The Sussex County Democratic Committee on Sunday voted for Phil Murphy, largely thought to be the frontrunner in the Democratic race, as its candidate for governor.
Murphy, Mark Zinna and Bill Brennan, as well as Ben Silva, a spokesman for John S. Wisniewski (who was at an event in Newark), spoke to a standing-room-only crowd at the Irish Cottage Inn in Franklin, all espousing the progressive values and policies that Democrats support: equal pay, reproductive freedom, healthcare for all, environmental protection, clean energy, support for public education, job retention and fiscal responsibility coupled with social justice.
All also noted the size of the crowd, saying it heralded a new strength for Democrats in Sussex County.
“I’m in Sussex County standing in front of a room full of passionate Democrats,” declared Brennan. “If someone had told me that a year ago, I would have said, ‘You don’t know Sussex County.’”
All candidates spoke about the importance of running Democrats for every possible office, from local councils and boards to county freeholder and on up. This lays the groundwork for Democrats eventually to have a base of experienced officeholders in the county, and it also forces Republicans on the ballot to declare where they stand on the issues. They also noted that it’s critical to do everything to ensure a Democratic victory in the gubernatorial election, not only for in-state policies but to send a message to Washington that New Jersey is not on board with the current agenda.
Murphy noted that the increasing numbers of Democrats energized to get involved can lay the groundwork for an eventual release from the grip of the GOP in Sussex County: “Imagine what your life would be like if Sussex County had Democrats in Trenton,” he said. “It would be a dramatically different reality.”
Hoping to accomplish that reality are four Democratic candidates for the state legislature, all of whom spoke at Sunday’s meeting. Gina Trish of Blairstown, Michael Pirog of Mount Olive, and Kate Matteson of Sparta are angling to replace Parker Space and Gail Phoebus in the assembly, and Jennifer Hamilton, also of Sparta, hopes to unseat state Sen. Steve Oroho.
“This is not a rich district,” noted Matteson, saying that the Republicans Sussex County sends to Trenton “support policies that no longer benefit the people of this district.”
“Trump won because of communities like ours feeling that they aren’t heard,” said Hamilton. “We can’t let that happen; we can’t be silenced in our own communities.
“If they hear us in Trenton, they’ll hear us in Washington.”
Assembly candidate Michael Pirog added: "The Republicans in our district have been in power for so long they believe they have a monopoly on our values. But as we can see from the rise of groups like Action Together, Indivisible, and the increased enthusiasm from Democrats that they don't."
The final vote count was:
- Murphy: 57
- Wisniewski: 23
- Brennan: 12
- Fulop: 1
- Lesniak: 1
- Zinna: 1