Mikie Sherrill made a tactical mistake on Monday by having no comment on the story of the Deputy Mayor of Mendham’s unfortunate Facebook posts that compared immigrants to raccoons. Her absence from the debate on the issue was noticeable, especially after her opponent in the 11th district Democratic congressional primary, Tamara Harris, and Morris County Democratic Chairman Chip Robinson, made strong pitches for Rick Blood’s resignation. Privately, there were several complaints from Democratic activists who felt Sherrill should have joined them in taking a stand as part of a grass-roots effort that grew throughout the day and ultimately led to Blood announcing his resignation at a Township Council meeting last night. The activists, nearly all of them leaning toward Sherill, felt that she had missed an opportunity to demonstrate some leadership.
A little after seven this morning, Sherrill finally issued a statement: “I am proud of the people of Mendham, who stood up and asked more of their public servants. Rick Blood’s shameful remarks should not be a part of our public discourse. The crude, divisive language from many in this country has infiltrated all parts of our society. I am proud that people in New Jersey – a place where diversity has made our communities strong and has fed our innovation – have stood up for decency and unity. I will always stand with those who oppose hate, and I hope this will serve as a model for the rest of the country.”
The problem, as some Democrats reported yesterday, was that Sherill failed to recognize a central theme to the massive grass roots effort that essentially forced twelve-term Republican incumbent Rodney Frelinghuysen to retire: that silence represents complicity. It’s possible that Sherrill had never heard of Blood until yesterday, although she ought to have been following the 2017 local race where a Democratic challenger unseated him — that was an historic win for Democrats in former Gov. Chris Christie’s hometown.
Harris issued a strong statement condemning Blood, and attended the Mendham Township Committee meeting.
Sherill’s statement, which came fifteen hours late and had no effect on helping to push Blood out of office, might turn out to be a bit of an education for the former Navy helicopter pilot running in her first campaign. In political campaigns, sometimes acting like the front-runner comes with some risk. But as one Democrat noted, primaries allow first-time candidates like Sherrill to make a few mistakes as part of the process of learning how to be a stronger candidate.