The following is a reprint of an article in the Observer Tribune on 23-Aug-2017.
Frelinghuysen challenger speaks
Aug 23, 2017
Mikie Sherrill who is running for the Democratic nomination for Congress in the 11th District, spoke at this month’s Harding Democratic Organization meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 9. From left are Vice Chair Amanda Richardson, Sherrill and Township Committee candidates Kate Barry and Rhonda Allen.
HARDING TWP. – With state Assemblyman John McKeon, D-Morris,Essex, ruling out a race for Congress next year, Mikie Sherrill has emerged as an early front-runner for the Democratic nomination to take on Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen of Harding Township in the 11th Congressional District.
Sherrill, who addressed the Harding Democratic Organization on August 9, noted that Frelinghuysen, the powerful House Appropriations Committee chairman, has not faced a real challenge in the past.
But the turmoil of the Trump presidency — and Frelinghuysen’s leadership role supporting the President’s policies — have Democrats lining up for what is likely to be a hotly contested primary next June.
Sherrill has tapped into the wave of activism among Democratic women for her early base of support.
She criticized Frelinghuysen for voting with President Trump more than any other New Jersey House Republican l and for failing to hold an open town hall meeting to face his constituents in more than four years — in sharp contrast to Rep. Leonard Lance in the neighboring 7th District who has drawn national attention for his town hall meetings.
After graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1994, Sherrill spent more than nine years on active duty in the Navy. As a Sea King helicopter pilot, she flew missions throughout Europe and the Middle East. She worked on the Battle Watch Floor in the European Theater during the Iraq invasion, and served as a Flag Aide to the Deputy Commander of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet. One of her duties was serving as a liaison role to the Russian Navy, she told the Harding Democrats.
Sherrill left the Navy in 2003, She attended law school and earned a degree from Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. She worked in private practice and then joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey. As an Outreach and Reentry Coordinator, Sherrill said, she developed programs to help prevent crime in the community. As an Assistant U.S. Attorney, she prosecuted federal cases and worked on investigations.
Sherrill, who declared her candidacy in May, lives in a part of of Montclair that falls just outside the 11th District, but said she is moving into into a new home in the district.
She said she is a strong proponent of preserving the Affordable Care Act, funding Planned Parenthood, building the Gateway Tunnel and making college more affordable.
Sherrill’s chances were boosted immeasurably when Assemblyman McKeon, who is a candidate this November for re-election in the 27th State Legislative District, disclosed Aug. 8 he would not run for Congress, anticipating a greater leadership role in state government if Democrat Phil Murphy is elected governor.
“If the voters choose to return me to the Legislature this November, I will have the honor of serving as a senior member of the Assembly. With a Democratic governor in Trenton, I hope to be an integral part of the solution as New Jersey faces some of its most challenging times,” McKeon explained.
His decision did not soften his criticism of Rep. Frelinghuysen, however.
“I plan to work with our party’s nominee as well as groups like NJ-11th for Change, BlueWaveNJ and many others to assure a change in representation in the 11th District in 2018 and beyond,” McKeon vowed. “No matter what, I will continue to speak out and challenge Representative Frelinghuysen on issues that impact New Jersey and our nation.”
The 27th State Legislative District includes Madison, Chatham Township, Florham Park, Harding Township, East Hanover, Hanover Township, Caldwell, Essex Fells, Roseland, Livingston, Maplewood, Millburn, South Orange and West Orange.
In addition to Sherrill, Passaic County Freeholder John Bartlett, Woodland Park Mayor Kevin Kazmark and Jack Gebbia of Boonton, who has been active with NJ-11th for Change, a grassroots group critical of Frelinghuysen, are all likely to be in the race.
The 11th Congressional District covers most of Morris County and parts of Essex, Passaic and Sussex counties. Frelinghuysen has held the seat for 22 years.
National issues are translating down to local politics as well.
Rhonda Allen and Kate Barry, the Democratic candidates for Township Committee in Harding, issued a joint statement last Friday decrying the violence in Charlottesville:
“As candidates for Township Committee and citizens of Harding Township, we feel compelled to speak out in condemnation of the hateful and violent display of intolerance in Charlottesville this past weekend.
“Harding Township is a peaceful community. A cherished value of that community is respect and acceptance of all peoples regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.
“We stand in solidarity with all victims of the hateful, un-American acts that occurred in Virginia and offer our sympathies and prayers for them and their loved ones.
“Our community must have zero tolerance for the vile, racist, anti-Semitic, and homophobic sentiments espoused in Charlottesville, or for the KKK, Neo-Nazis and any other hate group voicing similar repugnant sentiments.
“Those ideologies and people who identify with them are not welcome in our town.”