Sen. Bob Menendez invited 16 women from various North Jersey organizations to a diner in North Bergen to tell him what they think is at stake in this year’s midterm election. He got an earful.
“This administration is pulling back on educational opportunity. This administration is pulling back civil rights. This administration is not concerned at all about climate change. And health care, particularly reproductive justice, is being decimated by this administration,” said consultant Pamela Miller.
“Our millennials are drowning in student loans. And those student loans, they are so unfair,” said Leonor Javier, a life coach.
“There are educators that aren’t even able to make a living wage, and there are children that have so much need. There are children that are in poverty. There are children that have so much worry and baggage. And there are children now being stripped from the arms of their mothers as the immigration police state has become part of the norm,” said teacher Esther Fletcher.
Menendez had answers for most of them.
“Sen. Elizabeth Warren and I ultimately are in the midst of advocating that we refinance all of the student loan. That’s a trillion — with a ‘t’ — trillion dollars of student loan collectively in our country,” Menendez said.
Several women expressed fears about the new Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
“I already know by his writings, he’s had a long set of writing in history, that on women’s reproductive rights, he would roll back the clock,” Menendez said.
Menendez is running for re-election this fall against Republican Bob Hugin. The subtext of this event was to highlight Menendez’s connection with women at a time when Hugin’s is under question.
Last week it came out that when he was a student at Princeton and president of the Tiger Inn Eating Club, Hugin tried hard to keep women out of the all-male club. A student named Sally Frank sued. Hugin fought it in state and federal court. In 1990, as The New York Times reported, the New Jersey Supreme Court told the Princeton clubs they must admit women.
“Into his 30s, he was litigating, including in federal court, to keep the proposition alive that women should be excluded from being a part of the dining clubs in Princeton,” Menendez said.
Hugin’s campaign manager said in a statement, “Bob views many things differently today than he did 25 years ago and has been a leader and champion for equality in business. Bob Menendez was caught abusing his office to get visas for his convicted felon best friend Salomon Melgen’s young foreign mistresses just three and half years ago and shouldn’t be lecturing Bob Hugin on anything.”
So what else keeps the women up at night? The opioid crisis and health insurers’ response to it.
“There has to be checks and balances for these insurance companies who, willy-nilly, yes, no, yes for you, no for you, and the appeals process is so bound up with red tape,” said Glynis Burke, a film electrician.
“I don’t like that DACA is being, they’re trying to take down DACA when these people are working and paying taxes,” said retired teacher Kathleen Jerome.
“We have been talking about Dreamers since 2001. It’s time,” said immigration attorney Sarah Garcia.
They say women are an important force in this year’s midterm election. In the Menendez/Hugin U.S. Senate race, the advantage with women at this moment seems to go to Menendez.