There must have been about a dozen Mikie Sherrill volunteers and staffers at the Upper Montclair train station Monday night awaiting the 6:03 p.m. train.
When it arrived, it became clear there were more Sherrill campaign workers than commuters disembarking.
One of the volunteers handing out campaign literature was Declan Carney, who has been completely taken by Sherrill – a Navy academy grad and former helicopter pilot who is the leading Democratic candidate for Congress in District 11. Her status as the candidate likely will become official after Tuesday’s primary.
“I think we hit the candidate jackpot with Mikie,” Carney said.
Another platform volunteer, Willie Walker, had a more personal reason for getting involved.
An African-American woman, Walker said she feels as if the president is specifically targeting her community. Rather than be afraid, Walker said she wants to fight back.
It is such passion – a totally new occurrence for the still mostly-Republican district – that prompted Leroy Jones, the Essex County Democratic chair, to say an hour or so later that the Sherrill movement has moved past the campaign stage.
“This has become a crusade in the eleventh district,” Jones told an energized rally at the nearby Commonwealth Club.
It may not have been the best choice of words, but you get the point.
All campaigns include a certain level of hyperbole. The Sherrill campaign seems to go beyond that “certain level,” talking about thousands of volunteers, many of whom are new to political activism.
That is how Sherrill can win – by inspiring people who don’t normally vote in mid-term elections, or perhaps not at all, to go to the polls.
Bob Russo, a former mayor of Montclair, set forth an ambitious goal.
All of liberal Montclair is not in the 11th District, but there is enough to make an impact.
How much of an impact?
Russo, who is already looking beyond the primary, said he wanted Montclair to give Sherrill a 3,000-vote margin of victory in November.
Brendan Gill, Governor Phil Murphy’s political adviser and chairman of the Montclair Democratic Party, was in the room, advising Sherrill, who has held get-out-the-vote rallies in all four counties of the district – Morris, Passaic, Sussex and Essex, which was the last stop.
“We have four counties in the district … and this is Essex,” she said. “There’s no place like home.”
The 100 or so people in the room cheered wildly. This was not the time for a policy address, although Sherrill used a line she likely will repeat in the months ahead.
“We don’t need a wall on the Mexican border, we need a tunnel to Manhattan,” she said.
Jones said it was the energy of Sherrill’s campaign that forced Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen into retirement. Perhaps. Still, this really is a “be careful what you wish for” type of thing.
Sherrill may have found it “easier” running against a weakened incumbent than she will going up against whoever wins Tuesday’s GOP primary.
But that’s a problem for Wednesday.
Monday night was a time for Sherrill and her supporters to celebrate the success they’re confident is coming on Tuesday and to plan for the months ahead.
When’s the next train due?