If you tried to track down a Jersey-based operative who could make a case for a most intriguing year in politics, you probably couldn’t find someone better than Stephenine Dixon of Egg Harbor Township, whose local and national level campaign confluences could make the Ragin’ Cajun‘s head spin. But then again, Dixon has had a long and intriguing path to this point, which ironically, a day after InsiderNJ reported on Jeff Van Drew’s $50K campaign allocation in New Jersey’s most widely watched campaign battleground election – contains a Craig Callaway-connected origin story.
Callaway versus Dixon 2002.
That’s where it all started for Dixon, who’s in the midst of voter registration drives for Pennsylvania voters.
This was the era of Atlantic City Mayor Lorenzo Langford, who had backed AC native Dixon for a council appointment to a vacant council seat. In a faceoff with candidate Craig Callaway, Dixon won on the machines then lost by one vote after a tally of vote-by-mail ballots, long Callaway’s field specialty.
“I took it to court and it lasted a couple of months,” Dixon told InsiderNJ. In a recount overseen by Judge Max Baker, the councilwoman won, then lost to Callaway after the court re-summoned her to face another round of discovered vote-by-mail ballots. “The election was stolen from me,” said Dixon. “That’s what initiated me getting involved, so I would never be cheated again. I was cheated out of my election.”
Earlier this year the two again collided when she served as the campaign manager for Mayor Marty Small, who was running in the primary against a candidate backed by a motivated Callaway organization (To be fair, Thomas-Fields had her own support network, too; it just wasn’t enough). Dixon was back in New Jersey after serving as regional organizing director for Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s Iowa Campaign, then as Buttigieg’s Alabama State Director.
“What drew me to Marty was I had worked for one of his City Council races and I felt that he was the best candidate in the race for Mayor in 2020,” Dixon said. “I wanted to also work my first all-VBM race and it was successful. I’ve actually worked every Legislative race from schoolboard to the Caucus but never a all VBM race.”
But Dixon cautioned Amy Kennedy – who’s in a duel for the 2nd Congressional seat with incumbent U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-2) – not to overlook the significance of Callaway, tasked with GOTV operations for the Republican.
“If you know Atlantic City, the Callaways run their business as a business,” Dixon said. “Their attitude is ‘we’re going to go with the one who’s going to pay us for our work.’ One thing you have to say about them is they are hard workers. If you weren’t going to stick with him to the end you shouldn’t have hired him. If they’re on your team, they’re going to be out there, and they won’t ever stop touching people, night and day.”
Callaway helped propel Van Drew past Dixon’s candidate Tanzie Youngblood in the 2018 Democratic Primary, at which point she headed south to work on Stacey Abrams’ Georgia gubernatorial campaign.
Can Callaway’s work on behalf of Van Drew turn the election in Van Drew’s favor?
“I really don’t know,” said Dixon. “Amy has that name recognition. They’re going to pull together, but it depends on Ocean and Cape may, where Van Drew’s support will be stronger. Does she have a robust vote-by-mail operation? I haven’t gotten my ballot yet. It’s scary.”
It’s a word commonly associated with Halloween, and as the country lurches toward that event ahead of the Nov. 3rd election, Dixon is ready to transition to the Biden Campaign’s PA operation, even as old rival Callaway backs a congressional candidate who brought Donald Trump to Wildwood, reinforcing in political terms at least that what happens in Atlantic City perpetuates nationally.