The primary campaign between progressive newcomer Alex Law and incumbent U.S. Representative Donald Norcross in New Jersey’s first congressional district continues to get uglier as the June 7 primary draws closer. Following Law’s accusation that the influential New Jersey Education Association showed Norcross preferable treatment and went against the wishes of its anti-charter school members in offering him its endorsement, the Norcross campaign retaliated by attacking Law’s father for his role in opposing the unionization of a Camden charter school.
Norcross sponsored the 2012 Urban Hope Act during his time as a state Senator, the legislation that paved the way for Camden’s “renaissance” public-private charter schools. After Law claimed in a campaign mailer that those schools divert money from public schools, expel underperforming students and serve to profit “his family’s foundation, The Norcross Foundation,” the Norcross campaign posted a point-by-point rebuttal on its website. Norcross’ camp maintains that the congressman has no financial ties to the foundation, and that the public-private charters receive funding based on enrollment rather than student performance.
Norcross’ rebuttal cites a Courier-Post article on the Camden Leap Academy’s unionization effort, lead by by the NJEA in 2004. Law’s father Pete, a social studies teacher at the school, said he voted against changing the school’s charter to allow a union.
“One teacher’s selfish goals really put a crimp in some real progressive education ideas,” he told the Philadelphia Inquirer that same year. “If you get a union, you get a union mentality.”
“Law, who has consistently and falsely attacked Congressman Norcross’ family throughout this campaign, undoubtedly will cry that pointing out his father’s anti-union record is somehow unfair,” reads the rebuttal. “But his family’s anti-union history is an issue both because of his father’s active involvement in the campaign and because it reveals the depths of Law’s own hypocrisy and willingness to regularly deceive voters.”
Law’s father filed challenges against Bernie Sanders’ freeholder candidates on behalf of the Law campaign as part of a bracketing dispute. He also took an official leave of absence from the Leap Academy in February of 2015.
Reached for comment, Law said the Norcross campaign is using “out-of-context quotes from years ago from a family member of mine that isn’t involved in politics currently at all.
“What he said was at the time — the charter of Leap Academy didn’t allow for unions. So what he was saying as a teaching leader at the school was that a union would be good for him, he likes unions, but that it would be bad for the charter of the school because at the time it did not allow for unions.”
Asked about his father’s involvement in the challenge to Sanders’ freeholder candidates, Law said he believes his father’s involvement in his own campaign does not elevate him and his opposition to the NJEA’s unionization effort to the level of fair game.
“He’s not an elected official, he’s not involved in politics. He’s of course involved in my campaign, but all of the campaign’s thoughts on any issue are documented very clearly on our website.”