State Committee has not endorsed anyone for president. Chairman Joe Cryan, Governor Jon Corzine, Senator Bob Menendez, and most of the rest of the state party leadership support Hillary Clinton. There are Democratic State Committee members who support and are delegates for other candidates, but the Democratic Committee itself has not endorsed anyone (I’m not even sure if they can).
Despite having a contested primary, it appears as though the state committee is using its resources to support one Democratic candidate and one Democratic candidate only: Hillary Clinton. In December, the committee asked that Hillary Clinton be given unfair preferential placement on primary ballots – in violation of DNC rules (and any common sense democratic standard). Luckily, they soon changed course and requested a random draw instead.
This is simply the way things have always been done. Until party activists pointed out the gross unfairness of this practice – causing the DNC and other presidential campaigns to speak up – either nobody ever questioned it, or the questions weren’t loud enough to warrant answers.
As a blogger, I’m on the media list for various groups, candidates, etc, including the Democratic State Committee. I’ve received hundreds of emails from the DSC’s communications director over the last 2+ years. They’re about local, county, congressional and presidential candidates or elected officials. Sometimes they’re simply forwards of interesting articles. I searched through my inbox for the last 9 months of emails I’ve received. Below, I’m including the date and subject line of only those emails that mention any presidential candidate:
Jan 19, 2008: NJ Hillary – Advance Advisory
Jan 11, 2008: Hillary’s Aggressive Economic Plan
Jan 10, 2008: Hillary NJ Media Contact
Jan 9, 2008: Hillary News Call-In
Dec 12, 2007: President Clinton In NJ Tonight
Nov 1, 2007: Firefighters Protest Giuliani In NJ
Sept 7, 2007: The Full List [full list of Hillary Clinton NJ endorsements]
Sept 7, 2007: more endorsements for Hillary
Sept 5, 2007: H Clinton: Planning Advisory
Aug 31, 2007: Hillary Brings Fall Campaign to Jersey
Aug 29, 2007: Clinton to Attend DSC Conference
Aug 14, 2007: Clinton Names Kominsky [New Jersey State Director]
June 27, 2007: When Elizabeth Met Ann
June 22, 2007: Albio for Hillary
June 12, 2007: Menendez & H Clinton [endorsement]
June 8, 2007: The counting’s done…it’s $2.1 million!!! [announcing Clinton fundraiser results]
June 5, 2007: Bill Clinton
June 1, 2007: President Clinton
Only two of these – one about Elizabeth Edwards (June 27) and another about Rudy 9u11iani (Nov 1) – were not about Hillary Clinton or her husband.
It’s possible this is a failing of the non-Clinton campaigns to take advantage of the DSC resources the way they could or should be doing. Have they reached out to the DSC and requested that their news be circulated to the media, too? I don’t know if they have on a regular basis, but I do know that the DSC has received at least one Obama-related press release, and did not forward it to the media (or at least, did not forward it to us at Blue Jersey). It seems quite likely that the campaigns no longer bother to ask because they assume the answer is “No.” If that’s the unspoken message being sent by the DSC, that’s even worse.
But even if the other campaigns are dropping the ball, that’s no excuse. Regardless of any endorsements, the Democratic party’s role is to advocate for Democratic party candidates, not to play favorites in a primary.
John Edwards enjoys the support of Senators Dick Codey and Joe Vitale. Barack Obama has been endorsed by Bill Bradley, Congressman Steve Rothman, Senator Loretta Weinberg and Mayors Cory Booker and Jerramiah Healy. I didn’t receive notice about any of these things from the DSC, but I did get a one-line email on Jan 10th telling me who the New Jersey for Hillary media contact is. I’m also on Hillary Clinton’s campaign press list, and I did not receive this particular email from them, so it doesn’t appear to be a forward, but rather an original email. By contrast, an email received the day before titled “Hillary News Call-In” was the same as one received directly from the Clinton campaign. So it appears some of these emails are forwards while others are not.
The stated reason for moving up our primary was to make New Jersey relevant in the presidential nomination process. Success! New Jersey voters are being paid more attention (and respect) by the presidential candidates than ever before.
For example, Barack Obama recently visited the state for a rally attended by thousands. And yet, the state party didn’t see fit to share that news with the media. They also didn’t use their official email list to inform rank-and-file Democrats of the visit. How can it be that a viable, high-profile presidential candidate comes to the state for a free rally, but neither the media nor the voters are told about it?
While polls have shown Clinton with a healthy lead in New Jersey, the activist class of the Democratic Party has largely bucked that trend. In early December, John Edwards won a mock caucus with Barack Obama coming in a close second. A straw poll conducted in Montclair earlier this week showed Obama with almost twice the support of Clinton and Edwards. Just yesterday, the Princeton Community Democratic Organization held an endorsement vote where Barack Obama received 48%, Hillary Clinton 31% and John Edwards 9% (nobody received the 60% required for a formal endorsement).
None of this is meant to suggest that the party should be pushing either Edwards or Obama instead. They shouldn’t. But by apparently promoting one candidate over another, the state party appears to be completely out of touch with their own activist base. I would argue that is a dangerous position for any political party to put itself in.
I have been told that those emails about the presidential campaigns sent out by the communications director are sent from a personal email address, not an “official” email address, meaning that they’re not “official” DSC communications.
But the official press releases – the ones that list the communications director as the contact – are sent from the very same “personal” email address. It begs the question: How are media who receive these emails supposed to know what is an “official” DSC press release and what is not? On the other hand, since all these press releases come from a personal email address and if none of them are “official” and part of the job, is the communications director being placed in an untenable position of not being able to distinguish between his own personal emails and those the DSC will stand behind?
This all seems too convoluted by half, and the complex explanations seem like the DSC trying to have it both ways.
Two more points. I’m not alleging or even hinting that anything illegal has occurred. I don’t think that’s the case. But I believe it’s unfair for the party to give preferential treatment to one candidate over all others. Finally, I understand that this is just the way things have always been done, and I know that for many people I’m not breaking any news here. Overcoming this kind of institutional inertia isn’t easy, but it doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be done. If this party wants to remain relevant, it needs to become more open, fair, responsive and (small-d) democratic.