As many of you know, other than the few scattered US House special elections, the first statewide elections in the Trump era will be in New Jersey and Virginia this November. In New Jersey, all 40 seats in the State Senate and all 80 seats in the General Assembly will be up for grabs. In addition, Chris Christie (R) is term limited and is the most unpopular governor in the history of New Jersey, now at 20% approval. Therefore a new governor and lieutenant governor will also be elected. Each town, city, and county will also have elections for various offices. An excellent analysis of these elections was posted on Kos in February and is worth a look.
Summit is an upscale suburban town in New Jersey with a fast train link to New York City and about 22,000 residents. Income and education levels are above average, and according to the 2010 Census, Summit is 84% white. If this sounds like a Republican town to you, then you would be correct. There were no Democrats in local government from 1921-2001. In 2001, two Democrats were elected to council and one of these then became mayor in 2003. Fast forward to now and the local government is controlled by the Republicans who hold 5 out of 7 council seats and have had continuous control of the town since its charter was (re-)ratified in 1899. This is a Republican stronghold that voted (50-42) for Chris Christie in 2009 over its hometown citizen and incumbent, Jon Corzine, and then overwhelmingly (68-31) voted to re-elect Chris Christie in 2013. As an aside, Barack Obama did carry Summit (55-44) in 2008 and again barely (49.4-49.1) in 2012, so there have been glimmers of hope.
In 2016, Hillary Clinton crushed Donald Trump (63-33) in Summit. Donald Trump’s Republican party is not a party that Summit liked. After the election, Summit and surrounding towns saw a huge increase in political activism including Summit Area Indivisible and Summit Marches On within Summit and regional groups like Westfield 20/20 and NJ7 Forward. Summit’s neighboring town, New Providence, held its first ever Democratic meeting.
A number of Democrats from Summit have stepped up to run for office. As reported in The Washington Post (← great article), (mostly) women who have never run for office before have decided that enough is enough — that we must take our country back town by town, county by county, state by state. These Democrats are highly motivated, very organized, and are determined to change the political narrative locally and regionally. Some examples from Summit include a NJ Assembly candidate, a NJ State Senate candidate, a Summit Ward 1 Council candidate, a Summit Ward 2 candidate, and a Summit At Large Council candidate. Please drop by their Facebook pages Assembly, Senate, Ward 1, Ward 2, At Large and Like their pages and cheer them on!
Towns like Summit are exactly the kinds of places that Democrats need to start winning. These towns are fiscally conservative but socially moderate, and Republicans have been allowed to win these areas for far too long. Democrats from these areas are going to run centrist campaigns, but they are going to be for all of the things that are important to being a Democrat: pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, pro-environment, etc. The state legislative seats are particularly important since it is the state government that controls House district lines (through an appointed commission) after the 2020 census. New Jersey is now 7D-5R in the House having flipped NJ-5 in 2016.
If you or anyone you know lives in the Summit area, please support these candidates! No matter where you live, get some like minded friends and organize your own activist groups, especially if you have Republican representatives or senators. Our local and regional groups have been highly effective at getting our Republican House representative, Leonard Lance, to oppose the ACA repeal. Take the plunge and run for office! The Kos: Nuts and Bolts guide is a good place to start.
When I wake up the morning after the election this November, I want to open the newspaper and see Democrats sweeping all of the races in New Jersey and Virginia. I want to see Democrats making inroads, or even better, taking control of towns and counties where Republicans have had untouchable majorities — like Summit, NJ. Everyone will need to step up and do more. I am sure that everyone knows at least one person who has Democratic values but does not vote or is not registered. Democrats are notoriously bad at turning out to vote, especially in non-presidential years.
Vote, advocate, organize, donate, run for office. We will take our country back town by town, county by county, state by state.