The good guys didn't win yesterday in the 5th district of New Jersey.
Our candidate, Camille Abate, received 33% of the vote, according to "official totals."
This is far less than we'd hoped. Of course, some of the folks (Not you, Jay) over at Blue Jersey
-- former Dean guys whose hatred of Camille Abate goes beyond all rationality; guys who smelled the sweet fruit of party hackery and decided to partake thereof -- are dancing gleefully to a degree completely out of proportion to the worthiness of the Democratic Party's anointed carpetbagger -- but I take some comfort in the fact that a candidate who had been in this race barely three months, who had little organization and one-tenth the money of the party's Anointed Guy, managed to pull in a third of the vote while positioned off the party line.
Right down to the last days of the campaign, Camille was meeting with individual voters, every last one of whom responded to her with the same four words: "How can I help?"
Camille's campaign organization boasted some of the best human beings I have ever known -- passionate team players with a very real commitment to electing someone who wouldn't be afraid to confront NJ-5's frighteningly reactionary current representative in a general election in a Republican district that is far more moderate than its current representative would indicate. I still do not think that the party's nominee, Paul Aronsohn, has the ability to do that. His web site and public appearance are fraught with platitudes and no real opinions and no solid stands on anything. My polite attempts to get him to explain his stance on net neutrality in the context of having Mike McCurry as a public face of his campaign were met with charges of "personal attack on a good friend of mine" -- to which I responded that if Aronsohn can't handle a question from a voter seeking to be able to support whoever wins, what on earth is he going to do when Scott Garrett gets hold of him and starts gnawing on his liver?
I never received a response.
Yesterday, as I was standing outside of a polling place talking to voters who were EXTREMELY positive about Camille's candidacy, I spoke with someone who was running for council in that community. He was familiar with her campaign and told me that he wished her luck: "I don't agree with her on everything, but I like her attitude and I like how she's not afraid to speak her mind." This from a Republican.
People put their hearts and souls into this campaign, but perhaps no one did so as much as Hanlon S., a retired stockbroker who flew here from Austin, Texas after seeing Camille's web site, to work on her campaign. Hanlon brought years of experience in working with campaigns, as well as a passion for electing progressive candidates committed to effecting change, to the table. Hanlon is spending the next 28 months traveling around the country working for such candidates, with an eye towards ending the corrupt corporate stranglehold that Republicans have allowed to take over this country. As a Texan, he feels responsible, even though he never voted for George W. Bush as governor, for perpetrating a sociopath on the American people. Working on these campaigns is his self-imposed penance. Hanlon is an American original, and there aren't words to describe the debt of gratitude that anyone fortunate enough to find this man working with them in the next two years will owe him.
So what happens now? Last night's party had people already drawing up plans for 2008. Of course it's Camille Abate's choice as to whether she wants to do this again, but from where I'm sitting, I'm not sure the choice is hers anymore. From the day this friendly civil rights lawyer sat next to me at a Dean meetup in 2004, Camille has been right in the mix of progressive politics here in Bergen County. Like other, similarly passionate and charismatic individuals who have dipped their toes into the political waters, it's bigger than she is now. Like it or not, she is a one-woman movement.
And if I have anything to say about it, she'll be back.