MORRIS TOWNSHIP – Visiting a train station in the predawn darkness to talk to strangers about politics is not everyone’s idea of fun.
But everyone is not a campaign volunteer like Beth Bachmann. Ditto for Stephanie Baima. Both women were on the Convent Station train platform about an hour before sunrise Thursday to urge commuters to vote for Democrat Mikie Sherrill in the hotly-contested race for Congress in the 11th district.
“I don’t want to say these are desperate times, but …” explained Bachmann, who lives in Morris Township.
Bachmann, who also teaches yoga and likes playing the ukulele, was armed with campaign material prepared by NJ11th for change, a relatively new left wing group in a district that no longer seems as staunchly Republican as it once was.
Volunteers and many times candidates themselves long have visited train stations at election time to interact with potential voters. Republican candidate Jay Webber, for example, visited the Chatham train station on Tuesday.
There are pluses and minuses here. You may have a captive audience, but it’s one that moves swiftly. Trains arrive quite quickly during the morning rush-hour and no candidate wants to stand between a commuter and the train he, or she, must get on. The key is to approach those already on the platform when the next train is still a few minutes away.
Bachmann and Baima first ask people if they plan to vote and tell them about the option of voting-by-mail or in the county clerk’s office before election day. If the person is willing, the women make their pitch by asking if they want to read something about the candidates “while on the train.”
The “something” is a flier that features a smiling photo of Sherrill and suggests she deserves support from those who care about “healthcare, tax fairness, gun safety, reproductive freedom (and) the environment.”
Flip it over and Webber, who is not pictured, is described as “an extremist against progress” and also as a “career politician and pro-Trump Republican.”
Reaction to the women’s appeal was mixed. That’s to be expected. This is a close election.
One man said he will vote for Sherrill, but is troubled by the presence of Bob Menendez at the top of the ticket. He said the senator’s ethical woes have “really put a stain on him.” Still, as a Democrat, the man said he will “close his eyes” and vote for Menendez.
A hope of Republicans in the district is that Menendez will take votes away from Sherrill and other Democrats beneath her on the ballot.
Volunteer Bachmann hit the political equivalent of a grand slam when a man she canvassed, pulled out his phone to show her a picture of him and Sherrill.
The man was retired lawyer Bob Rose and he said the photo was taken at an immigration-rights rally in Newark over the summer. In supporting the Democrat, Rose, who lives in Mendham Borough, said he’s been upset with outgoing congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen, a Republican who has represented the district for 24 years. He said Frelinghuysen has ignored his constituents by refusing to hold town-hall meetings. The congressman’s reluctance to do that prompted weekly demonstrations outside his Morristown office and fueled, at least initially, Sherrill’s challenge.
There were also commuters who refused to take the flier, saying they plan to vote Republican. One man from Morris Township said he’s seen Webber at a number of functions.
“He’s not as moderate as I am, but oh well,” he said with a shrug.
More to the canvassers’ liking were Terri Kenner and her daughter, both of whom said they already have cast vote-by-mail ballots for Sherrill, Kenner said she thinks Sherrill will be an independent voice in Congress. That, incidentally, is precisely the message in Sherrill’s TV commercials.
Volunteer Baima said the goal is to get votes for Sherrill, but also to make sure more people just vote.
“One of the things that drive me crazy is that people my age don’t vote,” said Baima, who is 28.