Democrat Amanda Richardson runs for seat on Harding Township Committee

Observer Tribune 20-March-2019

Amanda
Amanda Richardson, shown with her husband, Matt, and son, Henry.

HARDING TWP. – Amanda Richardson, chairwoman of the Harding Township Democratic Committee, is running for a three-year seat on the Township Committee.

The Woodland Road resident will be on the ballot for the Tuesday, June 4, primary and the general election ballot on Tuesday, Nov. 5.

Richardson plans to run in the November general election against GOP Committeeman Nicolas Platt. Platt said he plans to run for what would be his fourth term on the Township Committee. No other candidates have announced their intentions to date. The deadline for ling to run in the primary is Monday, April 1.

Platt was chosen by the then-Township Committee to replace Republican Jim Rybka, who resigned abruptly in 2009. Platt then ran for election, and was elected to another two, three- year terms.

Richardson said in a statement that she has received the Democratic committee’s unanimous endorsement at a meeting last Wednesday night.

“Harding is an oasis in New Jersey: a small-town community that has kept its character with a commitment to preserving open space and keeping taxes low,” Richardson said. “This is what brought my family here over 30 years ago and it is why I returned to Harding with my husband to raise our family here.

“Growing up in this idyllic place, with the Great Swamp in my backyard, inspired my work on land and resource rights. As I embark on this campaign and as a Township Committee member, I pledge to preserve Harding’s rural character, to maintain its low taxes and scal discipline, and to move forward with a respectful campaign and healthy debate focused on the issues,” she said

Richardson and her husband, Matt Eckman, have a son, Henry, 2.

She is a lawyer, having graduated from Amherst College and Columbia University Law School. She founded a non-profit organization, Resource Equity (resourceequity.org), that is focused on promoting women’s rights to land and resources in developing countries.

Richardson was elected to the Democratic County Committee in 2016 and quickly became a leader of the resurgent Harding Township Democratic Committee that emerged as part of the anti-Trump blue wave that culminated in the election of Rep. Mikie Sherrill, D-11, in November.

Richardson was elected vice chair of the Harding Township Democratic Organization in January 2017 and was elected chair last June. She managed the unsuccessful Township Committee campaigns of Rhonda Allen and Kate Barry in 2017 and 2018.

“The candidacies of Rhonda and Kate highlighted the benefits of bi-partisan debate and representation in the township and brought a voice to those in Harding who do not currently feel represented,” Richardson said. “With open debate and a healthy competition of ideas from varying perspectives, democracy thrives. I look forward to engaging in a vigorous dialogue on the complex issues facing our community in the years ahead.

“We are a small town with big issues: implementation of our affordable housing obligation, the Verizon cell tower at the recycling center, the future of Glen Alpin, and, inevitably, others that will likely arise in the future.

“We need to do everything we can to engage all of our neighbors in the decisions of the Township Committee that can affect their daily lives and their property values. As a member of the Township Committee, I will bring my professional experience and education to discharge my responsibilities.

“As a co-founder of my non-prot organization, I have experience running a business, from budgeting and managing contractors and employees, to negotiating contracts and implementing major projects. As a lawyer, I have experience parsing and crafting laws, regulations, and resolutions.

“Equally important for my role on the Township Committee, I have extensive experience working with and listening to communities to help bring them the assistance they most need,” she said.

Richardson said Harding is changing politically.

“Growing up, I viewed Harding as a Republican town. Today, the political spectrum is broader, as evidenced by the results of the 2018 election. I have been pleasantly surprised by how many people have become very active participants in not only our Democratic Committee, but also as enthusiastic citizens in other groups such as the Harding Non-Partisans,” Richardson said.

“Harding residents are more engaged and aware of the need for transparency and bipartisanship as key components to successful local government

“Positive change has begun. During their campaign, Kate (Barry) and Rhonda (Allen) provided data showing the lack of broad representation on the township boards and commissions. Kate has since been appointed to the Environmental Commission, which has increased representation to two Democrats.

“One of the goals of my campaign is to continue push for more inclusion and transparency as vacancies on these commissions and boards are filled,” she said.

Barry is Richardson’s campaign manager and Molly Riley is treasurer.

“As Harding evolves, bringing together long-time residents and relative newcomers, I am committed to ensuring that all residents feel heard and represented. It is at the local level that many of the decisions that most aect our lives are made,” Richardson said. “These are not partisan issues. We need to move our Township Committee to a more collaborative, open, and transparent process by taking steps beyond the required legal notices and agenda postings to ensure eective communication and understanding among all of our residents. Giving all residents the information they need to evaluate how decisions aect them and the opportunity to be heard before those decisions are made would be a major focus of my tenure on the committee.”

Allen, Barry grateful for Harding support

Observer Tribune  Nov 20, 2018

EDITOR:

We would like to extend our congratulations to Ms. (Nanette) DiTosto and Mr. (Tim) Jones on their election to the Harding Township Committee and to express our sincere gratitude to everyone who supported us and worked tirelessly throughout our campaign, especially our families whose eternal support is deeply appreciated.

We were truly humbled by the dozens of volunteers who hosted events in their homes, accompanied us while canvassing and campaigning at the post office, stuffed envelopes, made phone calls and donated to our campaign.

Amanda Richardson, the current chair of the Harding Township Democrats, deserves special recognition for her work organizing our group and barely coming up for air in the the weeks leading to the election. Special thanks also to Ayse Ergene, our student intern from Seton Hall University, whose competence, skills, willingness to help, kindness, patience, and dedication were invaluable.

We thank the League of Women Voters for coming to Harding with five volunteers to moderate a very successful and impartial candidates forum. Thank you also to the Harding Township Civic Association and the Church of Christ the King for hosting.

We were thrilled and honored to welcome Congressional candidate (now Congresswoman- Elect) Mikie Sherrill and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker to the New Vernon Post Office on the Saturday before the election. Thank you to the more than 100 Harding residents and neighbors who joined us that day and to the Harding Police Department who recognized our gathering for what it was, a peaceful citizen assembly. This is what democracy looks like.

Thank you to the poll workers, who were at town hall from the crack of dawn on election day to ensure all residents who so chose were able to cast their ballots. We were delighted and humbled to have earned nearly 800 votes this year (about 300 more than 2017). Our percentage increased from 33 percent in 2017 to 36 percent this year.

We were proud to do our part as well to support Congresswoman-elect Mikie Sherrill, who earned 45 percent of the vote in Harding Township.

It was a pleasure and an honor running for office in Kate’s hometown and Rhonda’s home of nearly 30 years. We look forward to remaining active, meeting more residents, and ensuring that the members of our community feel comfortable being and supporting Democrats. We are excited for Harding Township’s future.

RHONDA ALLEN

Deer Ridge Drive

KATE BARRY

Meyersville Road

Harding Township

Election is sign to be optimistic in Harding

Observer Tribune  Nov 20, 2018

EDITOR:

There is reason to be optimistic about the state of democracy in our community following last Tuesday’s election.

First and foremost, in Harding, in the larger Congressional District 11 and across the country, Americans came out in higher numbers to cast their ballot. Nearly 61 percent of Harding voters exercised their most precious right on Tuesday, as compared to the 43 percent who voted in Harding in the last midterm election. This uptick is a very welcome change from the 2014 midterm that marked the lowest nationwide voter participation in nearly 75 years.

With an open field after the retirement of U.S. Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen who represented the district since 1995, both the Republican and Democratic party competed for our votes. This is a good thing. It imbued a level of enthusiasm and engagement to the race and gave residents a fresh opportunity to assess and to weigh-in on the representation they seek from their congressional, county and local officials.

Allen and Barry will stimulate civic involvement in Harding

Letter to the Editor; Observer-Tribune; Oct 3, 2018

EDITOR:

Let’s welcome two new faces on the Harding Township Committee: Allen and Barry.

I am writing in support of Rhonda Allen and Kate Barry for Harding Township Committee. Both women are long time residents spanning three generations here. Both have impressive educational backgrounds: Dr. Allen has a PhD in clinical psychology and Ms. Barry holds a masters in environment and sustainable development.

They are committed to Harding’s green spaces and low taxes.

Continue reading “Allen and Barry will stimulate civic involvement in Harding”

Vote Barry, Allen for diversity in Harding Township

Letter to the Editor; Observer-Tribune; 03-Oct-2018

EDITOR:

I wholeheartedly support the candidacies of Kate Barry and Rhonda Allen for seats on the Harding Township Committee.

Kate and Rhonda are both well qualified and prepared to assume the role of Township Committee members.

Continue reading “Vote Barry, Allen for diversity in Harding Township”

Allen, Barry shocked by gun control silence in Harding

EDITOR: When it comes to common sense gun control, with the exception of one member, the Harding Township Committee has nothing to say.

Regardless as to where you stand on the issue, it would be hard to argue that gun violence is currently anything less than one of the most pressing and high profile issues in America right now. All across the country, students, survivors and their friends and families, politicians, and Americans of all political inclinations, are speaking passionately about an issue of national importance.

At the March 12, Township Committee meeting, Rhonda Allen asked the Township Committee if they had a position on gun control, including a ban on assault weapons and high magazine rounds, noting that it was two days before the one-month anniversary of the massacre in Parkland, Fla.

She informed the committee that many of our high school students were planning to participate in the 17-minute school walkout in remembrance of the lives lost to gun violence and urging Congress to enact stricter commonsense gun laws. Allen also invited the Township Committee to join her and other Harding residents at the March 24 “March for Our Lives” in Morristown.

We were astounded and very saddened by the lack of response. The only reply came from Nic Platt. He supports a ban on assault weapons and pointed to Antonin Scalia and former President Ronald Reagan, who both agreed that assault weapons were not protected under the Second Amendment.

While we greatly appreciate his response, we were appalled that no other member of the Township Committee cared to comment.

To be clear, Tim Jones, Nanette DiTosto, Dev Modi and Chris Yates did not even offer condolences to families who lost a loved one to gun violence. They chose not to acknowledge that gun deaths are unfortunate and sad, or that the massacres in Parkland, Newtown, Columbine, Las Vegas, Littleton, Orlando, and Charleston, among too many others, are horrific and tragic.

Not one of that group said children should always feel safe in their schools. Instead, they took the unfathomable route, choosing to say nothing.

We do not necessarily expect to agree with these four members (though we do not feel that gun violence should be a partisan issue), but we did expect an acknowledgement of the tragedies resulting from gun violence. Unfortunately, we were presented only with silence.

RHONDA ALLEN
Deer Ridge Drive

KATE BARRY
Meyersville Road

Harding Township

Editor’s note: The writers were both unsuccessful Democratic candidates for the Harding Township  Committee.

The Present is Female: Campaigning for Democratic Candidates in an All-Republican Township

I found myself in the unlikely position earlier a week ago of calling up a hundred residents of my hometown of Harding, New Jersey, to advocate for two pro-choice Democratic female candidates for the township committee. Unlikely because Democrats rarely even run for—much less win—elected office in Harding. The center of ritzy horse country in Morris Country, Harding is a one-party town. There is an annual steak-and-lobster dinner for residents every June at the shingled Colonial firehouse, to give you an idea.

​So, it was with nervous anticipation that I dialed each number on my call-sheet.

“Hi my name is Katie Parker-Magyar, and I’m calling to urge you to vote tomorrow for Rhonda Allen and Kate Barry, the Democratic candidates for Harding Township Committee. Are you planning on voting tomorrow?”

At this moment, I would draw in breath, waiting for the response. Oftentimes, however, it was encouraging.

“Of course, I’m voting for Kate and Rhonda!” one man enthused. “I’ve been a Democrat in Harding for decades, and I thought I was the only one. This town needs this. The future is female, isn’t that what everyone is saying? It’s the next generation, the young kids like yourself, who are going to make things happen.”

Though he thought I was eighteen, (off by a decade), I was nonetheless encouraged—though slightly concerned the nervousness in my voice belied the gravitas of the message. Apparently, your voice rises an octave or two when you’re paranoid the person you’re calling is either a closeted conservative or a former high-school classmate. I’d reverted back to sounding like the student I’d been when I was growing up in this town.

“I never share my politics with anyone,” another woman informed me. “Kate and Rhonda did a wonderful job at that presentation last week, but I’m not going to tell you, or anyone else for that matter, who is getting my vote. I’ve never talked about politics in my life, and I’m not planning on starting now.”

I was polite on the line, but it was a response I’d heard a couple times—and each time it was disconcerting. Not sharing your opinion about who you’re voting for is part of the problem, particularly in a town where democracy isn’t even practiced. There are no Democratic representatives in Harding: the wealthy enclave is a haven for conservatives, and is the hometown of Republican Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen. To be liberal is to stand out.

But, you have to be uncomfortable for change to be made. To be apolitical these days is an exercise in privilege: you’re so insulated and protected by your position in society that it doesn’t matter who wins or loses—you’re always winning.

But local protest affects national change, something I experienced when I first found myself sitting at a Harding Township Democrats meeting this spring. Established post-Trump, the committee aimed to put two Democratic women on the township committee in this Republican stronghold within the heart of Frelinghuysen territory.

Looking around the room, I was inspired by the size of the crowd, and the breadth of their knowledge about local and national issues.

“I never knew there were so many Democrats in Harding,” the lady in pearls and loafers beside me kept commenting, in between impassioned rants about the hometown Congressman’s largely Trump-lockstep voting record.

The crowd was predominantly women, though there were men present as well, and all ages were represented. Reproductive rights, climate change, immigration policy was debated heatedly for hours (way past many of these ladies’ bedtime).

Most impressive? One of the candidates, Kate Barry, is the daughter of a prominent former Republican assemblyman—and still in her early thirties. Kate is a local Realtor in town, but also takes care of local residents’ horses on the side, which people joked gave her a natural advantage in horse country. Kate also owns a donkey, which was  woefully under-used, in my opinion, in the campaign.

The people in the room had long felt like the sole Democrats in a town full of Republicans, and now they had found a means of channeling their energy. The passion in the room, the commitment to engendering change, was contagious. I witnessed a movement starting in my conservative hometown, and knew it would persevere regardless of whether our candidates succeeded in this first election.

The Republicans, naturally, were furious. A pamphlet handed out by the opposition warned of “tax and spend” liberals who would “destroy the fabric”!of our town.

“Why do you have to do this?” one local Republican politician asked my father at a dinner party. He’d been involved with Kate and Rhonda’s campaign from its inception.

“Why do we have to do what?” he asked.

“Why do you need to run?

As in: Why does there need to be a two-party system? Who cares? He was irritated that Democrats thought they should even run for elected office in a Republican stronghold like Harding and mystified by witnessing democracy in action.

On election day, the polling headquarters at the library was packed. The turnout was huge (on both sides). This is what Democracy looks like, I thought.

Outside in the parking lot, cars were queued up to leave. One man shouted in my direction and rolled down the window of his BMW to wave me over to him. I was wearing my Harding Democrats pin.

“I voted for you guys,” he said. “I marked off Democrat up and down the board. I’m a lifelong Republican, but I wanted to stick it to my party, it’s bullshit.”

The outcome? Kate and Rhonda won 33% of the vote, double the 17% Democratic registration in the town. The strength of the numbers gained larger recognition, even being mentioned by Brian Lehrer on NPR. We may not have won in Harding, but Democrats won local races in five nearby townships, including Governor Christie’s hometown of Mendham Township.

This is the revolution, and it is being held in small towns across the country. You will be taking a front-row seat this holiday season, whether you like it or not. When you sit down at the dinner table, speak up. That is what democracy looks like.


Katherine is a weekly columnist for Roar. A freelance writer and editor based in New York City, she writes frequently about culture, political and social issues, literature, and travel. She received her master’s degree from The New School, with honors in nonfiction writing. Follow her work at www.katherineparkermagyar.com.