The headline following Tuesday’s election had political experts volunteering their theories, asking how the state’s senior U.S. Senator, with substantial campaign funding and party and institutional support, could lose four in 10 votes to a virtual unknown. Community newspaper publisher and Democratic Senate challenger Lisa McCormick joins Senior Correspondent David Cruz.
Cruz: So you got 38 percent of the vote in this primary and everybody says it was a protest vote. You, as I imagine, object to that.
McCormick: Of course. In fact, I think it’s an insult to everybody who worked on my campaign. They know how hard they worked. We started with around 1,500 volunteers in January and were able to turn out close to 158,000 votes.
Cruz: How did that campaign work? Where were you based?
McCormick: Well, I did reach my original volunteers via email, but it was a people-powered campaign. I mean, people went out and told their neighbors to get involved. One of the problems that we have in politics today is that people don’t care and they’re not educated and they don’t care about politics. They’re taught to just let us, the people in power, stay in power. I heard Chuck Schumer telling Chris Cuomo on Wednesday night how good of a job they were doing, and I listened to this and I’m infuriated. I mean, how can we sit there and say, when the world is falling apart, how can we sit there and say you’re doing a good job?
Cruz: Do you feel like you made a point in this campaign, and what were you trying to say?
McCormick: My goal was to tell people is that the campaigns have to be about more than money. The first question I was asked by insiders when I was running, was how much money do you have? And my answer was, we’re at war with the one percent and you’re picking people who are one percenters or the wealthy, that’s your first criteria. If that doesn’t set off an alarm in your head…
Cruz: So if it’s not money, what is it that these campaigns should be about?
McCormick: Well, I say the 99 percent of us. For the one percent of us who are attacking the 99 percent. I said, ‘I didn’t have the $10 million that Bob Menendez had and I didn’t have the $40 million that Bob Hugin had, but I had the 99 percent of us.’
Cruz: So, did you do a favor to Bob Hugin here?
McCormick: I think Bob Hugin was running his ads and I don’t think that the press even knew that I existed.
Cruz: Did he did a favor to you then by muddying up Bob Menendez?
McCormick: Again, I don’t know that my support came from the media. This was an educated voter who went out and read about the issues, and cared about the issues, and followed their emails and made their own determinations.
Cruz: So, you don’t accept any aspect of people saying that this was a protest vote against Bob Menendez?
McCormick: Absolutely not. I think that’s an insult and I think that if we believe this, that it was because of Bob Hugin or some fluke or some other reason, that we discredit my whole effort and all the people that were involved in the campaign. And what I tell people is you can’t lose hope. If the people in power want you to tell you that this is a fluke and we can’t do it again, I was talking to one of my supporters and they said, ‘do you think you could get out everybody to vote for me again if we needed to do this again in another election,’ and they said absolutely.
Cruz: So here you are, you have 38 percent of the vote, but you’ve run before. You couldn’t get enough petitions to run for governor. Why do you keep running and might not you be better served setting the goal, not to say you set it a little lower, but something that you might be able to afford just in terms of what you pay for campaigns and volunteers. You might be able to concentrate them for a city council race, a mayor’s race, something like that.
McCormick: Well, I mean if you’re going to put the effort through to make a campaign, you want to be able to make a difference in the end. You don’t want end up running for dog catcher or something, and I think that we have enough problems today that people have to raise the bar of where they should be elected because we have to change who’s in power or we’re not going to see the changes in our Democracy that we’re looking for.
Cruz: So, you’re not necessarily one of those people who says, think globally, but act locally?
McCormick: Well, I think you have to act wherever you’re needed.
Cruz: What’s your sense of Bob Menendez and Bob Hugin in the fall? Who would you vote for?
McCormick: Well, someone said to me, ‘you know, Bob Menendez might say I’ll take $10 million and I’ll do whatever you want.’ and I said, ‘but Bob Hugin wouldn’t even wait.’ He’s going to do whatever he wants whether it’s voting for you or against you. In fact, it would be in his interest probably.
Cruz: So, you’re a Menendez voter in the fall?
Cruz: You’re going to hold your nose and pull the lever for Menendez.
McCormick: I am.
Cruz: Alright. So, what’s the next thing you are going to run for?
McCormick: Well, that’s yet to be determined. I know there’s Assembly races coming up and there’s the Senate in 2020, but I really want to work as a team. I mean, we need to replace a lot of people in power and I can’t do everything.
Cruz: So you want to get some allies around you?
McCormick: Yes I do. I want to get more people to run. I want to get rid of the stigma that only politicians can run for office. I want people to realize that we’re the 99 percent and it’s not easy when you’re trying to do two and three jobs to make ends meet. How do you run for office and my answer is come to my website, let me offer you the people-powered campaign. Let me teach you what you need to know. Let’s fit it into your time and you can offer your time or your money or whatever you have available so that we can actually get our government back and have it run by the people.