This morning, I tweeted that you would be hearing first here that middle-of-the-road New Jersey back bencher and former Republican Albio Sires would be announcing his retirement within two weeks. Immediately people demanded to know if it was written somewhere else-- presumably somewhere they could trust. Why follow me on Twitter? I break stuff like this all the time. The idea of "hearing to first here," presupposes it isn't available from other sources and that the NY Times and NJ.com will run the story in a few weeks. It's like when I started writing that Mark Foley was a closet case and readers rushed out to buy smelling salts because the mainstream media waited til he got caught with the meat in his mouth, resigned from Congress and checked into a rehabilitation center for wealthy Republicans before any believed it-- 5 years later.
Anyway, the good news here is that a broad coalition of progressive organizations that challenged Sires last cycle continue to make steady gains against the local machine, and are ready to fight for the congressional seat once more. In 2020, Hector Oseguera mounted the most successful primary challenge in the district’s history, providing a blueprint for future progressive victories. Blue America endorsed him and helped him raise awareness and campaign funds. In the aftermath of his campaign, Oseguera helped to found the Progressive Democrats of Hudson County, which quickly became the premier electoral organizing platform for progressive candidates. Oseguera has remained a force in Hudson County politics, recently winning victories against the powerful County Executive on the issue of ICE detention in local jails.
There are also very important issues raised by the machine’s rumored status quo replacement, the Jersey City Council president Joyce Watterman. The demographics heavily favor progressives, as the district is one of the most diverse and densely populated in the country. Hudson County is a place where even the most conservative elected Democrats wish to be called progressive. Attempts to pull segments of Jersey City’s African-American communities into the 8th District may end up benefiting progressives, whose policies are heavily favored by Black voters. There is also the unspoken rule that the 8th District is meant to be held by a member of the Hispanic community, while the adjacent 10th District is meant to be held by a member of the African-American community. Attempts to seat someone outside of the Hispanic community in the 8th Congressional District may invite backlash from the heavily Latino communities in North Hudson.
Whatever the machinations of the local establishment-- especially the powerful developers who own Sires and think they own the seat-- progressives tell me they won’t stand idly by. There is recognition that while Oseguera mounted an impressive fight, the missing piece was fundraising. Progressives now know what it would take to run a campaign that has a decent chance of success.
When Blue America first vetted Oseguera, he told me the NJ-08 race was "about a generational change. This is about turning the page on a neoliberal order of 'Republican-lite' Democrats who take money from luxury developers, vote to militarize the police, and have no genuine connection to the community and the people they represent." He reminded me that Sires "takes corporate PAC money" and that he does not and will not. He reminded me that Sires "pals around with war criminals" and that he does not. He reminded me that Sires thinks "ICE does great work," while he did not. "My opponent only shows up in the community for a photo opportunity and a fancy speech, whereas I spent my entire life surviving in this community." In 2020 Oseguera was our kind of candidate, exactly what Congress needed to help balance out the mess in DC. We still feel that way and hope to join with other groups who will try too persuade him to run again.
"This is about a humble son of immigrants," he told me last cycle, "who played by the rules, got good grades, and still found all the cards stacked hopelessly against him. A community activist who found that his local politicians were insular and unresponsive to the needs of the community. The people of this country are crying out for justice. They are saying loud and clear, that they want to change the status quo."
You can check out our May, 2020 candidate endorsement alert here. We hope we'll be doing another one for Hector Oseguera, 2022... ASAP.