It’s difficult not to feel a little like Al Pacino in Any Given Sunday right now, with the pock-marked, indescribably beat down and stomped on warpaint faces of New Jersey packed into a locker room precisely the size of the ferry slips in Cape May to Stokes State Forest.
In an atmosphere rapidly stampeded by the far narrower dimensions of twitter, face-time and other thought-impairing and killing social strata, we humbly offer that last-standing pillar of legitimacy in our tattered democracy, namely, literacy.
Good luck to everyone who stuck his or her neck out to be on a ballot tomorrow. Thank you for driving a chariot into the arena and giving the rest of the poor, beer-soaked slobs face down in the stands who pass for participants in this historic experiment, another day of cover.
Some random thoughts and observations jump out on the eve of a great – and totally unbelievably surreal – election.
First of all, Democrat Josh Gottheimer ran an epic campaign against Republican Scott Garrett, who’s bunkered in like Charles Bronson in an old movie we’ve forgotten the name of just now. If Gottheimer doesn’t win in this weather, with Donald Trump and his shenanigans at the top of the ticket, Governor Chris Christie all but flat-lined in Drumthwacket, Garrett hobbled by any number of self-inflicted wounds, a non-existent state GOP operation, and $10 million snow blown into the district by Gottheimer’s allies, we don’t ever want to wear from a Democrat again in CD5. We’ll say this. If Gottheimer loses tomorrow and you’re a Democrat who presents yourself for coverage in 2018, we won’t cover you. You can be a nice, competent person. You can be a person of overflowing spirits and laudable social concern. We’ll prioritize a school board race in Sparta before we give you any ink. Seriously. It’s over. If Gottheimer can’t win in these conditions, we’re done with general elections in CD5 as long as Garrett’s on the ballot.
Secondly, we write these words gingerly, in anticipation of any number of passionate young men ready to spring forward screaming in uniformly squeaky voices, “Bias, bias, bias.” But the reality is the Republican Party will have to do some serious soul-searching in the coming months and years. From where we’re standing in New Jersey, the party looks like a manless, inoperable gun-turret right now, what with Christie damaged and the state apparatus itself resembling pieces of a smashed pinata. Look, it’s much more fun to cover this game when there are willing combatants and organizations that actually play to win. The GOP needs to hit the gym, do some push-ups and sit-ups and chin-ups and figure out how to get back in the contest here. We need them. Because if you think New Jersey Democrats empowered with all houses of government is actually “good for the process,” you should punch that one way ticket right now and spare yourself the heartbreak.
At least they have the right idea by planning to stage a primary. 2017 could turn out to be a little like 2005. Remember when all those Republicans, including Doug Forrester, John Murphy and Steve Lonegan jockeyed in the primary then, only to watch a George Bush-mired Forrester mowed down by Jon Corzine in the general? The blood-letting gave the party a better sense of where it stood vis a vis all those competing viewpoints and intra-party interests and allowed it to settle somewhat while they found their footing and their leader in Christie for the 2009 win.
We look forward to the GOP Primary next year as a starting point for reinvigorating a badly stagnant campaigns and elections process.
One other thing (and we’ll have more nuggets in the coming hours).
Pay attention in the coming years to Perth Amboy Mayor Wilda Diaz. In 2008, Diaz stunned New Jersey when she toppled Godzilla, otherwise known as Mayor Joe Vas. We can remember dutifully driving to Amboy on the afternoon longtime seaside chieftain Vas kicked off his campaign that year, and pulling over on 287 well before reaching the destination, convinced there was a better way to spend an evening than to cover the launch of an inevitably victorious incumbent. But Diaz dethroned Vas-Mahal, then went on to win reelection in 2012. She’s poised again to win again tomorrow, or so we’re told. Not to jinx her in her bid for a third term, this time against Councilman Joel Pabon, but when you look at the wreckage – or at least political challenges – out there around other Latino elected officials, Diaz has cemented herself as a legitimate force. Think about it. U.S. Senator Bob Menendez has the albatross of an indictment around his neck. The administration of Paterson Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres is apparently the subject of at least one FBI investigation, maybe two. Passaic Mayor Alex Blanco is wobbly, sources say. West New York Mayor Felix Roque is twice indicted and barely on his feet in Hudson. Senator M. Teresa Ruiz – while always the picture of integrity – might have been the next senate president, a possible deal stymied when South Jersey and Essex crapped out in the guv sweepstakes; and Speaker Vinny Prieto (D-Hudson) won’t last another term as lower house leader.
So Hispanic leadership right now falls critically on the shoulders of U.S. Rep. Albio Sires (D-Hudson) and Diaz. The latter has a particularly compelling voice as the only Hispanic woman to hold a mayor’s seat in this swamp, er, state.