February 21, 2018 • BLOG ENTRY

Getting to 24

It has been been almost two weeks since I decided to end my campaign for Congress in New Jersey’s 7th Congressional District. It has been hard explaining to friends, family and supporters why I made this difficult decision. Yes, making fundraising calls is not the most fun, but our fundraising was going well - in fact it was lining up to be our best quarter ever. So why now?

The answer is simple. I got into this race because I believe deep in my soul that the only way to stop Trump and his dangerous agenda is by having members of Congress who are willing to stand up to him. Trump’s election awoke a sleeping giant - mostly women ages 45 to 65 who recognize that we need to be the change we want to see. So some are calling their Members of Congress, others are protesting, many are organizing Resistance groups, and a few brave souls are running for office. Actually, more than a few. And while that’s a good thing, in some ways it could hurt us in November.  

We are seeing record numbers of candidates running in districts that are “flippable” because they, like me, could not sit idly by while our fundamental values are under assault. To date, there are ten Democrats running in Virginia’s 10th Congressional District against incumbent Barbara Comstock. In total they have raised well over $3 million, compared to the incumbent’s $1.9 million. In New York’s 19th Congressional District, there are eight Democrats who have raised almost $5 million compared to incumbent John Faso’s nearly $1.12 million. But the Democrats are going to have to spend their money differentiating themselves ahead of the primaries and then they are going to have to replenish their depleted cash for the general election.  Meanwhile, Republican incumbents get to compile their war chest and get their message out to voters.

Here in New Jersey’s 7th Congressional District, Representative Leonard Lance was originally viewed as the most vulnerable Republican incumbent in the state, possibly one of the most vulnerable incumbents the country. Over the summer, The Cook Report moved the race from Likely Republican to Lean Republican and the Resistance groups cheered. But then it stopped. Rep. Lance is on MSNBC every few days playing a moderate. He seeks cover under the Problem Solvers Caucus and gets passes from Speaker Paul Ryan to vote “no” on key legislation to appease moderates in the district. We know that Lance cannot be trusted and that he is part of the problem, but while five democrats compete to court their base, Lance is able to make himself more appealing to the independent voter. This could be a recipe for disaster come November.  

We must flip 24 seats in the House. This is a daunting and awesome responsibility. One that I did not take lightly. And I cannot ignore the fact that there are still too few women in elected office. So why did I get out? And why did I endorse a man?

I’m a pragmatist and I tend to look at issues from many sides (maybe it’s that legal training). I knew that I had the resources to continue the battle until June, but a heavily contested primary had the potential to leave all of the Democrats bloodied and none able to win in November. So I looked at the facts and the candidates. Only one other candidate is on track to raise the necessary funds; he has started to connect with voters; and most importantly, he will fight for our shared American values in Congress.

As a nearly lifelong resident of the 7th District and as a concerned citizen of the United States, I urge all of us to take stock of what is at stake here. How will any of us feel if the Democrats pick up 23 seats in Congress, but fail to flip the 24th? How will we live with ourselves if Speaker Ryan and the GOP have another two years controlling the legislative agenda? How do we look at our children and say that we put our own pride and self-interests ahead of their futures?

I knew that I could not do that. But while I am no longer a candidate for New Jersey’s 7th Congressional District, I will not be silenced. I will use my voice to amplify the voices of others. I will use my vote to elect representatives who stand for our values. And finally, I will work with members of the community to help organize others so that we can look at ourselves and our children on November 7th and confidently say, “We did everything we could.”