June 13, 2018

Princeton Dems Rally to “Flip NJ Blue”

CATCHING THE BLUE WAVE: Princeton Democrats and others rallied Sunday night in a meeting focused on flipping five New Jersey congressional districts from Republican to Democratic in the November election. From left, nominees who spoke included Andy Kim (District 3), Tom Malinowski (District 7), and Josh Welle (District 4). (Photo Courtesy of PCDO)

By Donald Gilpin

“Catch the Blue Wave: Flip NJ Blue!” was the rallying cry on Sunday night, as a crowd of about 170 enthusiastic Democrats filled the Suzanne Patterson Center and made plans to help Democrats win five New Jersey congressional races that have been targeted by the national Democratic Party in its effort to retake control of the House of Representatives in the upcoming November elections.

Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-12) set the tone for the evening with a rousing keynote speech. She was followed by Democratic candidates from three of the five “flippable” districts and two speakers representing congressional candidates who were unable to attend.

Local high school students introduced each of the speakers, and 16th District Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker served as emcee for the proceedings. Zwicker noted that in 2015 he had “showed, with the help of many people in this room, how you swing a district from Republican to Democrat.” There had never been a Democrat representing the 16th District in the New Jersey assembly until Zwicker’s 2015 upset victory.

“To see this large enthusiastic turnout is heartwarming as we set out to change the course of this country,” Zwicker said.

Princeton Community Democratic Organization (PCDO) Vice President Mary Anne Greenberg commented on the strength of these New Jersey’s Democratic congressional candidates. “These are substantive candidates,” she said. “All these candidates are very focused on and committed to service. It was very powerful.”

It was also apparent that all of the speakers were motivated by dissatisfaction with the Trump administration and the effects of President Trump’s actions on New Jersey.

“Currently there is a great deal of unrest,” Greenberg said. “This event helped people to focus on an action that is cathartic at this time as well as impactful. People signed up to work for these candidates outside their district. People showed that they are committed.”

Along with the PCDO, co-sponsoring organizations, that, Greenberg noted, will be “working together throughout the summer and fall to create results,” include Princeton Marching Forward, Indivisible Princeton, Indivisible Cranbury, Coalition for Peace Action, Action Together NJ, Montgomery Democratic Organization, Bordentown Neighbors Acting Together, Lawrence Citizen Activists, Central Jersey Coalition for Justice, West Windsor Democratic Club, and Hopewell Valley Democratic Club.

Decrying the present course of the federal government, Coleman urged, “We have the capacity to change it. It is a government of, by, and for the people. Elections across the country have been showing us that the people want something different. We must send to Congress people who share our values. These candidates deserve our support, our dollars, our time.”

Reminding the gathering that she too is on the ballot, up for reelection to Congress, she continued, “New Jersey can be very instrumental in assuring that this Congress turns a good shade of blue. This country needs to move in a different direction.”

Andy Kim, running in District 3 (Burlington and portions of Ocean counties) spoke about his background growing up in Bordentown as the son of Korean immigrants. “This district gave me the opportunity to dream big,” he said. “Service is not just a job. It’s a way of life. I wanted to serve this country.”

Kim, who worked as advisor to the Defense Department and the Pentagon on national security in the Obama administration, is running against Republican incumbent Tom MacArthur, who was in line with President Trump on 94 percent of votes in the House and was a leader of Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare.

“I recognize that our diversity is what makes us great,” Kim said. “This is what we’re fighting for.”

Tom Malinowski, the Democratic nominee in the 7th Congressional District (Hunterdon and portions of Essex, Morris, and Sussex counties) will be taking on Leonard Lance, who has held the office for ten years.

“I never thought I’d be running for Congress,” stated Malinowski, who was assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor under Obama and a longtime director of Human Rights Watch. Noting the urgency of the moment, he said, “Our country and our state are in trouble. We must protect this country and our ideals. We are not going to allow him to win the fight about who we are as a country, about who we are as a people.”

Facing probably the toughest challenge of the five Democratic candidates for Congress, Josh Welle is running against Chris Smith, who has been in office for 38 years in the 4th District (most of Monmouth County and parts of Mercer and Ocean counties).

“The pathway to win back the House goes through New Jersey,” said Welle, who served in the U.S. Navy for more than 12 years. “I’ve been to every town in this district and they’re tired of Chris Smith. The people of New Jersey are demanding action, and if you’re not taking action you’re going to be voted out.”

Emphasizing the need “to preserve this fragile democracy,” Welle concluded, “This is our country, our climate, our future. If we don’t protect it, we’re going to lose it. We need a new generation of leaders.”

Also represented at Sunday’s meeting though unable to attend in person were State Senator Jeff Van Drew, running in the second district (including eight counties in the southernmost part of the state) and former Navy pilot, federal prosecutor, and mother of four Mikie Sherrill running in the 11th district (including parts of Morris Passaic, Essex and Sussex counties).