In a podium-pounding political sermon, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka brought breakfasting Democrats to their feet at the state committee’s annual conference in Atlantic City by raising the specter of Donald Trump as the very antithesis of Jersey values and Democrats as the only solution.
“We leave this place and we show the state what Democrats are, what Democrats look like, what Democrats believe, how Democrats can organize, what Democrats will do,” Baraka said.
The party met in Atlantic City for two days to rally and strategize for the midterm elections. Their theme is riding the blue wave. Democrats will pitch familiar topics this fall, like protecting New Jersey from crippling Republican tax laws, preserving Medicare and Medicaid and a woman’s right to choose.
“I’d like to ask our president to come up here, and I’d like to be able to say to him, ‘Mr. President, this is what the United States of America looks like,” said Gov. Phil Murphy.
Unabashedly flying the progressive flag, Murphy launched the meeting Thursday night with a goal to flip New Jersey’s five Republican districts.
“This is all fantastic, but we’ve got to execute, we’ve got to execute. Forty-six days to go, we’ve got to play the game,” Murphy said. “Every single race, every vote in those races, will matter and count.”
“We have a chance to send a message on Nov. 6 that the state of New Jersey is standing up for America, for American values,” said Sen. Cory Booker.
A fired-up Booker electrified the crowd and defined the midterms as a vote of moral imperative.
“This is about right or wrong. We are in a moral moment in America when the values we all hold dear — Democrat, Republican, Independent — are suffering the moral vandalism that’s coming from Washington,” Booker said.
“We’re energized. We want to win,” said New Jersey Federation of Democratic Women First Vice President Andrea Mastro. “We want to change the system.”
Booker wouldn’t discuss his own presidential aspirations, revealed in a recent New York Magazine article which quoted him saying, “Of course the presidency will be something I consider. It would be irresponsible not to.”
He galvanized the rank and file, exhorting them to campaign for Democratic congressional candidates, including incumbent Senate colleague Bob Menendez, who escaped conviction in a corruption trial last fall. Polls show a distinct enthusiasm deficit, even among Democrats, in his fierce reelection battle against Republican challenger Bob Hugin.
“I’ve already been doing events for Bob Menendez. Anybody who knows my relationship with Bob knows that he’s been one of the best partners I could ever imagine having in the Senate,” Booker said.
“I’m going to support him because I’m a Democrat and I know how things work,” said Patricia Phillip from Matawan.
“We have to take control of the Senate with two more votes, so we have to hold on to what we have,” said Montclair Councilman Robert Russo.
“It’s going to take work, it’s going to take organization, it’s going to take money, but I’m confident. I’m confident that we’re going to pick up Republican congressional seats in New Jersey,” Currie said.
Democratic Committee Chairman John Currie predicted flipping two or three GOP districts, realistically, and dismissed recent party fractures with top Democrats from the Legislature who chared Currie with taking the governor’s side against them during the recent budget battle.
“It’s no disrespect to any Democrat whatsoever,” Currie said. “Democrats, it’s a big tent and we have a lot of different opinions. But at the end, I think we’ll all come together for the good of the people.”
The party faithful’s fired up. The question is can Democrats go back to their districts and motivate voters to go to the polls in November?