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Constituents’ Letter from the Steering Committee of Essex Rising

Dear Congresswoman-elect Sherrill,

I write on behalf of the Steering Committee of Essex Rising. First, congratulations on your election victory! With you in the forefront as an outstanding candidate, the grassroots organizations and volunteers of our district helped deliver a historic renunciation of Republican representation for NJ11. Our nation-leading 33-point swing of NJ11 provides substantial leeway to lay out an alternative agenda, based on common decency and moral rectitude, that strikes out for social and economic justice and social progress for our district and beyond.

We regret that, so soon, before you are even seated, we are compelled to express Essex Rising’s disappointment and dismay that you will caucus with the Blue Dogs. To our members—and others under the Indivisible umbrella—our resounding Blue Wave does not mean we must leap over the aisle into the Republican arms that embrace one of the most base, unintelligent leaders in world history. You always said that you would seek bipartisan cooperation, but rather let decent Republicans join us, on the sane side of the aisle, to enact sensible legislation that benefits the nation, or let them sink. Our Blue Wave winners don’t have to mix with the scum that rode Trump’s tide.

Blue Dogs today might not be what they were in the past, but their record of collaboration with Republicans is disheartening for Democrats, and downright dishonorable. Blue Dogs are a historic enemy of the Affordable Care Act, and their position was corrupt because big pharma was a principle source of their funding. So, Blue Dogs helped stall ACA over that long summer that gave its Republican opponents time to undermine it, derisively dub it “Obamacare,” and strategize to strip away its crucially progressive “public option,” with Blue Dogs’ support. The faltering of the ACA today, with disastrous results for healthcare nationwide, can be tracked back to these early weakening actions. The Blue Dogs have that blood on their paws.

The vast majority of our country—at least 70%, including a majority of Republicans— today supports Medicare-for-All. The number is probably higher in NJ11. If the Blue Dogs hamper progress this time, we will oppose them and your caucusing with them. We promise that we will conduct the same “die-ins” on your doorstep that we did on Frelinghuysen’s—and that got Rachel Maddow’s attention.  

We know from experience that what the Blue Dogs term “fiscal conservatism” is generally Conservatives’ code for cutting social spending while boosting military expenditure. We will adamantly oppose that interpretation. We fully support fiscal prudence but we have a different interpretation of what it means, and different priorities on how to achieve it with more equitable outcomes.

  • On healthcare, GAO analysis demonstrates that Medicare-for-All will represent a saving to the nation. Even a conservative think tank calculated the net saving at $2 trillion. Medicare-for-All is a less costly and more beneficial option than continuing down the road we are on. We urge that you begin to apply “fiscal conservatism” right here by studying the numbers, and if you cannot fault the GAO, urge the Blue Dogs to sign on to H.R.676 and fight for Medicare-for-All. If Rep. Richard Neal chairs House Ways and Means, the path to Medicare-for-All will have to pass through the one person in government who has taken the most money from the insurance industry!  
  • We oppose tax cuts for the rich that inflate the deficit; conversely, we support tax reform so that the wealthy pay a fairer share, like they did before Reagan upended our tax structure. Will you fight for tax reform, reversing the tax cuts, and stalling the Republicans who hypocritically run up the deficit so that the next Democratic president must start off deep in debt—like our poor graduating students, gouged by usurious lenders?
  • We want strict accountability over Defense expenditure. We want an end to all wars and military adventurism that are not specifically authorized by Congress under the War Powers Act as being in the necessary interest of the United States—rather than benefitting defense contractors, such as those that supported Rep. Frelinghuysen, while killing hundreds-of-thousands of innocent people. We want the Defense budget to reorient toward what our military analysts agree is the biggest threat America faces today—climate change—and also toward cyber warfare. That does not mean increase Defense expenditure, it means redirect expenditure. With your background, we know you are well positioned to lead this discussion. Would the Blue Dogs follow your lead?

We as a district, and you as a candidate, were firm on calling for gun control—and we have been encouraged to see that you joined the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force—but gun control means opposing the NRA. Many of our members were appalled that the Blue Dogs accepted money from a superPAC that had bundled in a substantial donation from the NRA. That is more blood money. The Blue Dogs’ sure have Red Paws—that’s a graphic image we can already visualize on protest signs.

We look forward to your comments on these issues at your first Town Hall.


Gary van Wyk, Ph.D.

For the Steering Committee, Essex Rising:

Lisa Brittan, Lenora Isaacs, Khabirah Meyers, Cindy Matute-Brown, Elizabeth Redwine, Jonathan Redwine, Rose Registre, Soma Sinha

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