Malinowski Takes a Listening-Tour Victory Lap in Mount Olive

MOUNT OLIVE – The number that prompted Wednesday night’s celebration by Democrats in western Morris County was 102. No, that wasn’t the number of people jammed into a side room at the Market Tavern on Route 206. The crowd easily exceeded that.

The number, 102, was now-Congressman-elect Tom Malinowski’s winning margin over incumbent Leonard Lance in Mount Olive. That was something to celebrate as the stunning defeat for congressional Republicans in traditional GOP areas continues to reverberate.

“This is the beginning. This is the benchmark,” Shelly Morningstar, the chair of the Mount Olive Democratic committee, told the crowd.  It may indeed prove to be a benchmark in terms of Democratic party success in Mount Olive, but whether it’s the beginning of anything remains to be seen.

The gathering was two-fold, if not three-fold. It was to celebrate the holiday season, Malinowski’s win in Congressional District 7 and to look ahead to future success. Darcy Draeger, one of two Democrats running for the state Assembly in nearby District 25, was there. As was Chip Robinson, the chair of the county Democratic organization.

“We have taken a gigantic, gigantic step forward by putting two Democrats in Congress,” Robinson said. The reference, of course, was to Malinowski and Mikie Sherrill in District 11 a few miles to the east.

Malinowski stood atop a chair to better address the crowd and talked first about the experience of the last month and then the future. He thanked his team of volunteers, estimating that they knocked on “about half a million doors.”

He reiterated that his campaign was about “preserving what’s good about this country.”

Soon after the election, the first-year Congress reps-to-be were summoned to Washington for orientation. He compared being a first-year congressman with being a freshman in high school. And as such, Malinowski said he found himself sitting at a table all alone during a dinner for first-timers.

“Everybody wanted to sit at Mikie’s table,” he said. That was a pretty good quip about Sherrill, who (and I’m not being malicious here) scores a bit higher than Malinowski on the charisma-scale. But the story had a happy ending.  Malinowski said that the venerable John Lewis, a long-time Georgia congressman and a veteran of the Civil Rights movement, came to sit with him. Afterwards, the new reps were taken to the House floor.

“It was that moment when it really hit home,” he said.

As Democrats prepare to take control of the House in a few weeks, it seems certain they will be pulled in two directions.

Malinowski talked about legislation to protect voter rights, the environment, expand gun regulations and to improve health care marketplaces under the ACA. These are expected Democratic goals that seem sure to pass the House. Of course, what happens in the Republican Senate may be a different story.

No matter what the Senate does, Malinowski noted that Democrats now have “blocking” power to stop the president when need be. And on that score, he predicted tough times ahead, saying, “We know how this president acts when he gets challenged.”

Beyond legislation, it seems certain some in the party will want House Democrats to investigate and perhaps even consider impeaching the president. Asked about that in a brief question-and-answer session with the crowd, Malinowski cautioned that it’s going to be important for Democrats to take on challenges that are productive, not overly partisan.

There was some political irony in the scene for this event. The Market Tavern, which was once called the Corner Pub (despite being not near any corner whatsoever) has been a hangout for local Republicans. In fact, one of those quietly watching the Democrats at play Wednesday night was township resident Dick Kamin, a former state assemblyman and onetime chair of the Morris County Republican Committee. It probably was coincidental unless he was on a not-too-secret undercover mission.

Despite all the talk about changing political fortunes in Morris County and elsewhere, it’s sobering to recognize the continuity of public life even when change does occur. Malinowski talked about his congressional office, which often gets awarded to freshmen by chance, He said his office has a nice red carpet. But that’s not its only feature.

“It’s Leonard’s (old) office,” Malinowski said.

(Visited 8 times, 1 visits today)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

News From Around the Web

The Political Landscape