MORRISTOWN – The scene was a crowded bar the night before a holiday weekend, so even activists may have been a bit distracted.
But they needed to listen.
So said Lauren Albrecht, the chair of the LGBT caucus of the state Democratic party. She said Republicans and others on the right are targeting her people and that Democrats have to respond. Albrecht was one of a number of speakers at a Thursday night “mixer” hosted by New Jersey Democrats at the Homestead.
This was not a fundraiser; there was no cost to attend. The idea was to gather Democrats and other like-minded souls to spur enthusiasm for the midterm election. That’s a big deal, given the fact Democrats as a group were something less than overly-engaged last fall and you saw the results. Phil Murphy barely won reelection and Republicans made gains in the Legislature.
LeRoy Jones is determined not to let that happen again.
“This is the beginning of our ability to galvanize people,” the state chair told a crowd that ranged from about 100 to 125 over the two hours of the event. Two others are planned in central and south Jersey.
Jones said it’s not enough to convince people to vote your way. Sometimes, you have to make sure they actually do. To that end, Jones talked about a mail-in ballot plan that would target specific groups of supporters.
But it was Albrecht who probably made the best point.
It centered on the fact Republicans across the country are focusing on what gets taught, or rather, what they don’t like being taught, in public schools. This generally involves complaints about “critical race theory,” and too much emphasis in early grades on sexuality and gender identity. The last week or so have seen many Republican lawmakers condemn the state’s proposed health and sex ed curriculum that is set to start next fall.
This can be good politics, as it revs up social and religious conservatives, who are a big part of the GOP’s base.
Albrecht said there’s always a fine line between just ignoring such attacks, or responding and giving them more attention.
Democrats, clearly, have been late to the party on this issue. But now, Democrats suggest they want to respond and in some locales are planning to attend school board meetings to support inclusion. And they also see opportunities to bring in more voters, especially younger people and members of the LGBT community itself.
Another speaker was Chip Robinson, the Morris Democratic chair, who was characteristically upbeat about getting the party motivated for the midterm.
Could be, but at the moment, Robinson has a revolt of sorts in Dover, where the county organization has not endorsed the reelection of Alderman Ed Correa. The internal party strife was hard to miss.
A truck displaying anti-Robinson messages was parked outside during at least part of the event. One message accused Robinson of helping Republicans win elections since 2014.
Inside, Robinson shrugged off the criticism, noting that he seldom gets such widespread, public attention.