A group of 16 progressive candidates for Camden County Democratic Committee won an unlikely victory Tuesday night in Collingswood, including Rob Carlson, whose candidacy for the Democratic nomination for Congress against Rep. Donald Norcross in last year’s primary was relegated to Column 9 even though he was entitled to bracket with Lisa McCormick, who was in the first position on the ballot.
The Collingswood Progressive Democrats, defeated the incumbents 52% to 48%, flipping one of the largest and most strategically important towns in the county.
The turnout in Collingswood was extraordinary, exceeding the turnout of the 2017 gubernatorial primary. Not since the 2016 presidential primary had turnout been so high in the community.
Volunteers for the insurgent candidates ran a fresh, clever social media campaign, had a well-organized ground game and built excitement around their solid pro-good government message, underscored by recent news of possible corruption and subpoenas issued to businesses affiliated with party boss George Norcross.
The winning candidates were: Hugh McGuire, Katie Latona, Bill Johnson, Kathleen Shea Aregood, Jason Knudson, Katie Ingersoll, Tobias Wechsler, Katie Latona, Robert L. Carlson, Danie Nobel Moss Velasco, Anne Carroll, Christopher Baile, Maribel Willson, Jason Augustine, Julie Schneider, and Brian Dilks-Brotman.
“This victory underscores the appetite for change in Camden County. Residents are hungry for control over their democracy. People are clamoring to be heard, and are sick and tired of machine control,” said Emrich. “We are poised and ready to represent our neighbors and friends in the Committee and look forward to creating a Progressive vision in our town and our county.”
“This win shows what happens when candidates, already part of a thriving grassroots organization, take time to explain the issues to voters.” said Moss-Velasco, who also ran for state Assembly. “The more people learn about why democracy is broken in NJ, the more they want to fight for change. Our conversations with our neighbors were inspired. To quote AOC, ‘we met the machine with a movement.’”
“We plan on holding regular meetings, listening to our constituents, and passing progressive solutions.” said Kate Delany, lead organizer of the Collingswood Progressive Democrats. “These basic things should not be revolutionary. We are building towards real, lasting change, based on issues and progressive ideals. Change happens one victory at a time, and tonight represents a true turning point in Camden County.”
The victors were among 93 challengers vying for the Camden County Democratic Committee, which is the only such organization in the state for which members are selected at-large by municipality.
The progressive contenders earned 904 votes to the machine slate’s 838.
The progressive triumph is a small chink in the armor of the Norcross machine but it may not be the only area of vulnerability, as entities connected to Norcross are under investigation for matters related to about $1 billion in corporate welfare directed to them under former Republican Governor Chris Christie, whose agenda was often facilitated by the South Jersey political boss.
The New Jersey Economic Development Authority was ordered to turn over to a state grand jury information related to tax breaks were awarded to Holtec International, Conner Strong & Buckelew and Cooper Health System, three companies linked to the power broker. Norcross is chairman of Cooper Health, a Holtec board member, and a co-owner of privately held Conner Strong & Buckelew, which is descibed as America’s largest insurance brokerage with $1 billion in annual premiums.
Conner Strong & Buckelew is also the largest full-service risk management and insurance administrator for public entities in New Jersey, controlling billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money.
Incumbent Assembly members, freeholders, County Clerk Joseph Ripa, and local candidates endorsed by the Norcross machine defeated progressive challengers who had posed the biggest threat to the machine in years by mounting a well-organized campaign on an anti-corruption platform.
In what should have dethroned him as the titular head of the progressive movement in New Jersey, or anyone who held on the illusions that he held such a post, Gov. Phil Murphy endorsed two Norcross-allied legislators running against progressive challengers in closing days of the primary campaign.
“I would have to have a conversation with Governor Murphy in person to hear him define what a progressive is,” said Moss-Velasco, a college professor who said she was disappointed by the endorsement. “Phil Murphy is a Democrat, but he’s also a businessman. If you’re just looking to continue business as usual, you’re not a progressive.”
Murphy’s endorsement left Margulis, who was challanging the Camden County Clerk, spseechless.
Murphy’s endorsement of Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald (D-Voorhees) and Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt (D-Cherry Hill) comes one week before more than 80 candidates on a rival ticket backed by South Jersey Progressive Democrats take on candidates.
Judy Amorosa, chair of the South Jersey Progressives, blamed losses in the other races on unfair tactics by Ripa, who’s been the county clerk for 10 years.
Amorosa said the clerk unfairly disqualified the team’s freeholder candidates and then assigned progressive challengers with a mix of unaffiliated candidates to Column Four.
The progressives organized 14 candidates for local, county, and state elected offices in the primary, as well as the 93 seeking seats on the Democratic County Committee.