NJ Green Party Has Inspiring 2020: 'We Can Create A Better World'

Eric Kiefer
·12 min read

NEWARK, NJ — When the votes were finally certified for New Jersey’s 2020 U.S. Senate election, Green Party candidate Madelyn Hoffman found herself staring at an inspiring number: 38,288. And although that total was just over 1 percent of what incumbent Democratic Sen. Cory Booker gathered, it represented a collaborative, grassroots effort that made Hoffman proud to call herself “Green.”

Overall, Hoffman’s vote total was the second-largest ever seen by a Green Party candidate in New Jersey. Only Ralph Nader’s results during the 2000 presidential race rated higher.

But this year’s campaign was so much more than a single number, according to Hoffman and Barry Bendar, elections chair with the Green Party of New Jersey.

Hoffman recently shared a summary of the most hopeful highlights from her Senate campaign with Patch, which follows below.

Photo: Heather Warburton (Madelyn Hoffman campaign image)
Photo: Heather Warburton (Madelyn Hoffman campaign image)

As we head toward the start of a new year, many of us are eager to put 2020 behind us, one of the most difficult years we have ever faced, as the nation and the world learned how to cope with COVID-19. However, just today, when reflecting on the problems and tragic moments of 2020 and my recently completed Green Party campaign for U.S. Senate, I was reminded that there are many signs of hope that out of this year’s difficulties, we can create a better world.

The pandemic exposed many of the economic, environmental and social ills that have gripped this country for years, but somehow remained hidden or at least unaddressed as people simply struggled to survive. But as a candidate for public office in 2020, I felt an overwhelming responsibility to envision a program to address these issues, and to speak out about them over and over again, side by side with the people affected and working for change. The record setting numbers of people who voted Green in New Jersey in 2020 gives me reason to believe that there are ever-growing numbers of people who want to be part of creating this new kind of society.

Our campaign was based on this comprehensive program for addressing the needs of the majority of the people in this country and around the world, instead of the profits of the elites within both mainstream political parties. Central to the program was a “real eco-socialist Green New Deal,” not a watered-down version – a Green New Deal that confronted the military-industrial-complex by calling for at least a 50% reduction in the $740 billion baseline military budget, a workers’ Bill of Rights, a way to address the crisis of climate change, and a way of reorganizing ourselves to address the social needs of all.

Our campaign set a goal of visiting each of the 21 counties in New Jersey and going to at least one location in each county where we were able to highlight our core issues. This was a most enlightening experience – and one that taught me so much about the beauty and diversity of this state and those who are working to protect and preserve it.

We visited some counties more than once, some for canvassing alone and some for more than that, but we wound up campaigning in each county – lawn signs and campaign literature in hand, often together with a resident of that county. After weeks of “sheltering in place,” campaigning this way was a welcomed change. Not only were we able to bring our campaign message to every corner of the state, but we were able to learn more about the different problems people of New Jersey face.

Let me share some highlights from 10 of the counties we visited. This is only a brief summary of these campaign stops. Though it leaves out much of what we did in these counties and elsewhere, it will at least provide an idea of what we saw and what we learned.

Please contact our campaign at hoffmanforussenate@gmail.com for more information.

ESSEX COUNTY

In Essex County, we visited Newark on multiple occasions. We participated in a very well-attended rally to Cancel Rents and Mortgages and promote Housing for All, as well as an end to evictions. In the summer, we were on our way to a Black Lives Matter rally and march offering mutual aid to the community and calling for defunding the police. However, that rally and march ended prematurely. Instead of participating in the march, I wrote an editorial about what happened.

Later in the summer, the campaign issued a joint statement with a Newark attorney criticizing legislation proposed by Senator Booker to address the issue of police brutality for being too little, too late and not calling for defunding the police.

And on July 4th, I attended a violin vigil in South Orange to call attention to the tragic story of Elijah McClain, a young musician who liked to play his violin for animals living in an animal shelter. He died after a police encounter simply because someone called the police to check out a “suspicious individual” as he was walking home from a gas station after dark.

PASSAIC COUNTY

In Passaic County, our campaign visited Paterson. There we recorded a video at the Great Falls, calling attention to the real Green New Deal. The real Green New Deal would both protect the environment and natural wonders like the Falls, while also making sure that people in Paterson had jobs, jobs that put the workers ahead of corporate profits.

Clearly, in the time of this pandemic, companies aren’t always putting workers’ lives first. However, it is key to the health of our communities that workers make a living wage, have unlimited sick pay, and are covered by improved and expanded, single-payer Medicare for All, so they don’t lose their health insurance if they lose their jobs.

We also visited the newly painted Black Lives Matter mural spanning several city blocks in front of Passaic County Community College and live streamed from in front of a monument to the Underground Railroad that operated in Paterson. Here we also spoke about the need to make Black Lives Matter not just words on the street, but a reality. One element of that would be the awarding of reparations to people whose lives were affected by slavery.

And, of course, we spent many hours in Hawthorne, helping Craig Cayetano, candidate for Town Council in Ward 3, reach out to voters in his district. A highlight of the Cayetano campaign was the “Meet and Treat” event he organized. One afternoon in early October, Craig Cayetano and Howie Hawkins, presidential candidate for the Green Party, boarded a local vendor’s ice cream truck and handed out free ice cream to neighbors. Such a creative way to meet people during the time of COVID and an honor for our campaign to participate!

HUDSON COUNTY

In Hudson County, the campaign visited Jersey City several times, canvassing one day and being given a tour of Liberty State Park on another occasion. We received a tour from a local naturalist, who told us about plans to add three more holes to the 18-hole Liberty National Golf Course, an exclusive golf course next to the endangered estuary that requires an initial fee of $450,000 to join and $25,000 a year annual membership. Donald Trump plays golf on this course.

At the same time, a metal fence and canopy has been built along the pathway to the Hudson River to protect people’s heads from golf balls driven off the golf course. All this while people in Jersey City need affordable housing, better quality public schools, more protection against the spread of COVID-19 and so much more.

In addition, part of the park once served as the last leg of the Underground Railroad. Those escaping slavery could hitch a ride on a coal barge headed to the sea. Apparently, the coal dust on the barges was such a hazard that the barges could pass through without inspection, providing a way out of slavery to many.

SOUTHERN JERSEY COUNTIES (Salem, Atlantic, Camden, Monmouth, Burlington, Ocean and Cape May)

As the campaign visited more southern counties, we had the opportunity to become informed about the dangers of the Salem Nuclear Power Plant and the windmill proposed adjacent to it in Salem County. How ironic that both energy sources would be built adjacent to one another, while many advocate to move toward the more sustainable source of energy, wind power.

We visited the internationally known attraction, Lucy the Elephant, in Atlantic County (what a joy!), as well as the boardwalk and Black Lives Matter mural in Atlantic City.

It was very moving to be in Camden, in Camden County, and to sit on the front stoop of the last home of Walt Whitman (one of my favorite poets). At the same time, we visited the historic RCA Building and reflected on that building’s history and the jobs needed for Camden to become a just city for all its residents. We also stopped at the American Water Company and discussed the problem of privatizing the water supply.

In Freehold, Monmouth County, we attended and spoke at a very moving march and rally “Tu Lucha es Mi Lucha” linking together the concerns of Black Lives Matter about police brutality with the issues faced by those being detained by ICE.

In Burlington County, we visited Bordentown twice. Here we encountered the revolutionary Tom Paine and shook hands with his statue in Thomas Paine Park. We saw the location of his print shop on Bordentown’s main street. The building is still a print shop! Between the architecture and the spooky decorations, Bordentown was the perfect town for our last day of canvassing on November 2nd, just days after Halloween.

We also visited Barnegat Lighthouse in Ocean County and the Cape May lighthouse in Cape May County. In Cape May, we bumped into a total stranger who told us that she and her mother had voted for Madelyn Hoffman and the Green Party for U.S. Senate. A similar moment occurred in Englewood at a Black Lives Matter march and rally.

ELECTION DAY ARRIVES

After weeks and weeks of these concentrated efforts to communicate the Hoffman for Senate 2020 Campaign's message, the day finally arrived. Election Day 2020 (November 3) was upon us. As the Grateful Dead observed, "what a long strange trip it's been."

With the COVID-19 pandemic, none of us had ever experienced anything like this campaign. So as the numbers began coming in, we experienced initial disappointment, as they seemed quite comparable to those of 2018. One of our goals prior to the campaign was to improve on those 2018 numbers.

As this year was different than any other, it turned out that our disappointment was unfounded. As the days passed, and the numbers continued to grow in healthy increments, members of the campaign team started forming "targets" in our heads. What number did we hope to reach? Since many counties were slow in their reporting, having to count each and every vote manually, it became torturous waiting for the slower counties’ numbers to reach at least 70%.

Finally, on November 23, all the counties showed their reporting at 100%. As of this writing, the grand total for my campaign was 38,288 votes, right around 1% of the total votes cast. The vote totals I received increased over 2018 in every county save two. Compared to the two major party candidate's numbers, that may not seem like that much, but for us, in the Green Party, this is a tremendous building block to grow our "brand" and our party. With a greater than 72% voter turnout in New Jersey, voting via mail on paper ballots has shown itself to be a boon for democracy and should be used from now on.

We got over 4,000 votes in one county, over 3,000 in another, and over 1,000 votes in 16 of 21 New Jersey counties (just missing in a 17th!) The total number was the second-largest ever obtained by any Green Party candidate in New Jersey (second only to the 2000 numbers for Ralph Nader, the presidential candidate), and with our campaign expenditures, came to 17.5 cents per vote, very cost effective indeed!

As a result, the Green Party of New Jersey is now more committed than ever to promoting the ideals of our party, and supporting all other groups and organizations who support similar goals. These ideals and goals include our four key pillars of working for peace, ecology, grass roots democracy and justice.

We look forward to the upcoming campaigns of 2021!

Send news tips and correction requests to eric.kiefer@patch.com

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This article originally appeared on the Newark Patch