LD24 Democrats Kick Off Amid References to the Civil War

LAFAYETTE TWP. – Howard L. Burrell has a place in Sussex County political history as the last Democrat elected to the freeholder board. As such, it seemed a bit apropo Monday night that Burrell was the guest speaker at a campaign kickoff for the party’s District 24 Assembly candidates, Deana Lykins and Dan Smith.

In a passionate introduction that referenced both historical events (the Civil War) and contemporary problems (Sussex, he says, needs more attention from Trenton), Burrell said Lykins and Smith both have the training and background to serve in the Legislature.

Many possess such acumen; overcoming the political divide is the problem.

District 24, which also includes parts of Warren County and one municipality, Mount Olive (where Smith lives) in Morris County, is about as “red” as it gets in New Jersey. GOP incumbents F. Parker Space and Harold Wirths won easily here in 2017, which was a good year for Democrats statewide.

The ray of hope for Democrats comes from a point made Monday night by Chip Robinson, the chair of the Morris County Democrats – after last year’s congressional elections, all of northwest New Jersey is now represented by Democrats in Congress. That’s true, burt also a bit misleading, given the fact the relevant congressional representatives – Josh Gottheimer, Tom Malinowski and Mikie Sherrill – won their seats by winning handily in other parts of their districts, not necessarily Sussex and Warren counties.

No matter. The Democrats are trying to ride that success.

Burrell’s argument was more practical than philosophical and rested on this foundation: New Jersey is a Democratic state and for the district to get the assistance it needs from Trenton, it would help if Democrats represented Sussex and Warren. Or as he put it, Democrats need to be “in the room.”

So, what are the district’s needs?

Lykins mentioned more money for transportation, and changing a school funding system that she said shortchanges the district. Few would argue with more money for roads and perhaps train service. School funding is one of those never-ending problems in New Jersey that seems to be without an easy answer, especially if enrollment is decreasing, as is occurring in parts of the district.

Lykins also said she’s concerned about poverty in the district. Census data suggests that income levels in the district are close to statewide averages, although they aren’t as high as they are in such nearby locales as Hunterdon and Morris counties.

Smith stressed his background as a lawyer and a past municipal court judge in Essex County, an assignment that he said allowed him to understand some of the difficulties befalling average people.
Both candidates grew up elsewhere – Lykins is originally from Kentucky and Smith grew up in Detroit.

Whether Republicans try to make that an issue remains to be seen.

Smith summed up the philosophy of the Democrats’ campaign and probably the party in general by ending his speech with a line about how Republicans worry about the “one percent,”  adding “We cover the 99 percent.”

Smith and Lykins can only hope voting patterns follow that assumption.

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