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What I Learned Running in My Town’s Local Primary ELection

Over the past few months, I turned up the privacy settings on my social media accounts, hid my photography and writings, and monitored my Google search page results. Why? Because I was running for a primary spot to be my Borough’s next Councilman and I didn’t want the opposition to find any shred of information to hold against me.

Yes, I expected things to get brutal and they did. It was hard for me to believe that but it came to pass. The reason? I was running in the Republican primary and in my town there was a clear divide between the MAGA nuts and general Republicans.

Politics on the local level are vastly different than on the national stage. At the local level Republicans, Democrats, and Independents argue over the level of funding for things like the Fire Department, Schools, the Library, which roads to pave first, etc.

At the local level, your party affiliation tends to matter less because we’re all neighbors.

We see each other at town events or at the local supermarket. Yes, we have differences of opinions on how things should get done but we all agree that the business of the town needs to be done and we all agree we should move forward.

I knew I had to do something, I had to stand up and defend the line…

But something happened to my beloved Borough, and it started in 2015 when a certain public figure rolled down an escalator in New York City. Living in the heavily Blue (Democrat) state of New Jersey, our Borough is heavily Red (Republican).

At first, this man, who would become President, rallied many people where I live to his cause. He was an “outsider” and a businessman, two things that many people in my neck of the woods thought were good qualities.

We all know how this country 4+ years later was divided and set aflame with vitriol. What happened on a national level trickled down to my backyard. Schisms started to appear in my town, the MAGA movement started rallying people and they started to get into positions of power.

First, it was a seat on the Council, then it was a few Board of Education (BOE) seats, and then the threat for this year and the next — the packing of the Council and BOE with their candidates.

I knew I had to do something, I had to stand up and defend the line, especially against the MAGA ideals. I had to stand up and do something, for respect, inclusion, and for decency.

In March of this year, I got a tap on my shoulder from friends I knew that asked if I wanted to throw my hat in the ring as a Borough Councilman. The MAGA movement in town was planning on running two candidates, one to throw out the incumbent (my future running partner), and take over a seat for a retiring Councilman.

I saw my chance to stand up and say “STOP the Insanity” but I had to change my party affiliation back to Republican.

What? Back to a Republican?

I registered as a Republican when I was 18 and stayed that way till 2018. Why? Because I was always conservative at the local level but I saw the greater picture on the national level. It’s ok to be fiscally conservative but socially liberal and that seems to fit me well.

In 2018 I just couldn’t stand it anymore at the national level, I just couldn’t be a registered Republican anymore and became an Independent. That small change is what contributed to my loss.

We self-financed this campaign and spent the cost of a small vacation overseas on it, and still lost.

A hardcore Republican would probably faint (or get the vapors) when I say we should have tighter gun regulations and that a woman should have the right to choose.

Hell, I stood up in front of a monthly Council meeting and supported our town’s very first Gay Pride event. Yes, I believe in inclusion. I believe in equal rights for all. I believe in the separation of Church and State, vehemently.

I am a man that cares about people. I care about where I live, and about leaving it a better place than when I first moved here. I had been serving my Borough for 17 years on various Boards and Committees because that was the right thing to do in my mind.

I’ve always believed that a strong community begins with being a volunteer, and both my partner and I did. We volunteered and stepped up for our community.

The last two months have been brutal. It took a Herculean effort on my part to not only juggle work, kids, and life but to add running a political campaign to the mix.

Not only did I become insanely stressed and every ounce of my time was taken over, but then there was the money part. Everything costs money.

We had to order mailers, yard signs, a photographer, and a video editor. Then there was the Meet and Greet dinner and speeches (I liked the speeches part).

Every time I turned around our Committee was writing a check from the funds my running partner and I put in there. There was always someone to pay or some new invoice received.

We self-financed this campaign and spent the cost of a small vacation overseas on it, and still lost.

Despite losing, these last few months have been amazing in many ways. I got to talk to so many decent people in the Borough. Our platform and message resonated. There still were decent people out there, they were just hiding, scared of the MAGA movement.

The other part of me just wants to focus on writing and being a Maker again.

My running partner and I brought the conversation and narrative back to the center for all residents. We were a breath of fresh air that was needed and residents from all walks of life and political persuasions told me that we were the right ticket for this town.

But alas, it was not enough. Our platform didn’t appeal to more voters. We lost by a 2 to 1 margin. Ouch. I suspect it’s because the MAGA movement had taken deep roots in this town and spread faster than I ever imagined.

The MAGA cancer is spreading and surgery (elections) alone can’t fix it anymore, we’re going to need a lot of chemotherapy (hearts and minds) to kick it back into remission.

We’re going to need more people to stand up and draw their lines in the sand and defend it tooth and nail.

Ilearned a hella lot from this campaign, but where do I go from here? That’s a great question and I have to do some soul searching first. Part of me wants to continue with some sort of activism, in areas where more warriors are needed to defend the line.

The other part of me just wants to focus on writing and being a Maker again. A maker of videos, content, books, and stories. I want to create things that resonate with me and others. Who knows, maybe I’ll become a life coach or start a ministry?

Despite where I end up I know that I will always take with me the honor and humility that a percentage of my Borough’s residents voted for me. They were the silent defenders of the line I drew and I was honored to serve for them and with them.

I wholeheartedly believe that evil prevails when good men and women do nothing. Although we lost the battle yesterday, the war still needs to be won.

So I ask all my readers, all my brothers and sisters in arms! Stand up and defend the line with me.

Thank you.