INSIDERNJ INTERVIEW: U.S. Senate Candidate Madelyn Hoffman of the Green Party Challenges the Influence of Corporate Money in Campaigns

SOMERVILLE – The radicalization of Madelyn Hoffman first started when her father introduced her to the music of Paul Robeson, so it was perhaps appropriate that she joined InsiderNJ for coffee in the town where Robeson spent his childhood.

At odds with Republicans and Democrats alike and incensed by what she sees as the interference of corporate money in political campaigns, Hoffman of Flanders decided to run for the U.S. Senate this year as a member of the Green Party following her retirement as director of New Jersey Peace Action after nearly two decades at the helm. It’s not her first statewide rodeo. In 1997, she ran unsuccessfully for Governor of New Jersey, also with the Greens.

Through the years, Hoffman – a graduate of Wesleyan – has defined herself by taking on numerous progressive causes, opposing the Iraq War as early as 2002, and leading the Peace Action charge in her home state to end the proliferation of nuclear arms.

“They can’t deliver,” Hoffman said, referring to Democrats and Republicans. “They haven’t been able to deliver for the working people of this country. They haven’t been able to get single-payer healthcare. There are rumblings about tuition-free college but it’s been more on a state-by-state basis and only because progressives have put an emphasis on it. Public housing, jobs creation and raising minimum wage to $15 – these are the policies people have wanted for years – you saw it when people came out in 2016 to support Bernie Sanders – and neither party has been able to deliver. If someone is elected as a Democrat, that person has to walk back some of their strong message because of the existence of corporate money in the party.”

Hoffman respects incumbent U.S. Senator Bob Menendez’s (D-NJ) opposition to the War in Iraq, but doesn’t like the way he has voted in favor of what she describes as pro-military budgets, and decries his no vote on the Iran Nuclear Deal. He’s grown too hawkish, in her view. “He’s one of the few New Jersey representatives that actually voted against that Iraq War,” she said. “We praised him for that. But all you get with the Democrats is ‘Trump this and Trump that’ and then they vote for all the wars. While we have a seemingly deeply divided country on domestic issues, when it comes to the wars, everybody’s in, including Senator Menendez.” She hasn’t talked to Lisa McCormick, the Democratic Primary opponent who shocked the state with a 40/60% performance against the incumbent Democrat, who last year survived a corruption trial. But Hoffman says she has no regrets about staying out of a Democratic Primary.

“I can’t go back and do that,” said the U.S. Senate candidate. Besides, it’s simply not her party.

“I wouldn’t run from the label ‘Democratic socialist’ but I am a socialist with the understanding that a lot of democracy needs to come in for it to take off and fly,” she explained. “I couldn’t run as a Democrat. I’m too distant from the Democratic Party, and from the Republican Party.”

They’re just too bogged down by corporate influences, whether it’s pharmaceuticals (the Republican candidate for Senate this year, Bob Hugin, is a retired Celgene executive), oil or the defense industry.

And Democrats, she said, “sold Bernie down the river” in the 2016 primary and post-primary.

Hoffman said she’s excited about her candidacy this year, eager to discuss her issues, most importantly the elimination of corporate monies from campaigns and the development of ranked choice voting. She’s teamed with CD7 candidate Diane Moxley, who’s running in a field that includes U.S. Leonard Lance (R-7) and Democrat Tom Malinowski.

“If ever there was a time to do this it’s now,” Hoffman said.

“We’re the dynamic duo,” she added of herself and Moxley. “The Greens have grown in 20 years. They’re not where they want to be but they have grown enough to where there is a good support network.”

An unreconstructed rebel, Hoffman won’t have a lot of money for her campaign, but she won’t have any corporate money – and that will be the key difference, she argues.

The fights she undertook decades ago, which rose out of her childhood and the Vietnam era, endure.

This one’s the latest manifestation.

“I’m still working on it,” Hoffman said.

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