Those Dysfunctional Democrats of Sussex County
Does anyone remember the last Democrat elected to the Assembly from Sussex County? His name was Robert C. Shelton Jr. and he was elected to the Assembly on November 6, 1973 -- in the middle of the Watergate scandal that consumed many a Republican that year. Back then, Sussex County was part of the 15th Legislative District, a much more competitive district. Nevertheless, with the resignation of President Richard Nixon and a little time, the District went back to having an all Republican delegation after the November 1975 election.
On the other hand, the local Democrat Party has been successful in electing county candidates to the Freeholder Board by focusing on local issues, cronyism, and running populist, good-government campaigns. As late as January 2003, the Democrats held a seat on the Freeholder Board in Sussex County.
This year has been a year of upheaval in Sussex County politics. Charges of cronyism, the misuse of taxpayers' money, the solar project scandal. A great opportunity for an outsider party. You might even say it is tailor made for the Democrats. So who are they running? Nobody, of course.
Instead, they are focusing on the Assembly, where statewide, Democrats are in control and are blamed for failing to address the highest property taxes in America, jobs, foreclosure, homelessness, child poverty, spending, debt, crime, over-regulation, and the worst business climate in America. The Republicans have been fighting for rural and suburban taxpayers. The Democrats support the most inequitable education funding system in America -- and the reason for those highest in the nation property taxes. The voters of rural Sussex County know that voting in the Democrats would be like giving two more seats to the urban machine bosses who underwrite their campaigns.
You have to hand it to those Democrats. Instead of going for a seat they held just over a decade ago, they'll go for one they haven't held in 40 years. If you were a first time voter who voted for the last Democrat to represent Sussex County in the Assembly, you are celebrating your 60th birthday this year.
But it gets worse for this gang. Just two seats are up in the Assembly this year. Both are held by Republicans. So you would think that the Democrats would figure out that to even have a chance, you would run just two Democrats against the two Republicans. No, not these Democrats. They are running three candidates against two. That means that in the race for a plurality, their votes get split three ways instead of two.
Why? Because they are crazy. As the great comedian Lewis Black said, "They are stone cold f**k nuts!" And they are.
They went out of their way to recruit a so-called Green candidate -- actually a not-in-my-backyard suburban Marxist, but let's leave that for another day -- to be their third running mate. He'd be a Democrat, except that only two Democrats can be nominated, so he's running as a kind of third Democrat, under the banner of the Green Party. And how many of them have ever been elected to the Assembly in New Jersey? Ummm... none, nada, nothing, nobody, zip, zero, zilch, bupkis, jack dick.
And guess what? This brilliant plan is already reaping dividends. Yep. Instead of endorsing the two Democrats, the Sierra Club endorsed the Green candidate. As if the Highlands Act hasn't driven enough people out of the county, looking for work. You know those cities need drinking water and somebody has to pay for all the land that's been locked up to keep it pure and -- so say the Democrats (and so scream the Greens) -- it is going to be the taxpayers of Sussex County who pay.
Last night, the three running mates showed up at a Freeholder meeting. Yes, the Assembly candidates went to a Freeholder meeting (far be it from their party to actually run candidates for Freeholder). They brought along a ragtag band of YouTube atheists, a satanist, and the sort of folks you see on the sitcom Portlandia.
Oh, and the redoubtable Bill Weightman -- who should be a freeholder now except he ran for the wrong office too. They all came out to defend that corporate giant in health care delivery (with taxpayers money) to low-income women, Planned Parenthood.
Now Planned Parenthood has been the subject of a number of controversial videos in which their own people are describing what appears to be their trafficking in human body parts. I mean the words are actually coming out of their mouths. Nobody has alleged dubbing. Their mouths are flapping and words are coming out. And they don't want to be responsible for those words.
Anyone who has ever seen a poll in Sussex County knows that Planned Parenthood wasn't all that popular with voters before the videos. And those videos haven't been an image enhancer. So, of course, the three running mates show up to organize around this issue. Why? Take from Lewis Black: "They are crazy. They are stone cold f**k nuts!"
The reason cronyism exists in Sussex County, the reason that we get solar scandals in the first place, is because the Democrats aren't so much a party as they are a self-hurt group. It's like they sit around and figure out how to best stick it up their own backsides. Maybe it's match fixing? Maybe they are taking money from the Republicans to be so bad?
The burden of opposition has ended up falling on the shoulders of citizen activists like Harvey Rosseff, of Byram, who is mounting an independent campaign for Freeholder. And what does it say about a party when a single individual can pull off a candidacy for Freeholder and a whole party can't?