And Good Riddance Steve Sweeney!
Yesterday, Trump went after former friend/crony and New Jersey governor Chris Christie with one of his lame-ass passive-aggressive statements: "Chris Christie, who just made a speech at the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) in Las Vegas, was just absolutely massacred by his statements that Republicans have to move on from the past, meaning the 2020 Election Fraud. Everybody remembers that Chris left New Jersey with a less than 9% approval rating-- a record low, and they didn’t want to hear this from him!" Trump wasn't there and can't speak for "everybody." though he often does-- a major rhetorical component of his gaslighting of his tragically low IQ supporters.
That however wasn't the most amusing news out of New Jersey this week. Instead there was some bipartisan good cheer. Although-- like the defeated Republican gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli-- he has refused to concede, longtime Machine cog and state Senate president Steve Sweeney was defeated by some guy, a Republican truck driver. Ed Durr is likely to be an awful legislator-- but, unlike Sweeney, a harmless one. Sweeney was doing real damage to New Jersey and to the Democratic Party. Ed Durr is likely to be a minor nuisance and is no threat to the big 23-15 post-election Democratic majority in the state Senate.
Durr, spending virtually no money, beat Sweeney 32,742 (51.82%) to 30,444 (48.18%). Last year, Biden beat Trump in Cumberland County 32,742 (52.3) to 28,952 (46.3%). Voter registration in the Cumberland County district is:
In an editorial, What N.J. didn’t know about the newly famous Mr. Ed, a few days ago, the South Jersey Times noted that Durr celebrated his win with an apology tour. The editors went on to cluck about how the voters in the district didn't know much about the new state Senator they had just elected.
What was learned about Durr, but not until after most ballots were counted, is that he’s the author of Twitter comments that are disrespectful to Muslims and other minorities.
A September 2019 post from his Twitter account labeled Islam “a false religion” and its prophet, Muhammad, a “pedophile.” A Facebook entry this year cast doubt on the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol, calling it “not an insurrection ... (but) an unauthorized entry by undocumented federal employers!”
By Friday, Durr’s social media accounts were closed, and radio silence was coming from the 58-year-old Logan Township truck driver. He issued this written statement, first reported by the New Jersey Globe website: “I’m a passionate guy and I sometimes say things in the heat of the moment. If I said things in the past that hurt anybody’s feelings, I sincerely apologize.”
Late Friday, 6ABC and NBC10 reported that Durr would take up a request from the Committee on American Islamic Relations, CAIR-New Jersey, to meet with Muslim leaders. Gloucester County Republican officials defended their senator-elect as a past “keyboard warrior,” but didn’t relate exactly why they didn’t screen their candidate more carefully.
This is the spot where, in a previous era, we’d take the Republican leadership in Third District counties to task for letting someone with Durr’s views represent the party. These days, that’s not enough.
Consider this a “we-have-met-the-enemy-and-he-is-us” moment. The media and the nonpartisan political apparatus is just as responsible for pre-election lack of knowledge about Durr as any political party. No major media outlet “covered” Third District contests, because they were forgone conclusions and, well, there are other priorities.
Did you watch those big Sweeney-Durr debates, sponsored by the League of Women voters or an area college? No, there apparently weren’t any. As few as five years ago, both candidates would have been dragged in front of multiple editorial boards, including one at the South Jersey Times. Endorsements, for whatever they’re worth, would have been written. Today, there’s insufficient personnel to make those things happen.
If Sweeney’s loss is confirmed officially, there will be time to assess here the political earthquake that will have been caused in the Statehouse and will result in a significant loss of political clout for South Jersey.
One might speculate that South Jersey Democrats, known to invest relentlessly in opposition research, were aware of Durr’s social media presence, but chose not to use it in Sweeney’s campaign. If so, it represents an unsavory, cynical view of the district’s electorate: Best not to rile up potential voters who find nothing wrong with xenophobic, homophobic and anti-Islam tweets.
For now, take Durr at his (written) word that he’s sorry for anyone he hurt, and believes in the freedom to practice ALL religions. It’s surely possible that he won because people are fed up with high property taxes, and believed Sweeney was in Trenton too long without doing anything about them.
For the media, like the pollsters who failed, big-time, to pick up the closeness of the Murphy-Ciattarelli gubernatorial contest, it may be time for some soul-searching. Patrick Murray, the head of the respected Monmouth University Poll, began a post-election op-ed with the words, “I blew it.”
In Sweeney vs. Durr, the press and other reliable information sources “blew it,” too. It should be a priority to find an economically sustainable model for election coverage, just below the statewide and national levels, that consists of more than after-the-fact vote tallies.