HARDING TWP. – The Great Swamp Wildlife Refuge is a national landmark, having been saved by a group of local activists from conversion into a major airport more than 50 years ago.
But is it a vacation spot? Probably not.
That curious question arises because of campaign politics in CD-11, where Republican Rosemary Becchi is trying to unseat Democrat Mikie Sherrill, who was elected two years ago.
For the last few days, Becchi’s campaign Facebook page has claimed that Sherrill is on vacation and, thereby, not really doing her job.
Here’s how one post puts it:
“Where is Mikie Sherrill? Only in Washington is it acceptable to go on a summer vacation while millions of Americans don’t have jobs.”
The post also includes a picture of a postcard “signed” by Sherrill from Coney Island.
Coney Island? Did Jersey residents ever vacation on Coney Island?
Here’s another post from Aug. 31:
“While Mikie Sherrill is on vacation, I am hard at work finding ways to help our communities.”
Among other things, Becchi talked about a community blood drive she is co-sponsoring Thursday in Parsippany.
But let’s move to an event that happened today.
A small celebratory ceremony took place at the aforementioned Great Swamp to hail the recent passage and signing into law of the Great American Outdoors Act, which provides permanent funding to maintain the refuge and similar natural areas across New Jersey and the nation. All members of the state’s congressional delegation backed the bill, which prompted speeches by a representative of Republican Rep. Chris Smith and Sherrill, who praised the act’s bipartisanship.
She also got in the requisite quip about how lawmakers elsewhere in the country are “shocked” to learn New Jersey has pristine areas like the Great Swamp.
The pertinent point for our purposes is that Sherrill was at the Great Swamp today – not in Coney Island, or perhaps a more appropriate vacation spot.
On Tuesday, she was in Essex County to announce grants to several fire departments. On Monday, she spoke at Morris County’s Opioid Awareness Day. She also has had a few virtual “town hall” meetings in August.
By any objective measure, it’s hard to see how Sherrill could be moving around the district
and be away on vacation simultaneously.
The Becchi campaign has not yet responded to a request to explain its thinking, but I have a hunch what it is.
The House is not in session, so the apparent interpretation is that the congresswoman is enjoying a “vacation” from Washington. Anyone who has followed national politics for even a small amount of time knows that Congress takes time off in August. Sure, one can argue that shouldn’t be happening in a pandemic.
However, it’s certainly a stretch to suggest Sherrill is on vacation simply because Congress is not in session. By that creative reasoning, all House members – Republicans and Democrats – are on vacation regardless of what they’re doing in their districts.
For the record, Sherrill said she took about a week-long trip to see her father in North Carolina in early August.
She also suggested that Becchi is miscalculating the district if she thinks residents are going to accept her vacation swipes. Sherrill said district residents tend to be “very engaged” and that they follow events closely.