State Assembly candidate Adam Bushman of Jamesburg chalked up a point last week in the 14th district when he outbid his Republican running mate and his Democratic opponent with an endorsement by the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA).
"I was pretty excited and surprised," said the candidate, a software engineer and former Jamesburg councilman. "I didn’t think I had a good shot at the endorsement. I went in there and told them I thought education is the key to everything."
Bushman’s mother belonged to the Communications Workers of America, but besides that his union resume is thin – particularly alongside the formidable labor credentials of Democrat Wayne DeAngelo, assistant business manager of Local 269, who was also vying for the NJEA’s endorsement.
Stung by the teacher’s union pick of Bushman over himself, DeAngelo said, "I told them ‘I do what you do. The strongest thing you have is your collective bargaining agreement, and that’s what I do on the electrical front.’"
Standing in front of a construction site on Route 130 early Friday morning, DeAngelo, a former Hamilton Township councilman and electrician by trade who doesn’t have a college degree, joined pipefitters, carpenters, insulators and plumbers on a protest line outside of a work site projected to be an Outback Steakhouse.
"Tortoise Electric is not paying its employees wage and benefit rates equivalent to those established in this area," said DeAngelo of the contractor, who had closed and locked the front gate to bar DeAngelo’s union workers from the site and to keep the non-union workers enclosed, DeAngelo said.
The electricians affiliated with his local make an hourly wage of $44-$48 per hour. "If the guys here on this work site were making that we wouldn’t be here," said DeAngelo. "We will stand here as long as it takes to get our message to the public that Outback Steakhouse has used substandard wage and benefit rates. Maybe people won’t patronize the establishment."
Bushman, who holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Rutgers, a Master’s in government administration from the University of Pennsylvania, and is now getting his PhD online, said he did not front his own educational background during the NJEA interview so much as highlight his commitment to education.
"I focused on things like making sure the state pays for state mandates, and making sure education is fully funded by the formulas," said Bushman.
Criticized by bloggers on PoliticsNJ.com for not completing the bipartisan Project Vote Smart questionnaire to let voters in the 14th district know where he stands on critical issues, the Republican said his views are often more complex than "yes" or "no."
"When it comes to the death penalty, for example, I do support it," he said, "but only in certain, severe cases – such as punishing the killer of a law enforcement officer or a minor, or to punish the perpetrator of an act of terrorism.
"I think the questionnaire can be misinterpreted and I’m always afraid they (political opponents) will use it as propaganda," Bushman said.
In the meantime, he’s celebrating the endorsement he felt nearly certain would have gone to his Democratic Party counterpart.