By Dan Jacobson, Publisher, triCityNews (Cross published in the triCityNews, Thursday, March 24, 2011)
I’m a Democrat. And I’m starting to seriously consider running against Senator Sean Kean in the Republican primary.
Why not? I’d love to see what that forbidden land looks like. Like when this newspaper sent me to Havana, Cuba on assignment. Running as a Republican would be one hell of a journalistic expedition. I think it would be a blast.
Here’s my favorite angle to the Kean vs. Jacobson story: If the contest were based solely on economic issues, he’d beat me in a Democratic primary. And I’d beat him in a Republican primary. I’m not kidding! It’s pretty wild.
For years, I’ve criticized the Democratic Party for being clueless on economic policy. Becoming a subsidiary of the unions destroyed us. We lost our independence, and the ability to shrink the government and reduce taxes when needed. That’s why angry Democrats write in calling me a Republican.
Conflicts with big labor predate my journalism career. I served one term as a Democratic Assemblyman in Trenton 20 years ago. In my final race, I told the NJEA that school vouchers should be tested in poor urban school districts. That didn’t go over well. They endorsed my Republican opponents. And when I lost my seat in 1991, a local AFL-CIO activist ran against me as an independent to siphon off votes. Many in that union were angry because I refused to support a state payroll tax to bail out their self-insured health insurance funds.
Now contrast that with Republican Sean Kean. Last week, I wrote about his history of taking endorsements from the government employees unions – specifically the NJEA and the state workers union (CWA). With those endorsements, Sean sold out the limited government principles of the Republican Party. He gave up his independence. Check out his campaign reports at the website of the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission. You’ll see union contribution after union contribution. I stopped counting at $20,000 between the NJEA and the CWA. And I only got through about one-third of his reports starting with his most recent. That was enough.
(And Sean got tons of police union money – he’ll never get a ticket from a State Trooper! Biggest surprise? Even I was stunned to see a large $5,000 contribution from the SEIU union out of New York – that’s the powerful union instrumental in pulling the Democrats way out of the mainstream. Google the SEIU and the Democratic Party. You’ll see.)
Call me crazy. But if a government employees union has the right to collective bargaining, it’s absurd that they can elect those who sit across the bargaining table. And it’s absurd that they can elect those who enact the rules for that bargaining.
But that’s Sean Kean. He’s the recipient of all that union largesse. And how hilarious that it takes a Democrat like me to say it! You won’t hear a local Republican speak up. Party loyalty, you know. Man, I hate that shit. So remember this: Sean Kean would bury me in a Democratic primary with all his union support. And that just cracks me up!
Tell you what: Government employee unions should not be allowed to collect mandatory dues – and then use those dues to elect those running the government that employs them. That gives them way too much power. That’s the root problem right now. It’s why collective bargaining can’t be fair. It’s why everything is out of whack. If these unions want to form their own political action committees and convince members to voluntarily contribute, so be it. That’s democracy. But today’s situation is ridiculous. Exhibit A is Sean Kean’s campaign finance reports.
So why have I stayed registered as a Democrat? Because I don’t want to live in a theocracy. That’s what the cultural right-wing of the Republican Party represents – and they’re as powerful in the GOP as the unions in the Democratic Party. I just don’t like hypocrisy. While Republicans politicians claim they want limited government, many will happily order the government to tell a woman what to do with her body. Or tell a huge chunk of our population who they can marry.
Sean Kean’s vote against same-sex marriage last year is what really pissed me off. That’s what got me. It was a moral issue that he called a “tough” vote, meaning a politically tough vote because he represents a sizeable gay community. What bullshit. There’s nothing “tough” about a moral issue – you vote what you believe. Period.
But back to my kamikaze Republican candidacy. Let’s get it all out. Over the years, I’ve also derided the Republican Party as being dominated by anti-gay bigots and gun nuts. With pro-lifers I’ve been more gentle (at least as far as I can remember). Because they’re motivated by legitimate religious beliefs. I just don’t think the issue has any place in our secular government. It’s between a woman and her doctor.
(And gun nuts hold your fire! I would not tighten New Jersey gun laws. Every cop I know tells me that weapons used in crimes here are coming from other states with lax gun control laws, particularly in the south. That’s the problem. So don’t shoot! I’m not running for federal office, where I’d change that. Nor am I running for state Senate in Georgia. If I were, you bet I’d be wearing a bullet-proof vest right now.)
But forget all this stuff. My beliefs are united by one thing – a knee-jerk reaction against the concentration of power, wherever it may be found. That includes government employee unions. That includes powerful corporations that get government favors instead of competing in the free market. It also includes big media – my disgust with the Gannett-owned Asbury Park Press is well-documented. And it includes political parties who order elected officials what to do. I recoil against it all.
You know what? I sound a lot like a Tea Party type. I just can’t call myself one! They’re way too kooky. But on the big issues they’re right, and they’ve done a huge service for our nation by turning the Republican Party upside down and forcing it to stand for fiscal responsibility.
OK, so here’s my political situation:
I can never run again as a Democrat. The unions and I have a bad 20 year history. Sorry, I just love repeating this: Sean Kean would beat me in a Democratic primary with all his union support. Hands down!
Sure, I could run as an Independent in the general election but voters are asleep. They don’t pay attention. It would be no fun and a waste of time. People are lazy and apathetic. Yes, I’m insulting the voters.
Yup, a kamikaze run in the Republican primary as the most unconventional of insurgents makes sense. It’s a very small electorate that pays attention. And they understand the debate about economics, limited government and the dangers of concentrated power in our economic and political system.
Could I win? You tell me.
Only 2500 people voted in the last state Senate Republican primary. That’s it. When they learn about Sean’s and my divergent experiences with unions, I bet you I peel off a third of them. Maybe more. Lots of Republicans have long respected my independence. They’re motivated by economics and freedom. They will not like Sean’s alliance with the unions. For many, the social issues aren’t as important. Or they agree with me on them.
Anyway, peeling off a third of the usual vote makes the tally about 1700 to 800 in Sean’s favor. But the question is whether I can convince, say, just 1000 independents to come out and vote for me. That would put me over the top. Remember, independents can vote in the primary. And they’ll definitely like what I have to say.
Here’s where it gets interesting. The triCityNews has about 25,000-30,000 regular readers who read the paper every week or two. They are tuned in politically. And they reflect our region’s overall distribution of Republicans, Democrats and Independents. I bet close to 20,000 Republican and Independent triCity readers would be eligible to vote in the primary. That’s a lot.
And I’m sure they’ll enjoy following such a wild race. What great political theater! Guarantee they’d love what I had to say. Or love to hate it! Hey, that’s why they read the paper now.
Whether they can stomach voting for me is another story. Of that I have no idea. But I may only need an extra 1,000 or so to come out. Out of about 20,000. Not bad odds. (Then again, 5,000 could come out against me!)
Nah, I’ll never win. It’s preposterous. Perhaps in some ways I’d rather lose. After all, I’ve got a fake newspaper to run here, and that takes time.
Of course, Republican leaders have nothing to fear if the unthinkable happens and I win. We’ll get along just fine. I’ll ignore them, and they’ll ignore me. I have no interest in getting involved in campaigns for anyone else – Republican or Democrat. I have no interest in party politics, fundraisers or rallies. And I have no interest in party leaders telling me how to vote.
It’s quite simple. I’d just want to do the job of Senator and advocate for my principles. Imagine that.
But me running in a Republican primary is way too nutty, right? I mean, this is crazy? I can’t really…
Help! Someone please stop me! Stop me, please! Stop me before I run again….as a Republican!!
This the following was not published in the triCityNews. It’s Dan’s addendum just for his growing MMM readership:
This is your fault Art!
After your commentary last week — and also the comments by TR — I started to think about this much more seriously. I am now likely to do it, and am moving forward on organizing.
Looking forward to MMM reader feedback. No doubt it will be uniformly positive. And I think I know who TR is! (I’ll send him a code: He’s svelte, has great vision and is a dogged defender of the downtrodden in the criminal justice system…of course, if I’m not right he won’t know what the hell I’m talking about).
Also, anyone is welcome to say whatever they want in the triCityNews in response to this article. Our email is [email protected] Please put something in the email captoin about letter to editor kean/Jacobson. Please note that the shorter and more concise the better. While we normally reserve the right to edit letters, in this situation it is not appropriate for us to do that. But if it’s too long, we can’t guarantee that we’d print it. I’d suggest 400-500 words max. Obviously, if there’s something libelous or defamatory it won’t be printed.
Nor will we print any expletives. Just kidding.
(Note to my fellow Republican Mike Golub: Your comments last week were excellently written as usual. I would have printed any of them in our paper. But we normally couldn’t have fit ALL of them. Please feel free to send in a response with that in mind. Still, if you don’t want to cut back what you have to say, I don’t want to censor you. Please send whatever you like and I’ll do my best to get it in regardless of the length. After all, the triCityNews is, as they say, Fair and Balanced.)
Please submit letter to editor by monday at 9 am for us to get them in this week.