As young upstart Alex Law continues his congressional bid against U.S. Representative Donald Norcross, his campaign is drawing criticism from at least one prominent South Jersey progressive. Rutgers Camden public policy professor Stephen Danley posted a dissenting opinion on the Law campaign and its approach to organizing in the troubled city, which lies at the heart of the first district.
Writing on his popular Local Knowledge Blog, Danley criticized Law’s campaign for advertising a new local organizing group called ‘The Camden Social Club,’ saying that he was disappointed that the group centers around boosting Law’s votes among Camden residents. Law’s campaign has made sizable inroads in the surrounding suburbs. In that post, which also appeared on Blue Jersey Friday, Danley described a pattern of anti-establishment candidates asking local activists and organizers to “put aside their work to help with the campaign.”
Danley added a response from Law from that same day to the post, in which Law said that the group was not the unique creation of his campaign. Its members include Moneke Singleton Ragsdale, a public schools advocate who ran unsuccessfully for Camden City Council last year.
“I’m of the opinion that the single greatest strength of the Norcross group isn’t their money: it’s the sense people have that they are invincible,” Law said in his response. “By winning an election against someone with that last name isn’t about the single election, it’s about changing that impression.”
Reached for comment, Danley said that his post was intended as a critique but not a take-down.
“What I’m arguing for is campaigns that beyond just the boundary of who gets elected,” he said. “And so when you start an organization called ‘The Camden Social Club,’ which sounds like it’s about the people of Camden, to then argue that the best thing for the people of Camden is to get out the vote for a candidate kind of rubbed me the wrong way. Especially with the history of candidates coming and saying ‘If you vote for me everything will change,’ which isn’t particularly convincing.”
Asked what alternative forms of non-electoral organizing he would like to see and whether he believes those efforts should focus more on municipal efforts or on exerting pressure on incumbents from the grassroots level, Danley allowed that the Law campaign has served as a valuable foil to Norcross.
“I think this is where Alex Law’s campaign stands up well. He’s run at Donald from the left, and forced Donald to come out with progressive policy opinions. In a classic sense, this is what a primary should do.”
Law is hoping to beat out Norcross during the New Jersey’s June Democratic primary, a victory that would likely assure the 24-year-old former IBM consultant the seat. Law will face an uphill battle with fundraising totals of less than $10,500. Republican newcomer Bob Patterson will also be on the ballot when the primary gears up in the spring.