Tag Archive: Dennis Shulman

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, ColorOfChange.org, 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.

Employee “card check” and New Jersey

I thought this guest post by Dennis Shulman, last year’s NJ5 Democratic candidate for Congress,  at Down With Tyranny was pretty interesting.   He describes how, even in New Jersey, there’s heavy anti-union pressure:

Too many times during the last year, at campaign fund raisers, people who had large interests in manufacturing would approach me to ‘discuss’ my position on the Employee Free Choice Act. Although my factory experience from the 1960’s outweighed the pressure exerted in 2008 every time, the campaign system favors manufacturers with money to contribute to the candidate. Let us hope as EFCA is being discussed and voted on in Congress this week that our representatives vote for what is right and fair and in the best interest of our nation, and not for what is personally lucrative.

What Shulman encountered was condemned by Adam Smith himself, the hero of free market economics:

People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.

My Thoughts: Twelve Days Later

This was a remarkable year.

A year that was peopled by thousands.

A year that found me:

In countless county and neighborhood fairs;

In Capitol Hill offices and parties;

At high school football games;

Marching in parades on Memorial Day, July Fourth, and Halloween, surrounded by enthusiastic supporters and some not-so-well-wishers;

On the pages of the New York Times and the New Yorker, on Blue Jersey, the Huffington Post, and the Daily Kos;

In campaign caravans rushing from Alpine to Phillipsburg;

In a union hall speaking to a hundred or so sheet metal apprentices, after investing five years of their life mastering their trade, unsure now if there will be work when they graduate;

In spacious living rooms, sipping champagne and munching hors d’oeuvres with governors and senators;

In Ringwood, touring a desolate track of land poisoned by Ford, surrounded by the Ramapo Mountain Indians who were this land’s owners, its victims, its defenders.

This was truly a remarkable year.

And what I heard wherever I traveled this year was that people, whether affluent or impoverished, young or the retired, Republican or Democrat, were worried — worried about their children, worried about their future, worried about our country.

Political campaigns these days have a way, too often, of getting lost in the contest between the two individuals vying for the seat. They become something closer to a food fight than a comparison of ideas and issues and alternative visions for America’

s future. They become a competition about “Gotcha,” and in the process the more personal accusations drown out the political differences that really do matter. There are many reasons why this happens in this political climate, many reasons why this happened in the congressional race between Scott Garrett and myself, but that analysis is for another time and another place.

This race for the United States House of Representatives in NJ-5 should not have been about Scott Garrett or Dennis Shulman. It should have been about the contrasting political ideology and moral vision of the opponents. It should have been about the future of America. It should have been about the soul of our country and of our district.

It should have been about global warming and alternatives to oil and gas — whether we should support increases in fuel efficiency and investment in wind, solar, and bio fuels.

It should have been about stem cell research — whether we should provide the scientific community an incentive and the freedom to do the research here in the United States that could offer hope and cure for people with Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s, and spinal cord injuries.

It should have been about taxes — whether any representative who voted for a war that is costing us ten billion dollars a month, who voted against the Alternative Minimum Tax every time it came to the House floor, and voted for every one of the Bush budgets could honestly claim to be a fiscal conservative and a tax cutter.

It should have been about healthcare  for children — whether there was any moral justification for a congressman or congresswoman who makes more than 165 thousand dollars a year accepting a premium healthcare plan paid fully by federal funds for his or her family, but votes to deny healthcare to a family of four who makes twenty-five thousand dollars a year living in Dumont or Cresskill or Newton.

It should have been about reproductive choice — whether the people in this district agree with the incumbent that abortions should be illegal even when the pregnant woman was a victim of rape or of incest.

It should have been about our sacred responsibility to our young men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan — whether we should support any congressman or congresswoman who would vote against medical benefits and other needed services for our disabled vets, and against tuition and housing benefits for those who returned to us able bodied.

Instead, sadly, incredibly, ridiculously, our election was about whether I was patriotic enough or in league with terrorists, and whether Scott Garrett had a farm or just a tax dodge.

Would the results on November 4th have been different if this election were about the comparative moral vision and political sensibilities of the candidates? I don’t know.

But what I do know from this extraordinary year of my life is that everyone I met, irrespective of where they lived in the district and where they sat on the political spectrum, believed that the past eight years have been disastrous years — that these have been years when our great and beloved nation has lost its way, and that we, as a nation, are certainly better than this.

Although I will not be taking a seat in Congress in January, I am hopeful about our country. I am hopeful that, with a new president and with Scott Garrett’s positions becoming even more marginalized in the House, that our country will again find its way.

To all, in this past year, whom I have touched, and who have touched me:

Thank you.

What’s Next in NJ-5?

After a disappointing 14% loss in a year when Democrats made gains all across the country NJ-5 can seem like a lost cause.  At the least, I thought we would build upon Paul Aronsohn’s gains and put Garrett in a vulnerable position going into 2010 and redistricting.  Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and will make national and statewide support more unlikely in the next election cycle.  That’s fine, as Assemblywoman Stender learned the hard way, you can’t win elections without the interests within the district being organized and motivated.  

There are several steps that can be taken to building an infrastructure, with an emphasis on a town-by-town basis, to keep constituents aware of Garrett’s abysmal record and allow the candidate in 2010 to hit the ground running with a fully functioning field operation.  

To start I think we need a district blog, which can hopefully recruit bloggers from this site that can cover all of the geographic regions of the district.  By recruiting local bloggers from separate parts of the district we can establish what the concerns are on the local level and give the eventual candidate a platform of issues (and hopefully shortcomings on Garrett’s part) that the eventual nominee can exploit.  Moreover, we can recruit local Democratic Mayors and elected officials to author Op-Eds on the site to voice their concerns and raise the issues that Garrett isn’t delivering on.      

What happened in the Fifth?

With one of us being a resident of the fifth district and having to be represented by the odious Scott Garrett, we had hopes that this may be the year that he would be sent home for good.  However, even with polls indicating that the race was closing and closing fast over the last few weeks, as well as a pretty unfavorable view of the incumbent Garrett, major endorsements for challenger Dennis Shulman (a candidate with one of the best backgrounds, personalities and personal stories of this entire cycle) and events with prominent and popular Democratic Congressmen and Senators, three debates where Garrett looked the damn fool and a final week influx of $85,000 by the DCCC, the final results ended up being closer to 2004 than continuing to close the gap that 2006 challenger Paul Aronsohn was able to cut to near single digits.

And with this, we started to wonder how a race that, by many accounts, was potentially a tossup, ended up a 14% rout.

While trying to analyze the results, the campaigns that both Shulman and Garrett ran – including the late-in-the-game influx of disgraceful ads paid for by the NRCC and the results of past races, we came up with more questions than answers. The biggest and first question is whether this district is even remotely winnable by a Democrat.  We say this not as fatalists, but as people who have realized the value that building up a sustainable infrastructure can bring, as people who know how very different each county is within the district and as people who can sense some very basic flaws in what little infrastructure has been built up in the district.  On a more fundamental level, we wonder if the Fifth has earned the respect to receive an earlier endorsement as a “Red to Blue” district or earlier financial support from the DCCC – both of which could have certainly helped, but the distinction and funds may have also been better served in more winnable races earlier in the cycle.

Before looking at the vote breakdown, and trying to see where things could have changed in this cycle, it is fairly evident that the district will be extremely tough to win in one cycle – especially if we don’t start to build up critical infrastructure now.  In Bergen County, the BCDO is a mess, to say the least, with Ferriero in, shall we say, “hot water,” and no indication as to if or when he will step down from his Chairmanship.  With this matter still in limbo, it would be very difficult for a Democrat to run on a “clean government” platform and be taken seriously enough to flip a 53/47 deficit to a 52/48 win in the county.  It isn’t an accident that there was such a disappointment that even the top Democratic Freeholders saw a near 20% dropoff in her votes from Obama, as noted today in the Bergen Record.

Dennis Shulman’s “Victory”/Concession Speech

This is the inspiring speech that was delivered on Tuesday night.  (The first three minutes are missing due to YouTube time limits).

Garrett can only become weaker as more and more of his constituents discover what/who he truly is.   I hope Shulman comes back strong in 2010 and completes the job he started this year.

Washington Post on NJ heading into Election Day

Here’s what the Washington Post has to say about the state of the election heading into the big day:

Obama should win with little difficulty in this reliably Democratic state, but two House seats are tossups, and a third is a potential upset. In the 3rd District, GOP Rep. H. James Saxton is retiring after 12 terms, but Democratic challenger John Adler, a state senator from Cherry Hill, has strong party backing and has assembled one of the best field organizations in the country against Chris Myers, a Lockheed Martin executive and Republican mayor of Medford.

The 7th District, also a GOP-created vacancy, had been viewed as friendlier to Republicans, but Democratic state legislator Linda Stender has proven a tough competitor against state Sen. Leonard Lance. Republicans are less worried about, but still distracted by, the 5th District race, featuring Dennis Shulman, a blind rabbi endorsed by New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (I), against GOP Rep. Scott Garrett. Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg is expected to win easily over former congressman Dick Zimmer.

Lets hope that field organization pulls Adler across the finish line in NJ-3 and the Republicans are so distracted by the Shulman campaign in the 5th, they lose both NJ-5 and NJ-7.  Best of luck to all of our campaigns.

Swing State Project Upgrades Shulman

The momentum continues:

NJ-05 (Garrett): Likely Republican to Lean Republican

This expensive, Republican-leaning district on New Jersey’s northern border was always going to be a tough nut to crack. But it looks like rabbi & psychologist Dennis Shulman has closed a lot of ground with uber-wingnut Scott Garrett and could be poised to deliver an upset. Shulman, a first-time candidate, has raised almost a million bucks and just got a dose of help from the DCCC.

He’s also gotten under Garrett’s skin, prompting shrill freak-outs and bizarre attacks. The only public polls of this race (by R2K) showed nice momentum for Shulman, while Garrett dangled below 50. It would still be an upset if Shulman were to win here, but a Dem victory now looks much more possible than at any time in the past. (David)

And from the final race ratings at dailykos:

NJ-05 Garrett: Leans Republican

Shulman has incredible momentum at the moment, and with a week or two more this could be a tossup. As it is, he stands a legitimate shot at pulling off the upset here.

It has been a great rise to a legitimate shot at flipping the seat for this campaign.  If you are in the area and want to help put them over the top, you can click here to volunteer to GOTV on election day.