Sunday, March 24, 2019

I don’t watch “television” anymore. I use my iPad to watch my preferred programming on Netflix and Amazon Prime. I also have blocked most email spam and I almost never listen to the messages on my home answering machine, which we have been meaning to get rid of for a couple of years, but we just haven’t gotten around to it. I scan a fantastic national newspaper that we have delivered daily, but I don’t read it for local news; we save the special sections for the weekends (though when my mom visits, she does the crossword first). I get most of my news first from social media, where I have also blocked as many types of spam as possible. On social media, my eyes scan news headlines (and I share them once in awhile) but really am looking for baby pictures of my nieces, nephews and friends’ kids.

Therefore, I was, in essence, almost entirely cut off from news regarding the New Jersey primary we had on Tuesday, in which the governor’s race was the only contested statewide election. In hindsight, I was in an echo chamber of my own making, and, before last week, everyone else seemed to care about the primary even less than me. I received my sample ballot on time, opened it immediately and was surprised to recognize only three names on the entire page.

I recognized the name Phil Murphy, but that’s because he came to The Jewish Link offices shortly before he declared his candidacy last year; we spoke for over an hour and I wrote a profile on him, learning even more. He is a nice guy, extremely open and friendly, and he has more money than God to finance his run, apparently, after being part of Goldman Sachs’ initial public offering. He was also the U.S. ambassador to Germany, and since I spent a year in Germany as a fellow of the Robert Bosch Foundation, we had a nice chat about the people we know in common (the German-American policy world is smaller than the Jewish world, and we may not all be fluent in German, but we play transatlantic geography just like Jews play Jewish geography). I learned Tuesday night that he spent $20 million on the primary.

I also recognized Kim Guadagno’s name, but it was most immediately relevant to me because she is delivering greetings at the upcoming first annual Breakfast for Israel on June 25, which I wrote about this week (see cover), which will support American Friends of Magen David Adom and Yad Leah, and is organized by Teaneck’s own Elie Katz and his sister-in-law, Passaic’s own Jessica Katz. Before last week, when I read a couple of articles about the primary lineup to prepare for an interview, I strongly associated Guadagno’s name with the Chris Christie Bridgegate and its associated controversies. I also learned Tuesday night that, though serving eight years under Governor Christie, he didn’t endorse her until he told everyone who he voted for on Tuesday midday, and she made no mention of him in any of her campaign materials. Does anyone get the sense that everyone in New Jersey wants to forget about the last eight years in Trenton, even the governor and his deputy?

The only other name I knew was Hirsh Singh, but that’s only because he bought an ad in our paper two weeks ago, and I called his staff to ask how they knew to spell his name in Hebrew, which I thought was a nice touch. He immediately booked an appointment and came into the office to introduce himself and his pro-school-choice policies to us, and I wrote about that last week. For a 32-year-old millenial and political neophyte, he comported himself very well.

My point is, if politicians want to reach voters, they have to show up, because voters are only going to show up if they have a candidate to vote for. In the office of our community newspaper, which reaches close to 15,000 families in print and online each week, Phil Murphy showed up last year and Hirsh Singh showed up last week.

The numbers are also telling: Murphy handily won the Democratic nomination with 48 percent, or 238,040 votes. Guadagno won the Republican nomination with 47 percent, or 112,680 votes. Singh, after only declaring his candidacy March 1, took 10 percent of the vote behind Jack Ciattarelli, who garnered 31 percent, and whom I had never heard of before opening my sample ballot. On Wednesday, after the election, I noticed a campaign sign for him on Century Road in Paramus. It said “Governor” in smaller print before the name “Jack Ciattarelli,” which filled the rest of the sign. I thought, “I don’t think so.”

Our community should and must vote in primary elections, and I sincerely hope that everyone voted this week, even though the numbers don’t show high turnout. I certainly don’t know and am not the person to ask who the best candidates in this election were, but I hope the ones who have won their respective primaries will court our community with the same care and attention to our unique Jewish communal concerns as others have done in past years. And, hey! If anyone in our community has anything to say about any of these candidates in the coming months, I look forward to your own submissions or letters to the editor. Please email us at [email protected]