Tag Archive: Bergen County

Palm, meet forehead. Bergen edition.

Being a Democrat in Bergen County isn’t easy.  The spectacular demise of the “party machine” that had a stranglehold on the political offices still has its remnants and ghosts roaming the halls and thoughts of the Democratic Party.  Sure, there was a successful election last year and there very well could be another successful showing this coming November on the County level, but the way that the Congressional race was mishandled is one of a number of things showing that the “new new” Bergen Democratic leadership isn’t really ready for prime time, and that “the other Party is worse” can only get you so far.

Witness the whole “pay-to-play” hand wringing from a few years ago – a “crackdown” that was finally passed once the Bergen Republicans forced the issue to a vote – even a watered down “crackdown” that was ultimately enacted.  In the shadows of this mess that was the biggest symptom of the BCDO’s hubris and implosion comes some frustration at an issue that, if the BCDODCBC was out in front on, could show that they are serious about governing again.

Sadly, that doesn’t appear to be the case as noted in Charlie Stile’s column the other day.

While I am taking great joy in seeing Bergen County Republican Party Chairman Bob Yudin complaining about how the watered down rules have made it hard to get their message out without greasing the palms of those who would do quid-pro-quo favors and how money essentially equals First Amendment rights, I would have hoped for a strong response and distinction from this by Lou Stellato, Chairman of the BCDODCBC.  Even moreso when the County-favored Candidate for Congress, Adam Gussen, is known by many “who know” to at least have some ties to the old-Ferriero guard – it gives a bigger and better opportunity to move forward in a new direction; a direction that is “for the people of Bergen County”.

Stellato, while not landing in the same camp as his Republican Party counterpart, did say that the rules made it “difficult to raise money”, and also wondered if County Law can supersede State law.  Both may be valid points, but as the leader of a Party that he inherited in much disarray, and among questions as to the new direction, vision and goals, there could have been a better choice of words – especially at a time when words are more powerful in terms of becoming campaign issues that can really really help the Party.

Rowan Trustees Funded Attack Ad Against Senator Lautenberg Using Norcross Machine PAC

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In may not be so surprising in light of new evidence that the Rutgers-Rowan Merger was a done deal before Christie and Norcross pretended to be advised that Rowan Trustees are giving money to a Norcross Machine Political Action Committee. From the Star Ledger:

If anyone missed the blast e-mail of Senate President Stephen Sweeney’s broadside against U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) for criticizing the takeover of Rutgers-Camden by Rowan University, they may well have seen the ad on PolitickerNJ.com – paid for by the Leaders Fund, a South Jersey PAC.

The Auditor has discovered several Rowan trustees helped pay for the ad. Martin McKernan and Nick Petroni have given $6,000 and $4,000, respectively, to the PAC since 2009. Plumbers and Pipefitters 322, whose business manager, James Kehoe, is another trustee, has donated $13,200 over the same period.

But don’t worry Rowan University is not going to be a tool for the machine and the merger is not about Norcross’ Cooper getting a bailout after DRPAesque financial mismanagement. Don’t worry.

And what about the “Leaders Fund”?

The importance and impact of Congressional races

I’ve been meaning to write something of this nature for a while now, and while my thoughts are somewhat general and somewhat specific to my hometown Bergen County, I’ll try to mix in both specific thoughts as well as general views.


The Congressional race is every other year – the only National level race that is so frequent.  The Congressional candidate (or sitting Congressman/Woman) is probably one of the highest profile politicians in the County Democratic Party.  This person has a somewhat direct line and potential influence with the State Democratic Party, the County Democratic Party and in many instances, the US Senators and Executive Branch (not to mention the DCCC or DNC).


When a County Party is in disarray, there is a ripple effect both up and down ballot.  There is an enthusiasm gap that impacts the County races (Freeholder, Clerk, Sheriff, County Executive) and also races from Town Council to School Board – who can become the next Town Councilperson who can become the next Freeholder Candidate who can become the next State Assembly or Senate Candidate or….the next Congressman/woman.  On the other hand, depressed enthusiasm and lower volunteering lead to lower voter turnout and can tip elections on a local, County, State or even the US Senate or Presidential race – if you look at a County that is as large as Bergen for example.


This leads to a stronger (or weaker) bench, directly impact the viability of the next County, Statewide or Congressional race and also indirectly impact these races for the next few cycles at a minimum.  Banking on “the other side being worse” is a short term fix at best and shows no long term vision (case in point:  tell me where there is any platform or agenda on the BCDODCBC website).


Taking this to the example I know so well – let’s take a look at a few things.  The Ferriero-led Party blew up and crashed under the weight of pay-to-play, corruption and a focus on keeping certain Democrats elected at the expense of the good of the County (and State) Party.  There was little focus or support on the Congressional race – even though Bergen is home to the overwhelming majority of Congressional District voters.  The lack of an articulated vision is still lacking from any visible correspondence or as noted above – the County Party web site. 


After the 2008 election, there was no desire to recruit or groom a Congressional Candidate – due to many factors but even in good times (see 2012’s “good times” as an example), this is hardly a focus.  Redistricting played a role, but the “bench” got swept out of office in 2009 and 2010 (which was an unmitigated disaster on the Congressional level).  I’m not sure how this impacted the Town Council races but I don’t believe there were any gains made on the State level to go along with the highly touted “comeback sweep” in the 2011 County elections. 


But I can say this:  even with 2010 being a “wave election”, another 10,000 votes overall or so (or a swing of 5,000) could have turned the Republican clean sweep into either a mixed bag or a near full hold by the Bergen County Democrats.  And while that seems like a lot, this article notes that less than 50% of close to 500,000 eligible voters in the County actually voted in the County races – and the Congressional Candidate received a bit more than half of the votes that were cast for either the County Executive or the Sheriff race.


Tell me that you don’t think that the potential wasn’t there to at least have a much better showing – even with all of the inherent flaws and forces working against Bergen County Democrats?  Certainly, the Congressional race was a lost cause and yes, those totals didn’t include the entire County but really?  The other Congressional race – with an incumbent who had the “highest profile Democrat in the County” status – is now a heated primary with yet again, nobody that stepped up or was groomed from 2010 (redistricting aside as you HAVE to plan for something like this) we now have a similar situation on the Congressional level, where the only candidate to appear on the County ballot is the Deputy Mayor of a town that was just added to the Congressional District. 


What’s more, word is already circulating about Democrats in Sussex and Warren Counties hesitant to back this candidate now.  There is a real chance to regain a couple of the Countywide Freeholder seats in November.  In fact, a strong Congressional candidate and a strong platform for the County Party would have gone a long way towards helping Senator Menendez and President Obama in their re-election efforts.  It would have had a ripple effect on the County and local races, and could build momentum for the next wave of leaders.


But it takes commitment and dedication to ideas and values – not just winning some of the next races in the upcoming election.  That will motivate people to get involved.  And the Congressional race is the lynchpin of all of this – it is the only thing that has such an impact up ticket and down ballot with such consistency.  It is the only race that can bring activists together to help and get involved on a local and national level.


Look at a strong County Party and you’ll likely find good solid Congressional races, incumbents or candidates.  Look at County Parties in disarray and you are likely to see a lack of consideration for fielding consistently strong Congressional candidates. 


All politics is local, but this year’s local officeholders are next year’s potential leaders.


How to demotivate activists and lose elections

Hi, my name is Adam L. I live in Bergen County and I have a problem.

I am exactly the type of person who should be writing this kind of post, and sadly, am precisely the kind of person that the Bergen County Democratic Organization, er, the “new name, same garbage” Democratic Committee of Bergen County should be alarmed is writing this kind of post.

I moved to the fifth legislative district in August 2006, just in time to do a bit of volunteering for Paul Aronsohn’s campaign against Scott Garrett – one of the very worst members of Congress.  I knew nothing about the brewing disaster that Joe Ferriero’s tenure was about to unleash on the County Democratic Party apparatus.  I was able to get a bit more involved in 2008 for Dennis Shulman’s campaign, and started to realize the rot that was forming in the County Party during the following year when I was able to help with the Governor race, the local Assembly race and get more involved in Retire Garrett, the mess of the 2010 Congressional race, the Freeholder race and ultimately getting on the County Committee.

With the recent redistricting and the “new new” leadership of the BCDODCBC, there was hope that with time to prepare, a somewhat better district, a better environment to run and the County Party talking about “the right kind of candidate can defeat Scott Garrett” – I wouldn’t be writing this kind of post in March of the election year.

Alas, I was wrong.

First, there was talk of a potentially tasty showdown between Congressman Steve Rothman and Garrett.  A race that could very well have been won and a race that even the DCCC was willing to plunk down money to fight.  And that was over before we could even start thinking about how great a race that would be.

Then, there was the anticipation of Assemblywoman Wagner running – and the exposure that would bring along with a very solid candidate, who could also attract the attention that comes along with potentially being the only female in the NJ Congressional Delegation.  And unfortunately, Assemblywoman Wagner’s month long decision to “let us know next week” turned out to also be a “no-go”.

With the Giants winning the Super Bowl, the County Committee happened to turn the heat up on the speculation that former Giant great Harry Carson would run.  Certainly an unconventional choice but clearly one that would draw attention to the race like no one else could.  And after another few weeks of speculation, that fizzled out quickly.

Once more turning to the “anyone but the popular Freeholder from another County in the District” card, another relative outsider, Jim McQueeny, was quickly the “next great hope” before pulling out the day before the big announcement that he was in.

So here we are – an elected Freeholder who was clearly being pushed aside for a “better choice that never came” was possibly just waiting for that better choice to come along and then drop out, didn’t get the necessary signatures to be on the Bergen County ballot.  And the BCDODCBC never found that better choice in their minds – leading to months of motivated activists like myself wanting, hoping, waiting and imploring to help out in a race that we desperately want to win – clearly way more than Bergen County Democratic leadership wants to win.

This will also ultimately hurt the County races – not to mention the Senate race and Presidential race – and forget about the once again lost cause of a Congressional race.

With all of the time that could have been used for the least bit of planning (or contingency planning) and the development of a bench that clearly is severely lacking, it is baffling that we have seen these events yhis year.

I have two young kids and a full time job and precious little free time.  So, why would I want to help a County Party that doesn’t want to help itself?

I’m not afraid to fight Scott Garrett

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This past Saturday, I officially announced that I am a candidate for Congress in New Jersey’s 5th District. Our priority as Democrats right now must be finding the best candidate to unseat this extremist and get real representation in Congress – someone fighting for middle class values, not right wing ideologies.   I’m not afraid to fight Scott Garrett and his extreme positions that hurt middle class families across New Jersey and the 5th District.  During my three terms on the Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders I have worked across the aisle with Republicans and Democrats alike to get things done.  I will bring that same type of leadership to the halls of Congress.

We need common sense solutions, not partisan bickering.

I know what it takes to win in Republican territory.  In 2010, Democrats were swept out of office in record numbers across New Jersey and the nation.  This wasn’t the case in Passaic County.  On a ticket led by Congressman Pascrell, we bucked the national trend and were reelected by a strong margin – even with a popular Sheriff dropping out of the race only two months before Election Day.   We need a Democrat who can go into Republican territory and make a populist appeal to voters.  And most importantly, expose Congressman Garrett’s extreme record.

I know I am that candidate in 2012.

I want to join the ranks of giants like Senator Frank Lautenberg, Senator Bob Menendez and Congressman Bill Pascrell to put our nation back on track.  I will work with Democrats across the 5th District to ensure victories up-and-down the ballot. Now more than ever we need to come together and beat Scott Garrett.  I am going to need your help in the coming months talking to your neighbors, going door-to-door and  exposing Scott Garrett’s extreme record in Congress.  And I hope you’ll follow my campaign on Twitter and Facebook as we move forward.  

CD5 and CD3

I have lived in Northwestern New Jersey in CD5 for over 30 years, but for the last 9+ years I have had the misfortune of having Scott Garrett as my Representative in Congress. Assemblywoman Connie Wagner would be my choice to unseat him. Having served in the Assembly since 2008, representing the 38th District, she has proven to be a champion of progressive ideals and values. I also think that Connie will be able to raise a significant amount of money in order to compete against Garrett and the Tea Party money.

Dr. Tom Sacks-Wilner lives in Medford, CD3. For several years I have been a donor to Tom’s fundraising/bundling group. He is a person who raises money readily and efficiently. With an expansive donor base that he has fashioned, he can easily raise at least $6 million from now to November 6. His ability to fundraise will provide the mandatory funds needed to define Jon Runyan. He has been politically active behind the scenes, especially in progressive causes.

In light of the Republican-favorable redistricting, Connie and Tom would each have a mountain to climb to defeat their respective opponent; however the challenge is certainly not insurmountable. I believe both would make their races interesting, should they choose to run.  

In The Real World

I have decided to take lap top in hand and write my opinion as to Rothman’s decision to run in the new 9th district vs. the new 5th district after reading numerous newspaper articles and blogs. I am a municipal Chair who is supporting Rothman’s decision and here’s why:

When I first learned of the redistricting, I was infuriated to learn that some moron had split my town into two congressional districts.  How they were allowed to do this when it was probably against the law was beside me- Obviously no one ever challenged the actions in the past when Cities were divided and it probably would cost millions to take the decision on, even though, it is probably illegal what was done.  But New Jersey has a way of interpreting the laws as it sees fit and why should this time be any different- However I digress from the reason why I am on my lap top; and the second thought in my head was “Go Get Him, Rothman!” — him meaning Garrett.  

Then reality hit me hard.  It didn’t take more than a few minutes when I realized that Rothman would probably go for the newly drawn 9th district and here’s why in my opinion.

In a perfect scenario with the support of all Democrats coming out to vote in the new congressional 5th district, the republicans wouldn’t stand a chance.  

In a perfect scenario, it wouldn’t matter that the Republicans in Garrett’s original district come out in numbers that would shame most democratic voters, a Democrat would still win.

In a perfect scenario, it wouldn’t matter that the NRA, the Tea Party (probably backed by the Koch Brothers -who helped found the Tea Party and whose father founded the John Birch society) and other Good Ol’ boy businesses who will pour money into Garrett’s campaign like water through a sieve, because we could run a democrat against them who couldn’t possibly raise the monies Garrett’s cronies could but will still win against the Garrett machine.

In a perfect scenario, it wouldn’t matter that the Garrett’s backers would finance him regardless of the  question as to why they would want a Democrat in office- especially someone who is Jewish.  Because in a perfect scenario, it wouldn’t matter to the Good Ol boys of Sussex and Warren Counties in the political back rooms.

In a perfect scenario, Rothman would clobber Garrett, because good always triumphs — in the perfect scenario that is.

In the real world, any Democrat running against Garrett doesn’t stand a real chance in Hell of winning this race at this time.  Again, here’s why in my opinion-

One-Just the demographics alone illustrates the fact that there is a huge swath of very active voting Republicans –

Two- If you do enough reading and talking to people regarding the new 5th district, somewhere between 70-72% of the voting population is in Bergen County.  The remaining 26%- 28% are in the new Warren, Sussex and Passaic Counties.  And- the Republicans come out to VOTE  by heavy margins.

Three- If all of you can guarantee me that we can get 100% (alright- 95%) of all REGISTERED Democrats to come out and vote so that our Democratic Candidate could unseat Garrett- I will personally ask Steve Rothman to reconsider.

Four:  Anyone who is Jewish doesn’t stand a chance against the ultra – conservative Republicans who still refer to a Jewish candidate as “Jew Boy” or “the Heb”.  I am a Jew, and these people still refer to those of my religion in exactly those words- If I have had to hear them repeatedly throughout my lifetime, then by gosh, you are finally going to read those words.

However, in the real world, the best we could do with the new 5th, is to run a candidate against Garrett so that the Democrats could finally expose the man for what he truly is.  By doing that, we can severely dent his suit of armor and knock him off his horse.  However, he would probably still be standing.

The next time around in 2014, we could run a candidate against him, and then we could actually stand a chance in winning because he doesn’t have a steed under him anymore and his armor is destroyed.  Why—-because we kept up the attacks.

In a perfect world, Rothman should have run, even if he fell on the sword.

In the real world, that would never happen — Neither Rothman or Pascrell are willing to fall on the sword.

Based upon my experience in getting the Democrats out to vote, with all the anger amongst the Democrats towards the President and Congress, we are going to have a heck of a time getting them out to vote period!

I know because I have already spoken with people who are going to stay home if it’s a battle between Obama and Romney- that’s how disgusted the Dems are- Or some want a different Democratic candidate for President.

We, as leaders of the Democrats in Bergen County, will have our job cut out for us in just getting people to the polls in November to vote Democratic.

In the perfect scenario, regardless of who won in the 5th district, the constituents would have a Congressman/woman who would fight for them and represent them.

In the real world, that probably won’t happen for the 5th district- my district!

In the perfect scenario, regardless of who won in the 9th district, the constituents would have a Congressman who would fight for them and represent them, be it Rothman or Pascrell.

In the real world, that will happen for the 9th district!

So by the time Rothman called me to ask for my support in my (now) divided township,  I already knew what I would say– because I had already realized he had no other choice in the real world.

“Eyes Up Here”: Look up north to see if NJ D’s are serious

A lot has been said, both here at Blue Jersey and in the traditional media, about the recent Congressional redistricting – and more specifically with an eye on the new Fifth and Ninth Districts.  Here in the Fifth, where I (still) live, the District is better in terms of the ability to beat radical right winger Scott Garrett, but the District is still a fairly Republican district.  Where things are very interesting in terms of just how serious the New Jersey Democratic Party is, not to mention the national Democratic Party, lies right here in Bergen County.

When Rep. Steve Rothman decided to run against Rep. Bill Pascrell in the Ninth as opposed to running against Garrett, my thought on the bigger picture is that there will be a lot of money spent on a Democratic Primary (assuming there is one) that could have been much better spent knocking down one of the worst Representatives in the truest sense of the word “representative” in that Garrett does not represent the best interest of most of his constituents.

Playing In Dung And Tilting At A Windmill

Let’s face it. Republican strategist and lead member of the Republican contingent of the Congressional Redistricting Commission Michael DuHaime cleverly engineered a pile of dung in northern New Jersey with the likely result that one sitting Democratic Congressman would lose his seat while the 5th District would remain in Republican hands. No “fair fight” in that plan. With Rep. Steve Rothman’s decision to challenge Rep. Bill Pascrell in the new 9th District, DuHaime’s first wish is now a certainty. However, his second wish that Republican Rep. Scott Garrett would continue to rule in the 5th, even with more Democrats added to it, remains possible but not guaranteed.

It was the Republican plan which moved Rothman’s home town out of the 9th District to the new 5th District and 55% of his current constituents to the new 9th District. I don’t see any reason why Rothman should kowtow to the Republicans and take his battle  to the 5th where they have stacked the odds against him. By moving back to Englewood where he lived before and following the majority of his constituents he seeks to continue representing the 9th District and has a better than 50-50 chance to succeed. Either way, a Democrat will win in the new 9th.  

Speaking for Bergen County

We’re not very happy with this new map. Bergen, the most populous County, might not have a Congressman who actually lives in Bergen for the first time in years. Dividing Teaneck into two congressional districts does create problems in building community in a diverse town. Breaking up the African American community in the 37th district into two different congressional districts is also somewhat problematic to preserving a commonality of interests. We assume our Congressman Steve Rothman, a member of the Appropriations Committee, with some seniority in our congressional delegation, is examining his options. Interesting to see how it plays out. We certainly didn’t fare well in this one.