Tuesday, March 22, 2011

New Jersey Democrats Deserve A Deeper Bench-- Meet Jeff Gardner


Blue America rarely reaches out to help candidates raise money in local legislative races. We make exceptions for exceptional candidates and I asked one such candidate, Jeff Gardner of New Jersey, to write a guest post today. Although Republicans always have high hopes for winning in New Jersey, Obama won with 57%, Kerry held Bush to 46% and Gore kept him down at 40%. The problem for Democrats in New Jersey is a weak bench and a corrupt and crumbling political machine. Jeff is a breath of fresh air and his primary challenge to one of the most powerful and corrupt political hacks in the state-- a challenge that is emblematic of the Democrats' dilemma in the Garden State.

Senator John Girgenti, the Majority Whip, is probably best known as the New Jersey legislator who killed marriage equality. It was something the Republicans alone couldn't do. But with vicious homophobes like Girgenti leading the Democrats... who needs Republicans!

Jeff Gardner made a name for himself as an advocate for marriage equality, and he’s much more than that. As a fourteen-year veteran attorney for the National Labor Relations Board, he’s been fighting to protect workers, making sure union members are guaranteed their rights in the workplace. As an early organizer for Democracy for America, he pushed Democratic candidates up and down the ballot to champion progressive policies and push for common sense solutions. He is a real Democrat who will fight for the issues important to all of us. Whether it’s protecting women’s access to family planning services or fighting for marriage equality, Jeff will never back down from a fight. He’s going to stand up for what he believes in, which means standing behind progressive policies that too many Democrats run away from.

We need to support the very best Democrats at every level of government, not just in Washington. The battles in Wisconsin and Ohio highlight the need for strong progressive leaders in traditionally Democratic-leaning state governments. We can’t afford to put collective bargaining rights at risk. We can’t let the radical right take away a woman’s right to choose. Most importantly, we need Democrats who are going to fight for us. I hope you can join us in making sure Jeff has all the resources necessary to take down this entrenched incumbent in the Democratic primary in June. He's our newest addition to the Blue America PAC and he'll be joining us for a love session at Crooks and Liars on Thursday at 11 am (PT)-- 2pm New Jersey Time. Let me give Jeff a chance to introduce himself to all of you, so you can see exactly what I'm talking about. Jeff's introductory guest post:

I want to start off first and foremost by thanking DWT for shining a spotlight on my campaign. As an active member of the Blue Jersey community at home, I know how important netroots support can be for an outsider campaign like mine. Once you get to know a bit more about this race, I'm positive you'll join everyone at Blue Jersey and get involved.

Rather than talk about myself-- you've already read the important parts of my bio-- let me talk a bit about what I'm up against. My opponent, the incumbent Senator, has spent 30 years in Trenton with very little to show for it, in terms of accomplishments. Right now, he's embroiled in scandal, having allegedly traded patronage jobs for campaign contributions at the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission, a backwater government agency here in northern New Jersey. The commission came onto the radar of good government activists a few years ago, with ridiculous stories of a $105,000 contract with a politically-connected media firm for coloring books and hundreds of thousands of dollars paid to a party boss for "consulting fees."

As scandal after scandal has unfolded, it's become abundantly clear that my opponent cares more about helping the politically connected then helping the residents of our district. In 2009, while so many of us were fighting hard to see through the state's promising marriage equality bill to passage, he delivered a scathing speech on the Senate floor condemning the bill, saying that he would not "redefine what we hold most dear." This from a man who, at the time, was serving as the Democratic whip. If you are not from New Jersey and wondered how a state with such a progressive image failed to enact full marriage equality, this might help explain it. Time after time, my opponent has failed to lead (or even follow) on the issues important either to the progressive movement or the families in the district.

Talking to voters all across the district, I'm confident that people are ready for a change. The power of incumbency is undeniable, but the corruption has become overwhelming and the lack of progress and leadership from the Senator ranges from disheartening to infuriating. Walking the streets of Paterson this weekend, I was struck by residents I'd never met before welcoming me into their neighborhoods, simply thrilled to learn they'll actually have a choice in the voting booth in the June primary. Whether the issue is flooding, violence or jobs, they feel like they've been cast aside and ignored by the decision makers down in Trenton. I'm running for Senate to change that.

Mind you, this won't be the first time I've taken on the Senator. He used to be the Democratic municipal chairman in my hometown of Hawthorne. After years of increasingly bad results for Democrats at the local level, I mounted a challenge and won. Against an entrenched incumbent whose support is built on little more than patronage and graft, it seems that hard work and the promise of real representation is quite effective.

I know most of you don't live in New Jersey, much less the 35th district. Still, your support is vital.  The battles in Wisconsin and Ohio highlight the need for strong progressive leaders in our state governments. We can’t afford to put collective bargaining rights at risk. We can’t let the radical right take away a woman’s right to choose. We can't allow conservative, anti-progress Democrats to bargain away our civil rights. The status quo already has one party as its champion-- it doesn't need two.


Corporations and career politicians aren't going to bring us better government and aren't going to represent ordinary working families. It's something we have to do ourselves. If you can, please consider helping Jeff compete against the very worst kind of Democrat-- here through ActBlue.

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