“People are fired up.”
That’s what Anthony M. Bucco, the top Republican in the Senate, told about 150 supporters Sunday at Morris County Clerk Ann Grossi’s annual Get-Out-The-Vote, or GOTV breakfast, in Morristown.
A few miles to the south and just a short time later, Somerset County Democrats gathered for a pre-canvas rally of their own.
Peg Schaffer, the county’s Democratic chair, introduced the guest speaker, Tom Malinowski, as a former – and future – representative in Washington. That remains to be seen, but Malinowski used the recent doings in Washington to make a point about Tuesday in New Jersey.
“We went from a guy who was pretty bad as Speaker of the House to someone who is even worse,” he said. House Democrats, of course, joined renegade Republicans to oust Kevin McCarthy, but that was not Malinowski’s point.
He criticized the new Speaker, Mike Johnson, for saying he advocates policy in line with his interpretation of the Bible.
Malinowski said this is no time to lose an election – anywhere – to a party led by people like that.
If there is an issue that holds both camps together – sort of – it is education.
Republicans have made “parents rights” a big part of their campaign. That is one reason Bucco said people are “fired up.”
Public schools, the GOP says, are inappropriately stressing sex and gender education in early grades, and what’s more, are trying to stop parents from knowing what their kids are doing.
Malinowski also had schools in mind.
But he lamented a time when it didn’t seem to matter if Republicans or Democrats were elected to school boards. Now it does.
He railed against conservatives for wanting to ban books and to fire teachers who oppose banning books.
Since leaving Congress after losing a reelection bid last year, Malinowski has formed a group to oppose a conservative takeover of school boards.
That makes this year’s school board elections across the state as interesting in some ways as the Legislature.
No one expects turnout to be all that robust. That makes it paramount to get out the vote.
On a mild November afternoon, candidates in both parties planned to spend the day going door-to-door.
“Let’s go out there, we have three more days,” Malinowski said.
Schaffer was enthused about the team of legislative candidates in LD-23, long a Republican bastion. In years past, Dems in this district may have been just “names on the ballot.”
But this year, the team of Senate candidate Denise King and Assembly candidates Guy Citron and Tyler Powell is working hard.
John DiMaio, one of the GOP incumbent Assemblymen in the district, was at the Morristown event. He told the crowd that he’s convinced Republicans have the issues on their side. DiMaio is running with fellow incumbents, Erik Peterson in the Assembly and Doug Steinhardt in the Senate.
For instance, DiMaio mentioned the demise last week of New Jersey’s offshore wind initiative, which is something Republicans had opposed. He said this shows how out of touch the Democrats’ energy policy is.
Grossi, the Morris clerk, is running for reelection herself. While the GOP easily wins most county offices in Morris, Grossi said she’s still working hard.
Her breakfast attracted a number of statewide Republicans, including Jack Ciattarrelli, a past and future gubernatorial candidate, and Bill Spadea, a possible candidate.
That’s two years away.
As for Tuesday, Bucco said what he’s been saying all campaign:
“For the first time in 20 years, our party is on the offensive.”