By Guest Contributor Madelyn Hoffman - Green Party of New Jersey's candidate for U.S. Senate
It's never been easy to run as a Green Party candidate in New Jersey. Believe me, I know.
I first ran as a Green as Ralph Nader's Vice Presidential running mate in New Jersey in 1996. I then ran for NJ Governor in 1997 and for the U.S. Congress in 1998, both times as a Green. I put that all behind me for the next 20 years - choosing instead to focus on working as the director of a non-profit peace organization in New Jersey.
When the NJ Globe announced on October 19th that it was sponsoring a debate between Senator Booker and his Republican challenger, Rik Mehta, the full force of NJ's hostility toward the Greens and third parties hit me -- and hit me hard. This long-sought after debate occurred after I and the two other independent candidates for U.S. Senate, Veronica Fernandez (I) and Daniel Burke (LaRouche Independent), combined to circulate a petition signed by hundreds of likely voters requesting a debate featuring all five candidates competing for the U.S. Senate seat. We launched the petition together in mid-September, and followed that up with emails and tweets, about the need for New Jersey to hear from all ballot-qualified candidates for U.S. Senate. We chose the NJ Globe as a possible sponsor after seeing them hold debates for the U.S. Congress in several competitive districts. In early October, I even spoke to David Wildstein of the NJ Globe by phone and argued with him about the need for an all-inclusive debate!
This debate between Booker and Mehta only was scheduled after we independents held our own debate because no media outlet, civic organization or university was stepping forward to sponsor one and we were tired of waiting. (Here's the link to the recorded event.) Both Rik Mehta (R) and Cory Booker (D) were invited -- Mehta received an in-person invitation and Booker was invited at a press conference held in front of his Senator's office in Newark on October 8th. Both declined to participate.
This debate excluding independents was also scheduled just days after a Stockton University poll revealed that 8.1% of those polled indicated that they did not want to vote for the Democrat or the Republican for U.S. Senate. An additional 5% were undecided.
The action on part of David Wildstein of the NJ Globe was unconscionable and a total betrayal of democracy. He took an idea that three independent candidates for U.S. Senate presented to him, co-opted it and then excluded the independents from the organized debate. Who knows if the debate would have happened at all had we not mounted a public campaign calling for one. We expressed great concern that Senator Booker was going to be anointed U.S. Senator for another term without ever having to confront his challengers or allowing his constituents to hold him accountable for his policy choices as Senator.
The actions of the NJ Globe also excluded the two women candidates in the race from the debate, this during the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting women the right to vote.
I guess a betrayal of democracy should be nothing new to David Wildstein after his involvement in the Bridgegate Affair, the one in which then Governor Christie was accused of using the power of his office to unfairly target the Democratic Party mayor of Fort Lee who had not endorsed his campaign for re-election. Wildstein walked away from that scandal scot-free, after throwing his underlings under the bus, but refusing to do the same for his bosses, which included none other than former Governor Chris Christie.
2020 may not be the first time I have run for public office as a Green in New Jersey. However, this is the first time I'm experiencing first hand the hard lessons of NJ politics and understanding how deep the corruption runs. This corruption runs through local, county and state politics and the media that cover it. The presence of corruption limits policy debates and discussion to only a small range of ideas.
Additionally, corruption is not reserved for just one of the mainstream political parties, but it is a mainstay of both the Democratic and Republican Party machine in New Jersey. In fact, there are times when it's impossible to extract one from the other.
The lessons of 2020 convince me more and more of the need for a strong independent party. These lessons make me even prouder to be a Green. The Greens do not accept money from large donors, PACs or SuperPACS, or from corporations. This enables the Greens to maintain a safe distance from the corruption that afflicts many of our elected/public officials, corruption that has created one political machine in this state with two party monikers.
This matters because the people of New Jersey need elected officials whose only obligation it is to enact policies that address the needs of our communities. There is no room for corruption in the efforts for economic and social justice.
By election day, I will have campaigned in every one of New Jersey's 21 counties, despite the pandemic. This campaign has shown me that 2020 has been a year full of rebellion and transformation. If elected U.S. Senator for New Jersey, I'm dedicated to continuing that progress and exposing those who stand in the way because of their focus on self-interest, greed and corruption.
Madelyn Hoffman (Green Party)
is running for election to U.S. Senate
to represent New Jersey.
Editor's Note: Madelyn Hoffman, a seasoned activist, was director of the Grass-Roots Environmental Organization and director of New Jersey Peace Action. She was Ralph Nader’s vice-presidential running mate in New Jersey in 1996. The following year she ran for New Jersey governor as a Green. She also ran as a Green for U.S. Senate in 2018, receiving 25,150 votes, and as of this printing is running for the same seat again in 2020. You can read more about Madelyn's achievements here.