NJ 11th for Change retracted their endorsement of Morris County Commissioner candidate Aaron “A.J.” Oliver on Wednesday after learning that “he is actually a vocal anti-choice activist.”
“Oliver did not initially disclose to his running mates that he is anti-choice and later was not forthright that he is intent on advancing those beliefs legislatively, having urged people to call their legislators to lobby against New Jersey’s Reproductive Freedom Act,” said Leslie Bockol and Mara Novak, the co-executive directors.
Oliver never told his running mates that Democrats for Life of America, a pro-life group, had endorsed him. NJ 11th for Change said they pressed Oliver on his abortion views after seeing a video of Oliver speaking at a DFLA event last December.
According to Bockol and Novak, Oliver initially won the endorsement after a questionnaire indicated that the slate was “pro-women” and “feminist.”
“Given the revelation that Oliver’s position is far removed from what most of us would consider ‘pro-woman’ or ‘feminist,’ we feel strongly that continuing to endorse this candidate would be a betrayal of our members’ values, which are and have always been overwhelmingly pro-choice,” they said in a Facebook message to their membership. “Moreover, Oliver’s lack of transparency with his team and running mates, and then with us, is antithetical to our organization’s core values.”
The decision comes after thousands of Morris County voters have already returned their vote-by-mail ballots and three days before early voting commences.
The Morris County Democratic Committee has not addressed Oliver’s views on abortion on their website or social media pages. It’s not clear if the county chairman, Chip Robinson, asked Oliver about his position on the issue before awarding him the organization line last winter, if the party vetted the political newcomer before endorsing him.,
Oliver’s two running mates, T.C. McCourt and Dina Mikulka, still have the NJ 11th for Change endorsement.
“They do not share Oliver’s anti-choice beliefs, and seem to have been blindsided by these revelations,” Bockol and Novak said. “We understand and regret that this retraction may hurt Oliver’s running mates’ chances in the election … we feel strongly that the responsibility for this lays firmly on the heads of Mr. Oliver and those who knowingly selected him to run as a Democrat despite his opposition to a central Democratic principle, the right to choose.”
NJ 11th for Change is one of the premier unaffiliated grassroots organizations in the state. They played a major role in forcing House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen to retire in 2018 and flip a House seat after 24 years of Republican control.
Democrats have not won a countywide election in Morris County since 1973.