POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Women celebrate Democratic midterm wins after a year of efforts

BY Briana Vannozzi, Correspondent |

It started with the Trump resistance, but their frustration grew and matured throughout 2017.

“This is what it’s going to look like, and this is not a one time thing, this is the beginning,” said a woman at the 2017 Women’s March.

Women promised they’d “remember in November.” Here in New Jersey, they did.

“The blue wave happened because of the blue work we all did,” said Neena Singh, public relations director for Stand Central Jersey.

“The successful flipping of four out of five of New Jersey’s Republican Congressional seats to blue was directly related to the organizing that women and grassroots group did throughout 2017 and 2018,” said Dena Mottola Jaborska, associate director of NJ Citizen Action.

Grassroots groups, like NJ 7 Forward, which helped flip Republican Leonard Lance’s seat, came out in droves. Canvassing neighborhoods and powering turnout.

“We did voter registration, we assisted with vote-by-mail outreach, we did a big youth voter outreach,” said Margaret Illis, founder of NJ 7 Forward.

“I remember looking down one morning, about 10 [minutes] to seven, the train was delayed and it was Summit, a busy train station, and there were 200 people reading our leaflet because they were waiting for the train, comparing the candidates,” Marcia Marley, president of Blue Wave NJ.

“We started as a Facebook group and grew to 8,200 members. We, very early on, decided in order to make change, you can’t make it on Facebook, you don’t make it by complaining on boards, you don’t make it by crying. You only make change by taking action and getting up off the couch!” said Saily Avelenda, executive director of NJ 11th for Change.

The women-led groups, like Blue Wave and NJ 11th for Change, educated and trained their volunteers. They targeted specific seats with their “We Win When Women Vote” campaign. In the GOP held 11th District, they moved the needle 31 points from the previous election, helping Democrat Mikie Sherrill win with a 12-point margin.

“We deployed an army of about 1,100 volunteers on the ground, every day, for the last two years, doing what they could to bring the message of NJ 11th for Change, and for the message that we are all bringing — that we need to vote, that we need to engage, that we need to be present,” Avelenda.

Nationally, 52 percent of the electorate were women this midterm cycle, a number expected to be higher in New Jersey once all returns are in.

“Our efforts have amassed a bragging rights list that include just for our community well over 2,000 hours of canvassing and phone banking, nearly 1 million texts to voters, over 10,000 postcards to voters — not too shabby. So today, we along with these other leaders, of these largely women-built groups, we renew our commitment to uplift, to resist and to persist,” said Cindi Sternfeld, founder of Indivisible Lambertville/New Hope.

Don’t expect these groups to pack it up and call it quits. In fact this evening there are over 900 marches planned across the country to protest Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ resignation. And these women tell me their sights are set on 2020.