NJ’s Pre-Election Day Political Tailgate

Election Day is next Tuesday followed by lame-duck season so there’s a lot going on in NJ politics. I’ll write a lot about both topics this week while convalescing from hernia surgery.

InsiderNJ OUT 100

Last week we published the 2nd annual OUT 10o Power List, a tribute to influential LGBTs in NJ politics. That’s a lot of names and a pretty big number, so let’s break it down a bit shall we?

First, this year’s list included 45 new faces. That’s a lot of churn by any measure and a testament to the growing influence LGBT people have on NJ politics at many levels.

This year’s list included 53 men and 51 women with 3 non-binary folks rounding out the tally.

NJ Senate Dems

Last night I came across a tweet from the NJ Senate Democrats that perfectly reflected the frivolity and un-seriousness of their priorities under Senate President Steve Sweeney.

“Microbreweries have become a major aspect of agritourism in New Jersey, what’s your favorite local brewery?”

I love agritoursm as much as the next upper-middle class caucasian suburbanite. But I immediately thought of all those (mostly black) people still getting locked up every day in NJ because these very same NJ Senate Democrats can’t muster the votes to legalize pot.

Sweeney says he wants to end cannabis prohibition. But his unwillingness (or inability) to coax any more votes from fellow Norcross Dems suggests he’s still keen to deprive the Governor bragging rights on a campaign promise. It’s almost like the Norcross Democrats hate the governor as much as they appear to approve of the War on Drugs.

On stuff like gas pipelines and Dana Redd’s pension, senate democrats goose-step. But the minute gays wanna get married or we wanna stop locking black people up for weed, those very same democrats generally seem to lose their courage.

Will the NJ Senate Dems rediscover their convictions during the lame duck season? Their track record suggests not.

No wonder they want us to drink more!

Crystal Ball

The race in NJ’s 16th Legislative District is billed as a close contest but in the end, incumbent Dems Andrew Zwicker and Roy Freiman will sail to victory over their GOP rivals. That’s why we’ll all look back and wonder what all the fuss was about.

Zwicker, the two-term incumbent became enraged with the NJ League of Conservation Voters for opposing a bill that would force (only some) organizations to reveal all their donors. Transparency sounds good right? Except here’s the rub: Zwicker’s bill probably isn’t constitutional. But he went to the mat anyway and by all indications is ready to die on this particular hill.

I won’t recap the bitter back-and-forth recriminations because it’s unseemly but I will say this much: when this race is settled and Zwicker/Freiman romp to victory, Zwicker’s catfight with the NJLCV will look more and more like a huge, unfortunate unforced error. There are many progressives in NJ who like Zwicker and the organization he’s at odds with and Zwicker forced us all to choose sides.

In two years, Andrew Zwicker might challenge GOP Senator Kip Bateman for a seat in the upper house. He’ll need all the help he can get to dislodge a popular, moderate incumbent. So hopefully, Andrew makes good use of that time by deescalating an otherwise easily avoidable altercation.

Zwicker won his first election by a whisker in 2015. He and Freiman won handily two years later. Next week, the Democrats in LD16 will cruise to an easy 3000+ victory as the NJGOP bloodbath continues in the era of Trump.


Christian Fuscarino runs Garden State Equality, NJ’s largest LGBT rights org.

“Right now, there’s not a single openly LGBTQ lawmaker at the state level, and as a result, the authenticity and power of our community is dimmer,” Fuscarino told InsiderNJ. “It’s inspiring that a historic number of LGBTQ candidates are running for county and municipal office, but it’s imperative that we work to elect the next generation of leaders in Trenton and reclaim our seat at the table.”

He’s right.

There are two credible LGBT candidates running for Assembly this year and both face long-ish odds. Jennifer Williams is a Republican running in reliably blue Mercer County and Eileen Della Volle is a Democrat running  in the reddest part of Ocean County. Jennifer would be the NJ’s first transgender Assembly member and Eileen would be the first lesbian.

“We owe a great deal of gratitude to LGBTQ pioneers and lawmakers Tim Eustace and Reed Gusciora,” Fuscarino told InsiderNJ referring to Trenton’s first openly gay lawmakers. But still no gay women and nobody transgender.

And until we can convince the county party bosses to shortlist LGBT candidates for Assembly, that’s not gonna change.

Jay Lassiter is an aging provocateur with strong opinions about politics, sports, fashion, and culture.

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