Over the Delaware River, more than 3,500 progressive organizers, activists, candidates and others met in Philadelphia’s Convention Center for the 14thannual Networks Nation, the nation’s largest annual conference for the progressive movement, from July 11-13th.
Workshop topics ranged from racial justice to organizing unions, criminal justice to the Green New Deal, as well as topics specific to the Garden State, such as a workshop specifically for New Jersey progressives. Representatives from Swing Left New Jersey, Action Together New Jersey, New Jersey’s League of Conservation Voters, the Bus for Progress, People for Progress, Good Government Coalition New Jersey, and New Jersey Working Families Alliance were among those who participated in a discussion and brainstorming session from the New Jersey Caucus.
Concerns voiced included New Jersey’s wealth gap, its ICE raids, and its opioid crisis; however, most of the discussion focused on what they called New Jersey’s machine politics involving George Norcross’s corruption. Some noted that over one billion of taxpayer dollars were used as incentives for Norcross’s business connections which did little for everyday citizens. Norcross, an insurance executive influential in southern New Jersey’s Democratic Party, has deep connections with his longtime friend Senate President Steve Sweeney; the duo’s conflicts with Governor Phil Murphy have been making headlines. Fake monetary bills with Norcross’s face depicted on them were distributed to punctuate the deep concerns with him.
The New Jersey caucus stressed the importance of supporting progressive candidates, helping progressive groups in New Jersey work collaboratively, and creating better ballots for New Jersey, including ranked-choice voting. Nancy Markalunas, treasurer from New Jersey’s People for Progress, noted that Dr. Andrew Appel of Princeton University will be speaking about New Jersey’s planned purchase of new voting machines and ways to ensure secure elections in the Garden State. (The event will be hosted by People for Progress on Tuesday July 16th at the Hamilton Free Public Library at 7 pm.)
One progressive candidate attended the caucus meeting: Russell Cirincione, from Old Bridge, who is running in CD6 as a 2020 primary opponent of Congressman Frank Pallone. Circincione stressed that he is running for his young son and the future of New Jersey; he commented that Pallone “takes money from Fossil Fuel companies” which Circincione feels is a conflict of interest. The candidate said his main issues are “getting big money out of politics, supporting 100 percent renewable energy by 2030, the Green New Deal, and Single Payer/Medicare for All.”
Another charged session closely connected to New Jersey was entitled “40 States Strategy: The New Poor
People’s Campaign- A National Call for Moral Revival,” where panelist Eric Holder, former federal Attorney General and Chair of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, stressed the need for a fair census, stating, “A fair redistributing process in 2021 depends on a fair census in 2020.”
Holder noted that if a citizenship question is included, people will be afraid to participate in the census. If so, millions will not be counted, which will affect local municipalities’ funding. Holder emphasized that Article One in the U.S. Constitution states that all the people should be counted – not just citizens. To learn more about how to ensure a fair census, he urged people to go tohttps://censuscounts.org/. The issue is particularly relevant in New Jersey which has one of the largest immigrant populations in the country.
Shortly after the session on Thursday, President Donald Trump dropped efforts to include a citizenship question on the census.
“Complete Count New Jersey has been pushing New Jersey libraries already with info sessions to
prepare for the 2020 census,” said Ocean Grove resident and Monmouth University instructor librarian Lisa Iannucci, who attended the New Jersey caucus meeting. She added that New Jersey libraries are planning now how to help distribute and facilitate 2020 census information.
For more information about Netroots Nation and the 2020 conference in Denver, CO, go to https://www.netrootsnation.org/.