Seth Grossman, the congressional candidate who crushed Hirsh Singh in the 2018 primary but failed to dislodge then-Democrat Jeff Van Drew, has thrown his hat in the ring once again. This time, however, the former Atlantic County freeholder and MAGA torch-bearer is running off-the-line for State Senate in LD-2. Grossman’s campaign seeks to capture the Republican vote from former LD-2 Assemblyman Vincent J. Polistina.
Polistina represented the district from 2008 until he lost the remarkably expensive 2011 election to Democrat Jim Whelan. The engineer, seeking the senate seat, was recently endorsed by former Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian, when the latter announced his own bid for Assembly. “Vince has fought and won tough campaigns before in Legislative District 2,” Guardian said in a statement, “and he knows how to navigate Trenton as an elected official. He has my full support as the Republican candidate for State Senate.”
Grossman, lacking the party machine support, launched his own campaign and is eager to capitalize on populist support by riding the Trump Train. On Wednesday, his campaign released a statement seeking support and took aim at Democrat-affiliated “woke” elements damaging the state. In particular, he referenced the 90s-themed birthday party shooting in Bridgeton, NJ, which left 2 individuals dead and one “clinically dead” as of the time of this writing, where 14 people were shot. Police arrested the host of the party, Darrell Dawkins, with multiple weapons offenses but was not believed to be the shooter. Bridgeton Police had also arrested Kevin Dawkins, saying he had possession of a pistol at the party and that witnesses claimed to have seen him firing.
The issue for Grossman, however, was race and the notion that Democrats and their leftist henchmen were downplaying the race of the suspected shooters because it eroded their “woke” anti-police, anti-gun agenda. In a recent statement, Grossman blasted the “fake narrative” of the “media, Murphy, and all Democrats” in saying that the Bridgeton shooting did not have sufficient coverage of the alleged perpetrator’s race, namely, black, by not publishing the pictures of the men arrested.
A quick search of news agencies online, however, showed pictures of Kevin and Darrell Dawkins obtained from the authorities.
Grossman’s statement said that the shootings were undermining the “’woke’ narrative” by saying the media “did not post photos of the arrested suspect or anyone present at the party.”
The campaign cited a Press of Atlantic City article, where a neighbor, Eric Comer, was quoted as saying, “We do protests and all that because it is wrong for cops to kill Black people. But you have Black people killing Black people… That’s wrong. That’s terrible.”
Grossman’s campaign said, “When a black person is shot or killed by a police officer or anyone who is white, the national media report it as front page, headline news for days, weeks, or months.”
The statement was released the day after the first anniversary of the killing of George Floyd, an event which sparked protests, riots, and demands for police reform throughout the country. The topics of police reform, de-escalation techniques, body cameras, qualified immunity, and more became high tension topics from the political conference tables to dinner tables across America.
Grossman, never afraid to stir up the waters, asserted that the portrayal of the shooting was part of a deliberate effort. “Democrats and their media do this to promote a fake narrative. This is how Democrats keep their political control of America’s cities in spite of the poverty, violence, and misery they create.”
Grossman did not mince words. “Year after year, Democrats falsely accuse me and other Republicans of being ‘racists’, ‘fascists’, ‘white supremacists’ or ‘right wing extremists’. This distracts voters and stops them from paying attention to and fixing the real problems that are destroying black lives in cities run by Democrats.”
He then rolled out a list of culprits: “Socialist welfare programs that encourage and enable mothers to raise children without fathers”, as well as the public schools and colleges “that teach ‘critical race theory’ and other propaganda directing hate and blame against whites and Jews, while teaching few useful job skills.”
Grossman said that the schools ignored “the spectacular success and wealth of many blacks between 1875 and 1955 like Atlantic City’s Sara Spencer Washington. John McKee who built McKee City in Egg Harbor Township, or George White who built Whitesboro near Cape May” as part of their effort to demonize the police.
Crime, he said, was linked to Hollywood, thanks to an “entertainment industry that promotes a destructive culture that degrades black women, promotes a violent, criminal lifestyle for black men, and dismisses blacks who study, get married, finish school and begin careers with low level jobs as ‘Uncle Toms’ who ‘act white’.” As a consequence, Grossman said, the police have been made to “ignore suspicious activity” by “violent black criminals they previously investigated” since “Democrats, schools, colleges, the media, and the Hollywood movie, TV, and entertainment industry routinely and often falsely blame police for every confrontation they have with angry, young black criminals who are looking for a fight.”
An assertion such as this simultaneously portrays the police as victims as well as unable to perform their jobs, so it remains to be seen whether or not such a claim is endearing to the Thin Blue Line. Indeed, the police represent a key component of the Trump-aligned populist message narrative which purportedly venerates law, order, and authority and stands as a check against the chaos and mayhem represented by Democrats and their institutional, academic, or media allies.
Such a claim cannot be dismissed as hyperbolic. In short, Grossman means what he says as laid out in black and white: “Democrats in many states and counties appoint prosecutors and judges who are pro-criminal and anti-police.” He then praised Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon Tyner, saying that residents were lucky to have him.
To say that prosecutors and judges are appointed because they are “pro-criminal” is sure to lose Grossman some white-collar votes, but the populist approach does not necessarily seek out the support of the legal class. They are welcome to join, of course, but don’t expect any polish or sugar-coated opinions.
Painting a somewhat dystopian image of New Jersey, broiling in Democrat-championed crime, Grossman said citizens want more firearms to protect themselves, “As more dangerous criminals drive and walk freely through our stores and neighborhoods.” This, however, is hindered by Democrat-sponsored gun control legislation, leaving residents at risk. “New Jersey has gun laws that are even more restrictive than Pennsylvania. The killers at the party in Bridgeton almost certainly knew their law-abiding victims would be unarmed and defenseless.”
Gun rights advocates in general and Republicans in particular have been quick to criticize Governor Murphy as “politicizing tragedy”—and not necessarily without philosophical merit. Nevertheless it would be naïve to claim that political affiliation gave one a demonstrable moral high ground when it came to making political hay following a horrific crime. The “a good guy with a gun” assertion which Grossman’s statement made use of has been a time-tested counterargument used in the gun control debate.
Pennsylvania seemed a peculiar point of comparison, as firearms laws are fairly lax in the Keystone State compared to very restrictive states such as California, Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey. If Pennsylvania is the benchmark of a state with oppressive gun control, one might look to Texas as the antithesis. Indeed, in the Lone Star State, House Bill 1927 is advancing where, if signed into law, Texans could carry a handgun without a license, provided they are not prohibited from doing so by state or federal law. In New Jersey, Republicans were unable to even keep Governor Murphy from reducing the magazine limit from 15 rounds to 10 in 2018—a gesture that was as functionally empty as banned hollow-point bullets, when, a year later, it was reported by nj.com that no police departments had received any surrendered 15 round magazines.
Though Grossman won’t likely be seen guzzling a Coca-Cola on the campaign trail as he protests the carbonation conglomerate’s objection to Georgia voting laws, his simple off-the-line presence in the upcoming primary represents a Republican Party in the state that has yet to come to terms with its philosophical direction. Grossman is not an unknown figure and was able to muster up enough votes to snuff out the likes of self-proclaimed MAGA champion Hirsh Singh in the 2018 mid-terms. He represents the shock troops on the frontline of what now-gubernatorial-candidate Singh has described as “the Republican Party civil war.” Polistina, with his institutional support, will need to mount a credible message to garner up the necessary numbers with the white-hot Republican rank-and-file if he wants to go back to Trenton and be part of the GOP redefinition in the post-Trump era.