ZERO HOUR: With NJEA Backing Republican Hahn, Edison a Miniaturized LD3

Democratic sources anticipate a closer-than-usual local election as Mayor Tom Lankey tries to hold off the aggressive challenge of Republican Keith Hahn, a former local Democratic Party chairman, in what in some ways has the mangled, New Jersey Education Association (NJEA)-intrusive and shape-changing crunched-together appearance of a poor man’s LD3 contest.

At the heart of LD3 is the NJEA’s alliance with a Republican to take out Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3), a Democrat.

Same here.

The LD3 dynamic repeats in strip mall after strip mall and slammed together suburban home after home, highway-diced and compressed global village Edison, where the NJEA is pitching in to elect Hahn, a local cop who has blanketed the Route 27 corridor with signs and last night anchored a successful rally. Republicans are heartened by what they see as the hapless gubernatorial candidacy of Phil Murphy, and the way their candidate, Republican Kim Guadagno, has corned a suburban-friendly tax message.

“The difference this year in Edison is the presence of the police and teachers for Keith Hahn,” Middlesex GOP Chair Lucille Panos told InsiderNJ.

The NJEA PAC forked Hahn an $8,200 check, according to the state Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC), as part of the candidate’s overall $36K candidacy. But the soft side money from the teacher’s union PAC dwarfs that number, in the vicinity of a projected $100,000.

Running on a message of fiscal responsibility and spending $183,000 to try to snag a second term, Lankey has coalesced that portion of the Democratic Party that tossed Hahn out of the local party leadership seat by one vote in June. That dichotomy has sparked a particularly bruising racial context to the fight between Hahn – who easily made the transition from Democratic Party leader to Republican Party leader after his defeat to Shariq Ahmad – and the Lankey-Ahmad alliance. Hahn’s downfall as chair – the coalescing behind Ahmad of all the minority groups on the local party committee – puts him up against a still-motivated portion of the local population, Democrats argue.

The closing balance contest this weekend appeared to heavily favor Lankey, as the incumbent reported a closing balance of $144K to Hahn’s $14.5K. But again, the NJEA super PAC soft serve has Dems jittery. Hahn has some observable traction thanks to the public sector labor funding, local relationships, and a perceived top of the ticket sting on Democrats from Murphy, but Lankey allies are confident of riding some anti-Trump anti-nativist backlash.

The NJEA’s decision to play against Democrats here has irritated the local party operation, but the party chairman says Lankey is well positioned to win reelection on Tuesday.

“Organized labor created the modern middle class and a lot of the worker protections we now enjoy is due to their efforts,” Ahmad said. In this case I think their decision is misguided and wrong, they should b working with us, not opposing us for the guy who switched parties to run with Christie’s lieutenant governor. The good thing is, I know a lot of Edison teachers personally and they disagree strongly with their union’s decision, and I think we’ll end up getting a lot of votes from the teachers.”

For his part, Hahn predicted victory.

“Edison is the most diverse town in the entire state and the people want someone they can relate to, someone approachable and someone who will work full-time looking out for them,” said the Republican mayoral candidate. “I’m confident that we have worked harder, run a better campaign based on the issues, and we have definitely done a better job of getting our message out. At the end of the day we did a better job for less money.”




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