By Wilfredo “Wil” Rojas, M.Ed. | AC JosepH Media Guest Blogger
Hola. My name is Wilfredo “Wil” Rojas, a longtime columnist for a number of publications, which earned me a reputation for exposing, informing and using my writings to advocate and mobilize folks to take action.
I am delighted to join you, as part of the Front Runner New Jersey Family, pursuant to an invitation by Clyde Hughes, founder of this wonderful blog. As voters in New Jersey’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes the counties of Salem, Cumberland, Cape May, Atlantic, parts of Gloucester, Camden, Burlington, and Ocean counties, voter registration and voter education has slowed down, particularly, among Black and Latino voters.
This will be one of the 2nd Congressional District’s most important elections since, then- Democrat, Jeff Van Drew edged out a win over his Republican Party opponent, in the 2018 November General Election, that helped Democrats take back the House of Representatives.
Truth be told, voters in these two communities played a pivotal role in Van Drew’s victory. With Jeff Van Drew’s betrayal of his democratic and independent voters by defecting to Trump’s Republican Party, the spot to appear on the Democratic Party is open. Jeff Van Drew’s embracing of Donald Trump and his policies surprised some and angered many. The now rescheduled Democratic Party Primary for the open spot will be decided on July 7th, because of the coronavirus.
While most voters’ eyes are focused on the coronavirus, an election contest that was initially more crowded than a public classroom in some parts of the diverse sprawling 2nd Congressional district, has now dwindled down to five candidates, fighting to take on Democrat turned Republican incumbent Van Drew in the November General Election. This Congressional seat, long-held by Republicans, is comprised of a population, which includes 73.3 percent (White), 16.5 percent (Hispanic), 12.7 percent (African-American), 0.4 percent (Asian) 0.6 percent (Native American), and 4.6 percent (Other).
In my view, the field has shrunk down to three viable candidates: Will Cunningham, attorney, who served as a former Congressional investigator, Brigid Callahan Harrison, a university professor of political science and law, and Amy Kennedy, a former teacher, mother of five and wife of former Congressman Patrick Kennedy.
As the campaign progresses, Will Cunningham, African-American, is daunted by polls, meager financial resources and lack of powerful endorsements. On the other hand, his closest opponents, Brigid Callahan Harrison and Amy Kennedy, roll into the race riding high in polls, powerful endorsements and flushed campaign bank accounts.
If past trends of low Black-Latino voter turn-out persist, it would appear that either Harrison or Kennedy will win the nomination. Now, the question is, Can a Black-Latino, joined by young white progressives vote, campaign for an agenda that serves to obtain equality and inclusion in the 2nd Congressional District evolve as a swing vote?
Which of the two leading candidates, Harrison or Kennedy will claim the role as the one who will show Black, Latino, and young White progressives — by their words and actions — how they will respond to the concerns of these constituencies, by their action plan, how each will be inclusive and represent the interests of these communities? They can both begin with their campaign staff and policy position papers.
Bio: Wilfredo “Wil” Rojas is an award-winning columnist, veteran civil rights activist and former officer with the Gloucester County NAACP. He is the cofounder and retired director of Philadelphia Prison System’s Office of Community Justice and Outreach.
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