The Times, Trenton

Women Helped Flip N.J. Congressional Seats In 2018

The Times of Trenton — November 12, 2018

By Times of Trenton Editorial Board

They marched. They rallied. They canvassed. They hand-wrote, addressed and stamped postcards — thousands of postcards.

They protested outside of congressional offices. They besieged lawmakers with emails and phone calls. They organized. They organized. They organized.

And then they celebrated, these New Jersey women — many of them political novices — who helped flip four (and possibly five) of our congressional seats, proving that grassroots activism is a power that can move mountains.

And motivate voters.

"Make no mistake: Women were the driving force behind the so-called blue wave that propelled Democrats into the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives," Dena Mottola Jaborska, associate director of New Jersey Citizen Action said at a news conference in Trenton after the mid-term elections last Tuesday.

Jaborska's organization was one of dozens that sprang up in the state in the wake of the 2016 elections, many of them hastily formed by women appalled when the 45th president of the United States rode into the White House carrying the stench of sexual assault and misogyny.

Like their counterparts across the country, these newly energized voters also were frightened and appalled by the gun violence around them, haunted by the specter of losing hard-won health coverage, and propelled by the threats to their environment their children and their children's children live in.

In the Garden State they adopted names such as NJ 11th For Change, NJ 7 Forward, Action Together Burlington County. Connecting over social media and gathering in church basements, community houses and private homes, they drew on the experience of older, more seasoned groups.

Seasoned leaders such as Analilia Mejia's, director of New Jersey Working Families, were a valuable resource as the new entities gathered steam.

With a large presence already established in the state's urban areas, Mejia's organization has lobbied for issues such as affordable housing, criminal-justice reform and a decent minimum wage. She says she welcomed the presence of her suburban sisters to help fight the good fight.

And fight they did. Nationwide, women helped pull off some remarkable feats, according to statistics compiled by the Democratic National Committee. Among them:

At least 29 House seats flipped, 19 of them to be occupied by women.

Seven governor seats flipped. Four Attorney General seats flipped.

Six legislative chambers flipped. Three state Supreme Court seats flipped.

Historically, upsets are common in mid-term elections, especially when a president is as deeply unpopular as this one is.

But we have a hunch that what happened this year was more than a referendum on a failed presidency. It was a wake-up call to both parties: Underestimate the strength of empowered women at your own risk.

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