Tuesday, May 31, 2016

An Impossible Dream Coming True In South Jersey?

Grassroots candidates CAN smash the corrupt machine

When I met Alex Law for the first time last year he seemed like a smart kid with a big dream and a lot of idealism and no money. He kind of reminded me of New Hampshire progressive activist Carol Shea-Porter, circa 2006-- a full decade ago. Carol had an impossible dream. She wanted to defeat a powerful entrenched incumbent, Jeb Bradley, who had a load of money-- and Carol had none. Worse, yet, the head of the DCCC, Rahm Emanuel, decided Carol was "too progressive" and "too anti-war" for New Hampshire and he was backing House Majority Leader Jim Craig, a consummate establishment insider. With Emanuel's help, Craig spent $381,290 on the primary, more than Carol spent on the primary and the race against Bradley combined! Carol beat Jim Craig 54-34% and the DCCC abandoned the district, Emanuel declaring it was unwinable. Bradley barely broke a sweat raising $1,111,590 and Carol had almost no money and was smothered in unanswered ads from the GOP while the DCCC and DNC sat on their hands and sneered. But Carol had a magic weapon: genuine, values-driven grassroots activism-- and in November she beat Bradley 100,899 (51%) to 94,869 (49%). Emanuel was furious-- although he and other DCCC saboteurs ran to the media and tried taking credit for Carol's win!

Goal Thermometer Today Carol-- still as independent-minded and grassroots oriented as ever-- is running for Congress again, against Tea Party extremist Frank Guinta. She's on the same Blue America ActBlue page as Alex Law, which you can access by tapping on the thermometer on the right. As of the May 18 FEC filing deadline, Alex had raised $67,331 to entrenched incumbent Donald Norcross' $1,404,335 (thousands of dollars of which have come from the Trump family-- although Norcross masquerades as a Democrat). The shady Patriot Majority PAC has spent another $174,083 bolstering Norcross, whose brother George controls the corrupt South Jersey Democratic political machine. But Alex's little-campaign-that-could has done so well that a panic-stricken Norcross just left his campaign another $85,000, bringing the total in self-funding to over $100,000.

Norcross' brother George also brought the widest-read newspaper in the district, the Philadelphia Enquirer and then lost control of it. No one thought there was any chance that they would ever endorse against Alex, a leader of the Bernie for President movement in South Jersey. In fact, Sunday, the Inquirer endorsed Hillary-- and Alex, sending shockwaves through New Jersey politics. The congressional primary is June 7, a week from tomorrow. After claiming Clinton "is better prepared for the office," the editorial board, which had done extensive interviews with Norcross and Law, wrote that Law would make a better member of Congress.
South Jersey Democrats will also decide three congressional nominations. The most heated contest is in the Camden County-based First District, whose freshman congressman, Donald Norcross, likes to say he's just an electrician in a tie.

But Norcross harnesses a lot more power than the average working man. The son of a labor leader and brother of South Jersey's top Democratic power broker, Norcross headed the regional AFL-CIO before his path to political office was cleared by the precisely timed midterm retirement of the state Assembly speaker himself. The party organization immediately anointed Norcross the prohibitive front-runner in a safely Democratic district. A week after he was sworn in to the Assembly, he was promoted to a vacated state Senate seat. Four years after that, yet another midterm exit - by U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews amid a campaign-finance probe-- put Norcross on a short circuit to Congress, powered once again by party unanimity.

The spectacle of Andrews being confronted on 60 Minutes helped spark Alex Law's interest in politics and ultimately his challenge to the machine that choreographed Norcross' rise. Law, of Voorhees, is the epitome of an upstart, having just turned 25, the minimum age to serve in the House, and quit his IBM consulting job to seek the nomination. He has raised about $40,000 to Norcross' nearly $1 million. (The winner will run against Bob Patterson, who is unopposed on the GOP side.)

While Norcross, 57, was often in the thick of the legislative action in Trenton, his meteoric ascent hasn't helped his resumé in that respect; his achievements in Washington have been limited. The congressman notes that he introduced a bill to raise the minimum wage and has helped bring federal funds to the district.

Law, a Sanders supporter, has staked out positions largely to the left of the congressman, who sometimes sides with Republicans in favor of industry and defense. The challenger has criticized Norcross' votes against the Iran nuclear deal, consumer financial protections, and refugee resettlement. Norcross says he takes pride in sometimes straying from the party line.

Law's most persuasive critique of Norcross concerns his reliance on donors with government contracts. Pay-to-play politics have been elevated to a dark art in South Jersey, but Norcross addresses the issue by insisting he is just an electrician-turned-politician with no special connection to such machinations.

Democratic voters longing for a genuine departure from the entrenched political establishment that Norcross embodies should choose ALEX LAW.

When Norcross "strays from the party line," as the Inquirer puts it so generously, it;'s to vote with the Republicans against the environment and for pet projects of his wealthy campaign contributors like the Keystone XL Pipeline. In fact, Norcross has voted with the Republicans more than any other New Jersey Democrat in Congress. Just above is the Blue America mobile billboard we have driving up and down the streets and highways of South Jersey all month. (Gas money contributions here please.) Saturday the truck spent the day in Collingswood at the May Fair. This is the billboard on the other side of the truck:

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