The underestimated power of primaries

The underestimated power of primaries
By Seth Grossman, Political Columnist

Primary Election Graphic - Source -

(Reprinted from May 18 Current-Gazette Newspapers of Atlantic and Cape May Counties,

The primary elections on June 7 should be the most important of the year for everyone. But they are not, unless you live in Brigantine, Northfield or Mays Landing in Atlantic County.

What a pity. In November, many people will wish they could vote for a third party since there is so little difference between Democrats and Republicans in New Jersey.

But we don?t need a third party. Every voter already has the power to hijack either the Republican or Democrat party in the June primary. Why start a weak party from scratch when it is so easy to choose the candidates and shape the agenda of an established party?

The folks who now run the established parties fooled most voters into thinking that they pick the candidates at their rigged county conventions. Our public schools and colleges do a lot to get students to support candidates in November ? but not in selecting them in June.

Even our daily newspaper enables this public ignorance with stories like this one published last April 4:

?Atlantic County Republicans officially nominated their slates for the statehouse and county races at their convention Monday night, the same day Atlantic County Democrats named their county candidates. . .?

An accurate story would have said that no candidates were ?officially nominated? by either party that day. A few hundred active supporters of each party (out of roughly 100,000 registered voters in the county) got together in a banquet hall and publicly decided to support certain candidates.

Yes, the selected candidates got their nominating petitions circulated and signed that night. And they won the right to be bracketed together on the top line (or first row) of the June 7 primary election ballot with the label ?Regular Republican? or ?Regular Democrat.? But a full week remained before the deadline for other candidates to file their petitions for the June 7 primary election. And any group of candidates not endorsed at the party convention was also free to fill out forms to bracket their names together as a ticket with their own label or slogan on the ballot.

Candidates endorsed by party leaders at these county conventions, and bracketed together on the ?party line? or row, have roughly a 15 percent advantage going into a primary election campaign.

But in 1988, I ran ?off the line? in the Republican primary, and defeated the convention choice for Atlantic County freeholder. So did John Risley a few years later. Last year, perennial candidate Gary Stein won the Democratic primary election to run for Congress against Republican Frank LoBiondo when Democrat party leaders at their convention tried to reward Republican Congressman Frank LoBiondo for his pro-union votes in Congress by letting him run unopposed.

Why didn?t any tea party people become candidates for state Senate and Assembly or freeholder in Atlantic County?

Could it be because it is very easy to shoot off angry emails, and carry signs at tea party meetings and rallies, but difficult and expensive to be a serious candidate for public office ? the only effective way to fix our broken government?

More and more Americans today, including many on my side who call themselves tea party conservatives, remind me of spoiled teenagers. They complain about how wrong and stupid everyone else is for not doing their job right. But far too few of these complainers take the time to learn enough history, facts, and political skills to do the job right themselves and then invest their own time and money to do that job.

So we have this vicious circle. Very few other than party insiders vote in primary elections. So candidates picked by party insiders usually win. Because candidates picked by party insiders usually win, few outsiders run against them. Because voters rarely have choices in primary elections, few people vote in them except for very few party insiders.

But in Hamilton Township (Mays Landing) in Atlantic County, Aline Dix is running ?off the line? for Township Committee against the choice of Republican Party insiders in the June 7 primary election. In Northfield, Jim O?Neill and Lisa Brown are running for City Council in the primary against the Republican Party insiders. In Brigantine, Tom Milhous is running for 4th Ward City Council in the primary against the choice of Republican Party leaders. And there is a complicated situation with tea party candidates for state Senate and Assembly in Cape May and Cumberland counties, Estell Manor and Corbin City. (To be continued. …)

Somers Point attorney Seth Grossman appears on 1400AM talk radio 3-4 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays and on 92.1FM 8-10 a.m. Saturdays. For information see, email or call (609) 927-7333. Breakfast discussions are held 9:30-10:30 a.m. every Saturday at the Shore Diner on Fire and Tilton roads in Egg Harbor Township.

2 thoughts on “The underestimated power of primaries”

  1. “Every voter already has the power to hijack either the Republican or Democrat party in the June primary.”

    That is literally exactly what the ruling parties want us to do. There is another word for this sort of “hijacking”: it’s called being co-opted by the ruling parties.

    “Why start a weak party from scratch when it is so easy to choose the candidates and shape the agenda of an established party?”

    Because you will fail to hijack the established party because they will co-opt you.

    So long as we are subject to the dictatorship of the Republican and Democratic parties, we will never be free. Political freedom and independence begins with freedom and independence from the Democrats and Republicans.

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