2019 does not make the news for being a Big Year for politics. The focus is, understandably, on 2020. The world has its eyes on us for 2020. Justifiably so.
2018 was a Big Year because of the potential to change Congress. The Blue Wave flipped the House of Representatives dramatically. The current White House administration no longer has the both chambers of Congress as allies.
So what does 2019, a mid year election, mean for US politics?
Local races. Local towns, counties and states. The elections that directly affect local taxes, public education, town/county/state infrastructure, and more. In many ways, 2019’s Election Day will affect more day to day operations for millions of Americans than a national presidential election does.
What’s At Stake
In New Jersey, there are state assembly races as well as county seats and local town and city council positions. Board of Education elections may be happening in many areas as well. ALL of these elected officials have a direct impact on local, county and state taxes.
New Jersey is among the highest taxed states in the country. Different analysts and metrics place NJ in different spots on Worst/Highest.
This one from WalletHub lists NJ as 39th in the country (March 2019 article):
I live in one of the wealthiest and most expensive counties in NJ. And by pure dumb “luck,” my town has the highest tax rate in the county.
We’ve lived here, raised our children, gotten involved with our community and neighborhood in various ways and been happy to contribute to helping our town.
Over the years, I’ve attended local town council meetings. I admit that I didn’t pay close attention to which party the members of the council were in since I, naively, thought party didn’t play a big role in such a small town.
Then one of the incumbents lost to a young Democrat. That young Democrat represented our specific part of our township. He came to our house a couple of times before Election Day 4 years ago, introduced himself and asked us what our concerns, if we had any, were. He listened. He explained what he thought and hoped he could do if he was elected. He knew the man who was our councilman at the time and clearly respected him. But this young man was confident that he could do a better job. He would listen.
I was already familiar with and on friendly terms with the councilman who had been representing our area. But – and this is a big BUT – he had never, ever asked if there was anything about town that I was concerned about. He never asked what I’d like to see improved upon or changed. He assumed, I found out later, that we as a household would just vote for him.
We did not. And he lost. He was bitter in his defeat and angry at the young man who won. That young man knocked on every door in the area he hoped to represent.
Flash forward to 2019.
I’ve become friends with that young man, I’ve supported him at council meetings and I strongly believe that my vote was well placed 4 years ago. He’s running for re-election, thank goodness!
And I’m his campaign manager.
This is my first time managing a campaign. For the past 2 years, I’ve moved away from the keyboard and into the world of activism and political engagement. The local Democratic Committee was in hiding and needed help. Along with a friend and then some new friends, we’ve gotten involved and are rebuilding the local party.
A Big Year, it turns out, for my town’s political landscape. There are 4 council seats up for election, and our committee has 4 very strong candidates who are ready to do the job. One, we hope, will win re-election.
We’re running the campaign for all 4 as a team, with a group of very enthusiastic and hard working volunteers.
A Big Year for our county. We are also supporting the county candidates for Freeholder, Sheriff and Surrogate. In our county, one party has controlled the Freeholder seats for over 40 years. The county budget is NOT transparent at all. Meetings have grown contentious as residents are asking questions that the current Freeholder Board doesn’t want to answer. 2019 could and should change that.
A Big Year for the NJ State Assembly, too. On the state level, we’re supporting the state assembly candidates. The only time I see my assemblymen are at ribbon cutting or Eagle Scout ceremonies. When I’ve reached out to either of them with a concern I have about an issue that they could affect, it became immediately clear that they would not be representing my household at all.
Every single one of these elected positions affects my household, my neighborhood and my community at large. I’m sorry that it took so long for me to pay closer attention to why these stakes matter so much.
These elections could very well affect our retirement plans, given the high property tax rate of my county and town.
I’m volunteering my time and skills to help my family and town. This has not been an easy decision, and it’s one that my family and I discussed thoroughly, together.
Not everyone can do this. I understand that.
But I feel strongly that anyone who votes, who pays sales, income and property taxes, needs to be able to trust the people who make the decisions about those taxes. Which means that people owe it to themselves to know these people by name and what they do.
There is a degree of satisfaction in getting involved. You find that your voice, your concerns, and your suggestions are being taken into account by someone who can help. You find that there is always room for improvement.
You are reminded that elected people work for YOU.
Small scale, but the process is the same. As we look ahead to the daunting election of 2020 and the barrage of words, promises and hype that come with an intense presidential election, it’s important to remember what’s happening in your own backyard.
Find and support local candidates who will best represent you. Who listen to you. Who will work for you, ideally.