Felisha Reyes-Morton: Gambling On Awakening Camden

**FRONT RUNNER LA PRENSA: LATINO LEADERSHIP AND CULTURE**

NOTE: Felisha Reyes-Morton was in a field four contenders in the Democratic primary for mayor of Camden Tuesday, which was won by fellow city councilman and then interim Mayor Vic Carstarphen.

By Felisha Reyes-Morton | Camden Ward 4 City Council

CAMDEN – Every gambler knows that all can be lost in an instant; especially when the odds favor the house.

But still, we play not to contrary to the very nature of the gambler wouldn’t it? First and foremost I would those who supported me throughout and those that voted for myself and change on June 8, 2021.

In this election from the outset many saw the dice as having been both cast and tallied before anyone knew who was in the room, let alone what questions to ask. I never set out to be mayor. There you have it, believe it or not. Do with it what you may. Those close to me, conversation and yes ultimately the belief of self liberation.

Liberation for Camden yes; but first and foremost, myself.

The process was fixed and has been for years. We as a community have known it and openly accepted it and to extents participated in the propagation of the dysfunctional system that now stifles 50% of Black and Brown Camden voters.

Yes, half of Camden is made up of proud: Libertarians, Green Party and Constitutional Party members along with several other legitimate parties including those Latinos and African Americans who call Camden home yet affiliate as Republicans.

Yes, some of us are members of the “R” group and our family members and neighbors surprise, no not really what was to me and should be to you is that half of all registered Camden voters are not “affiliated.”

Hmmm, I see your hand in the back. The question I presume is what is “affiliated?” Great question because most often in TV one is “gang affiliated.” And here in Camden, either you are in the Democratic Gang or not. Nope, independents, no unaffiliated means unaffiliated, so no vote in Camden primaries such as this.

Yes, literally 15,000-plus Camden residents are legally barred by Democrats from voting in the most important vote to decide representation and affiliation (acceptance by the party). So going in I knew that  the voters who will ultimately decide elections going forward were the very ones being overlooked.

Big plans on affiliation efforts and now that I am not a member of the Camden City Democrats there presents itself in this moment of self-liberation the ability to “caucus” with a new party. Yes, up front this time. What is caucus and the act of caucusing and how does it relate to “affiliation?” Both great questions.

Well, caucus and caucusing and caucuses are when members of an affiliated party (i.e. Democrats doing so and becoming “invited” members of in my former case the Camden City/Camden County Democrats). Think of Washington, D.C. with AOC being Green/Social and Nancy Pelosi being, well, Nancy, God bless her.

Felicia Reyes-Morton speaking. Photo courtesy of Felicia Reys-Morton Facebook

They may disagree on specifics of the larger Democratic body, they choose to overcome those internal differences and work out their family issues in closed rooms so that sides can thwart the common external enemies like communism, Republicans and, of course, our own Democratic selves.

So, when I finally decided to run, it was knowing as everyone knew across New Jersey it could possibly be a sacrifice worth making to stir the pot and wake up sleeping constituents. Wake them, not move them.

What needed to be move were progressive Democrats outside Camden to invest and for qualified candidates to run and stay in the race despite the odds to ensure that the conversation and provocation would continue throughout.

My campaign was outspent, outmanned, outmaneuvered and outright  done wrong through suppression and intimidation tactics akin to gang “affiliated” mobsters and actors rather than neighbors, citizens or elected officials.

The open secrets are out there and this campaign, that of Elton Custis and Quinones all showed what calling them out individually can do.

Yes, I came in last, lost to all the boys, and should of convention holds tucks my ponytail and go sit on the sidelines until the next timeout or some dumb status prescribed Latina role comes up and they come back (like all bad boys do).

The loss helps in my mind expose me to the shelter of the Camden City Democrats and the power they can weld when committed toward one purpose, right or wrong. My decision to breakaway at this time allowed for the public discourse of the inner workings of a system designed to block out the light.

So, during this campaign it was so refreshing to be out with the people – to hear them, see them, be challenged by them but above, be embraced by them. The discussions around the lack of concern outside the Fourth Ward (which includes the waterfront).

That type of power can non longer go unchecked, unchallenged, openly accepted as what we deal with in Camden. They city woke up this election and close to 40% voted for a new choice; granted that choice was split in Column 5.

However, true political pundits understand what that represents. Forty percent can grow to 50% and in a town used to straight up races, 98% wins that changes everything in terms of leverage and outside fundraising for change.

Numbers don’t lie. Now, can progressives unify is the question.

Congratulations to Vic, your team once again showed its strength and commitment to purpose. I and the Fourth Ward look forward to working with your administration going forward. To my Column 5 colleagues, let us not miss out on the importance of the collective win . We represent for Camden.

Yesterday (Tuesday) was an awakening and today is not a time for complaining because tomorrow’s work must be done. Congratulations to the continued fight for transparency, inclusion and equity.

Thank you all again and see you in the community soon.

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