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Andrew Yang campaigns for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination in Iowa. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

Ex-Dem congressional candidate leads N.J. organizing effort for newly-formed independent party

Varela, Wildridge hold first meeting of the New Jersey Forward Party

By David Wildstein, August 09 2022 9:13 pm

The Forward Party, the new political party founded by Andrew Yang and backed by former Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, has tapped a former congressional candidate as the state leader in New Jersey.

Brian Varela, who briefly sought the Democratic nomination in New Jersey’ 8th district, is heading up the effort to build a new political party.  He’s joined by Gil Wildridge, a former field organizer for the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters.

Varela said about 30 people attended an organizational meeting in Kearny last week and about 3,000 have signed up, most after the July announcement.

“More than sixty percent of voters across the country want a third party, and who can blame them,” said Varela.

According to Varela, the Forward Party is “likely to endorse a few congressional candidates this year,” but no decision has been made about recruiting legislative candidates in 2023.

A two-term New Jersey governor and Bush cabinet member, Whitman is serving as co-chair of the new party with Yang, an entrepreneur who sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.

Whitman, a moderate who has been struggling with the Republican Party’s move to the right for nearly 20 years, has merged her Renew America Movement with Yang’s pre-existing Forward Party, and the Serve America Movement led by a former Republican congressman from Florida, David Jolly.

“We need to come together if we want to solve the issues facing our New Jersey communities,” said Varela.  “Divisiveness is not the answer.”

Wildridge said the fledgling party is “seeing a ton of energy with the response we’re getting so far.”

“People aren’t stupid,” he said.  “They know that if a system isn’t working for average people, you try something new.”

The Forward Party is the second new political group formed in the state since June.

East Amwell Township Committeeman Rick Wolfe and former Alexandria Mayor Michelle Garay, both Republicans, have formed the Moderate Party.  They have filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality on New Jersey’s ban on fusion voting.

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