New Jersey Democrats third delegate breakfast got a boost from Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
“We’ve got truly huge stakes in this election as we get ready for November, and that’s why this call to action for all of us to double down and do more today is so important,” she said to a group of electronically-gathered Democrats Wednesday morning. “I can tell you, I hate seeing polls that show Joe Biden and Kamala Harris up by double digits because I don’t buy it, and I can tell you, in the state of Michigan, it’s a lot closer than that, despite what the polling numbers are saying.”
The warnings against complacency were something of a theme. Though few of the other speakers said they feared President Donald Trump would win re-election over former Vice President Joe Biden, they repeatedly stressed the urgency of this year’s presidential race.
“I never for a moment imagined that one day I would have to defend — right here in the United States of America — the same ideals, the same values that I was championing on behalf of America around the world,” said Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Ringoes), a former assistant U.S. secretary of state for democracy, human rights, and labor in President Barack Obama’s administration.
Malinowski warned that Trump, like despots around the world, was leveraging institutions like the U.S. Postal Service, the Centers for Disease Control and the National Weather Service for his own political gain.
Though Postmaster General Louis DeJoy on Tuesday announced he was suspending widely-criticized policy changes that caused delays at USPS that sometimes ran for more than a week, House Democrats are still calling the Trump ally before the House Oversight Committee on Monday.
Other House members who spoke during Wednesday’s breakfast lent more focus to the pandemic.
“What we are experiencing right now is a national security crisis, and we need to make sure we’re approaching it with that level of urgency and that strategy that we so badly need,” Rep. Andy Kim (D-Marlton) said.
Though New Jersey has avoided a resurgence of the virus by enacting an early and wide-ranging lockdown and by reopening conservatively, the Garden State is more the exception than the rule, and other states continue to report thousands of new virus cases per day five months into the Pandemic.
For Democrats, the buck stops with Trump.
“This is something that we cannot let up. We have to sustain that energy and convert that into real action,” Kim said.
Even moderate Democrats like Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff) are pressing for a Democratic sweep in November.
“In 2018, we built on our success and flipped four seats in New Jersey and took back the House,” Gottheimer said. “I think it’s long time now we expand that majority in the Senate and down the street towards the White House, because doesn’t Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Menendez sound pretty good to you?”
Transgender rights activist Babs Siperstein was posthumously awarded the Jane Fee award, named for the first transgender delegate to the Democratic National Convention, for her advocacy work. The convention has 33 transgender or non-binary delegates this year, a record high.
Democratic County Chairs LeRoy Jones, of Essex, and Chip Robinson, of Morris, also spoke at the event, as did Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Woodbridge) in a somewhat surprising appearance.
Neither Coughlin nor Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) had speaking roles when the Democratic State Committee announced its program on Sunday. It’s still not clear whether Sweeney will speak during a convention event — a DSC representative on Sunday said the speaker list had not been finalized — but Coughlin took the opportunity to warn that even a Democratic victory could face hurdles.
“Never before have we had an opponent like Donald Trump. We have had bad Republican candidates and bad Republican presidents, but he is unmatched,” the speaker said. “He is a man whose mission is to divide us, who sees his power as limitless and who honestly makes you think in the recesses of your mind and in your scariest moments that he might not leave office when he loses.”
Like Coughlin, Whitmer had little doubt that Republicans would do whatever it took to keep their hold on the presidency and the Senate.
“We will work tirelessly between now and when that last vote is cast, and we also know that we are up against a group that will be unscrupulous, that they will cheat, lie and steal if that’s what it takes to win this election, and that’s why we have to, even if we think we’re ahead,” she said. “We’ve got to make this decisive. We’ve got to pull every Democrat we can over the finish line”