While the 2017 election results are seen nationally as a repudiation of the Trump administration, here in New Jersey it’s even deeper than that. After eight years of Chris Christie, voters were determined to chart a new course, especially on issues like clean energy, climate change, and protecting our natural resources.
To do that, they elected a new governor who has vowed to ban fracking and fracking waste, and develop a plan to achieve 100% renewable energy. But to carry out a truly progressive agenda, we'll need to hold Governor-elect Phil Murphy accountable to his campaign promises, and push him to be even stronger on some key issues.
And we need to build a strong base of support within the state legislature. That’s why Food & Water Action endorsed 17 Assembly and State Senate candidates who are committed to clean energy, public water, and stopping fossil fuel projects. And on Election Day, 11 of those candidates prevailed.
We are especially proud of the hard work we did in three key districts. In the 16th, Roy Freiman and Andrew Zwicker won close Assembly races. Food & Water Action made 7,000 calls, knocked on 2,000 doors and sent 18,000 texts reminding voters in the district to head to the polls. Both candidates won by just a few thousand votes. And in the 38th District, we worked to re-elect Assemblyman Tim Eustace, who has been a strong ally in the fights to ban fracking and develop a robust clean energy plan for our state.
In South Jersey, where we have been fighting two fracked gas pipelines in the Pinelands, we supported three strong progressive candidates in the 8th District: Joanne Schwartz and Maryann Merlino for Assembly, and George Youngkin for Senate. We knew this would be an uphill climb, but we helped push those candidates--who, unlike the incumbents, ran on a platform opposing the Pinelands pipelines-- very close to victory. Schwartz and Merlino came within 1% of winning, and Youngkin exceeded the vote totals of previous progressive 8th District Senate candidates. We called all 1,800 Food & Water Action members in the district, and sent 477 follow-up text messages relying on the candidates’ positions on pipelines and renewable energy.
So what comes next for the state? First up, we should finally take care of some unfinished business: Winning a victory in the long fight to ban fracking in the Garden State. Our sister organization Food & Water Watch helped to lead coalitions to enact a ban in 2012. We passed bills with bipartisan support, but were stymied by Governor Christie’s vetoes. It is clear that Governor-elect Phil Murphy understood the power of the grassroots movement to stop fracking, and that’s why he made it a key part of his campaign message.
We won many of the big races, but we had a hand in some key local victories too. In two towns, voters decided not to privatize publicly-owned water systems, defying the slick marketing campaigns by corporate water profiteers.
Elections aren’t often very glamorous. It’s hard, but absolutely necessary work. Over the last two months, we knocked on over 3,000 doors, sent over 35,000 messages, and made 15,000 get-out-the-vote phone calls to help win these close races and important ballot questions.
Now is the time for our elected representatives to enact what the majority of us agree on: strong laws to protect safe water, clean air and a stable climate future.
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