Newsletter 1/9/2020

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Since the beginning of the Trump era, how many times have you heard someone say, “Fuhgeddabout that news story. It’s just a distraction”? 

  • Children in cages as a distraction from gutting environmental protections and civil rights.
  • Inflammatory tweets as a distraction from fraud charges.
  • Provoking Iran to war as a distraction from impeachment hearings.

And on and on. 

Fortunately, we at NJ 11th for Change know how to walk and chew gum at the same time!

No distractions from the work at hand for us! Throughout 2019, NJ 11th for Change stayed focused (and effective) on things we knew mattered, and knew we could influence in significant ways. Sure, there was no big, glamorpuss target like 2018's “flip a congressional seat” to aim for. Top of the ticket for 2019 were the State Assembly races, which (you may have noticed) drew great big yawns from many of our less-savvy neighbors. Statewide turnout rates were reportedly 25%-26%—making NJ the second-most apathetic state in the nation.

Apathetic neighbors in 2019? Consider them potential voters for 2020!

NJ 11th for Change stood strong and focused on lots of important goals. Here’s what we did in our home district:

  • We pressed Rep. Mikie Sherrill to clearly communicate her position on impeachment. Members met personally with our congresswoman to express their concerns, and we conducted a group-wide survey to convey our opinions to her. When she finally issued her statement, it tipped the scales in the House.
  • We insisted on the creation of a civilian oversight committee to hold the Essex County Correctional Facility accountable for the treatment of those in its custody, including ICE detainees. (Want to be on the committee? Resumes due January 17!)
  • Members Jim Price and Matt Dragon coordinated a powerhouse squad of writers to send weekly letters-to-the-editor on important issues, establishing important voices in our communities and sharing information with our neighbors.
  • We educated ourselves and our communities about voting rights and voting procedures, which were particularly convoluted and confusing this year due to some rapid-fire changes in the absentee ballot system. 
  • Many of our members ran for public office—and WON!—including new Madison councilwoman Rachel Ehrlich, and Chatham’s Stacey Ewald and Celeste Fondaco. In Morris Township, members Cathy Wilson and Jeff Grayzel stepped up as Mayor and Deputy Mayor, respectively. All of these wonderful NJ 11th folks were sworn in just this week! (Shown below, in order)

  • Even in races we didn’t win, we earned historic gains! The elections of 2019 were a valuable learning experience for next time. They also provided unbeatable visibility for many candidates known for their integrity and work ethic, including Christine Clarke, Laura Fortgang and others. We suspect it won’t be long before we’re saying “we knew them when…”!  
  • And we enjoyed the benefits of having successfully elected a representative who stays in touch with her district. Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill put up some impressive stats: she conducted 11 town halls in four counties, held 725 meetings and events with residents, and answered almost 50,000 emails, letters, and phone calls … numbers that put Rodney Frelinghuysen to shame. 

This past year, NJ 11th for Change also expanded our influence state-wide.

  • We helped form #TakeBackNJ, a coalition of grassroots organizations (including the powerful New Jersey Working Families Alliance) engaged in the battle against state-level corruption.
  • We helped bring Economic Development Authority (EDA) issues to light and have created tremendous public pressure on those who have been using the EDA for personal gain. (Need to get up to speed? Check out Saily Avelenda’s heart-pounding State of the State presentation here.)

  • We rallied members to call our state representatives en masse to support some major policy wins: increasing the minimum wage, extending driver’s license access to immigrants regardless of documentation status, and restoring voting rights to citizens who had spent time incarcerated.  
  • We helped curtail an internal Dem Party powergrab over the state chair position that would have had huge redistricting significance.
  • We earned such widespread recognition by media and government power players that “but where does NJ11th stand?” is a question that now MUST be factored into important policy and campaign decisions.

All that, despite a completely bonkers 24-hour news cycle, 7,700 tweets from the President Twitchy-fingers, and a million other reasons to be distracted.


If we could keep our focus through all of THAT,

WATCH OUT, 2020!

The coming year has so many important races. Maybe 2019 was a “rest and recovery” year for you; we get it. We hope you’re all rejuvenated and raring to go in 2020, because the 2020 elections hinge on groups like ours—individuals like us—working hard, working smart, and using our newfound power.

Where will we be focusing our efforts?

  • The 11th-district congressional race. We expect Mikie Sherrill to face challengers, and we want to protect the 11th-district seat from returning to its former alarming shade of red.
  • Congressional races in other key NJ districts. Our skill and people-power can help protect or swing seats to preserve our blue majority in the House of Representatives.
  • The NJ Senate race, to keep Booker’s seat on our side. We can’t afford to lose a single seat in the Senate this year.

And of course … 

  • THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION. New Jersey is reliably blue, so NJ 11th for Change can and will throw our weight into campaigning in other states. Tell PA we’re on our way!

To support ALL of these important initiatives, there will be

  • Canvassing
  • Tabling
  • Phone banking
  • Text banking
  • Postcarding

and ...




“Pennsylvania, here we come!”

It’s time to think about what you can do. 

And more importantly,

what you ARE going to do! 

  • Can you help financially? Consider attending our February 3 Power of Us cocktail party fundraiser, sponsoring the event for a spot in the commemorative program, or even purchasing a ticket for a volunteer who might not otherwise be able to attend. We expect a few public figures with ties to our group to make appearances, so be ready for photo ops!! Click here for tickets, or email Judy or Mara to discuss sponsorships. One-time donations and recurring monthly donations are welcome any time, too!

  • Have you taken a breather from your Town Team? Time to leap back in and get involved! Or join for the first time; many hands make light work! Contact Judy to get into the loop. A bunch of teams have just announced their 2020 launch events; scroll down to the Town Team Events section of this newsletter to read about them, and keep an eye out for more in upcoming weeks!

Town teams: where the work gets done!

  • Planning on canvassing? Start your regimen of stretching and strolling, so you’re ready to go the distance! 

  • Enjoy get-out-the-vote gatherings? Start collecting stickers, magic markers, and more for postcarding. Track down your spare charger for phone banking and text banking. Most importantly, dig out your favorite brownie recipe so you can contribute something to nosh!



No distractions.



a year you look back on

with PRIDE!


And now . . .  

Rep. Mikie Sherrill tested the patience of many NJ 11th for Change members by waiting until Saturday night to issue a statement about the Friday assassination of Iran's Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad.

“Qasem Soleimani was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American servicemen and women. He left a trail of destruction across the Middle East as an Iranian general who directed paramilitary and terrorist organizations throughout region. The Bush, Obama, and Trump administrations have long understood the threat Soleimani posed, and developed contingencies to eliminate that threat. Until now, Presidents determined these plans of attack against Soleimani would escalate tensions in the region and would be counterproductive to U.S. interests.

“President Trump authorized Thursday's strike based on what he believed to be an ‘imminent threat.’ It is incumbent upon him now to fully brief Congress so that we may assess this threat ourselves. Furthermore, in order to best protect American citizens and interests across the world, he needs to share his strategy going forward and explain to the American people why he has made this decision. The President must engage in diplomacy and articulate a larger strategy that will limit Iran’s nuclear program, ensure that we can safely maintain a troop presence on the ground in Iraq to eliminate an ISIS resurgence, and move us toward a stable Middle East.”

Members have expressed a wide variety of opinions about this statement. Whatever you think, we encourage you to contact her to let her know. Make sure your voice is heard!



Events &
Volunteer Opportunities


  • The New Sanctuary Coalition Accompaniment Training has been rescheduled for Thursday, January 9, 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM. NSC accompanies immigrants to their deportation hearings and ICE check-ins. We stand in solidarity with migrants to demonstrate to immigration authorities that there is a community mobilized against deportation. Training location: Temple Ner Tamid in Bloomfield NJ. Click on this link for more information and to sign up for the training session.

  • SAVE THE DATE! February 3, 7:00 PM-9:00 PM—we'd love to see you at the NJ11th for Change Cocktail Party Fundraiser: The Power of Us. Join us for a cocktail party fundraiser in honor of US. We will raise a glass and some much-needed funding while we celebrate what we have accomplished so far. You never know—maybe some of the people we helped elect will stop by, too! Your ticket is your contribution and your generous donation will go towards our back-office operations and our 2020 campaigns. Tickets are $75, and can be purchased here, while they last. Want to sponsor the event and have an ad or a statement in the program? Contact Judy or Mara. Location: Richfield Regency 420 Bloomfield Avenue Verona 07044

  • HELP FOR TABLING AT CIVIC EVENTS—Here are some great ideas from the Madison and Montclair Town Teams, based on their years of experience hosting tables at their local Farmers’ Markets. This link will bring you to an extensive list, including talking points, links to other resources, a list of available documents to be handed out, and a nicely specific pep talk on the usefulness of tabling and how to do it in a helpful, non-confrontational spirit!
  • YOUR TOWN TEAM—IT’S WHERE CHANGE HAPPENS!—NOW IS THE TIME to step up and get involved locally! Across the 11th, town teams are out there making noise and helping to create the change they want to see in their own hometowns. Not sure if NJ 11th for Change has an active town team where you are? Email Judy to sign up and get yourself going in the right direction.


Cedar Grove/Totowa/Woodland Park

  • SAVE THE DATES!—Welcome to 2020! Dates below, times to be determined. Oh dear! Who would've thunk? With the possibility of war lurking, we have to be ready to do whatever it takes to get everyone to the polls. So, good people, if you felt the commitment during the last election cycle, this one requires that you redouble your efforts, passion and energy to ensure that we THROW THE BUMS OUT! We hope you will invite others to make the impact that we must, in order to have a victory in November. We need the Senate, and we certainly have to get rid of the present White House occupant. Lots to be done, and I hope you will come along on this Voting Voyage. Please mark your calendars for the dates below (details will follow), so you don’t miss out on the plans and activities that will ensure our success. If you’d like to respond regarding your participation, that would be great, but even if you cannot commit at this time, try to make these meeting times a priority. We will be planning, gathering with others, postcarding or hearing from specific candidates; staying engaged will keep us motivated. We need each other to make change happen. Our planned dates are Wednesdays, except as noted: March 4, May 5 (Tuesday), June 24, September 9, October 7, and October 28, 2020.

  • POTLUCK BRUNCH—Sunday, January 19 (winter weather date–January 26), 1:00 PM-3:00 PM. LET’S BRING IN THE NEW YEAR WITH OLD FRIENDS AND NEW! This is POTLUCK, so please let us know which favorite brunch item you can bring—homemade or purchased is fine! If you prefer not to bring an item, but would like to donate to our postcard fund, please contribute $10 per person. Location: Nina & Myron’s home. RSVP email Nina Lazar by December 15 and get directions.


  • 2020 KICKOFF PARTY AND FAIR FIGHT FUNDRAISER—Friday, January 24, 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM. 2019 was a year of reflection, reorganization, and rejuvenation to prepare us for 2020. And we’re kicking off the year with a get together to celebrate and reunite. We’ll be: raising money for Fair Fight (Stacey Abrams’s organization), sending letters to unregistered voters in Pennsylvania, learning about our plans for the spring including national and local actions, hanging out with old and new friends, and taking selfies in our voting themed photo booth. Space is limited. To attend, buy a ticket (starting at $11) by making a donation to Fair Fight at this link. All moneys from ticket sales go to Fair Fight. Location: Just Jake’s (we’ve reserved the back room) 30 Park Street, Montclair. Cash bar. Contact Liz Jarit with any questions.


  • VERONA TOWN TEAM MEETING--Sunday, January 12, 2:00 PM - 3:30 PM. Please join us for a joint meeting with the Verona Dems for our first meeting of 2020. Let's talk about what we hope to accomplish, and how we can work together to make the most of our time this year. It's only TEN months until Election Day! RSVP by emailing Ellen Buttolph for directions to the location.


to NJ 11th for Change!

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NJ 11th for Change is a 501(c)(4) unaffiliated organization dedicated to advocating for all people of New Jersey’s 11th Congressional District. We foster an engaged and informed community with the power to shape our political representation so that it is transparent, responsive and accountable—and so that it reflects the values of fairness, compassion, inclusivity and a decent quality of life.