By Berit A.Ollestad
Anyone familiar with former Morristown Councilwoman Marge Brady and her outspoken political views might wonder if a conspiracy was brewing when Vice President Joe Biden paid a visit to the area last week.
It was the very same day that Brady had “won” an all-expense-paid trip to Washington DC to dine with actress and political activist Eva Longoria and the chair of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who also is a Congresswoman from Florida.
It all started late last year when Brady received an email from President Obama’s campaign asking for a donation, which automatically would enter her into the drawing to have a conversation with Longoria and Wasserman Schultz.
Brady recently had donated $5 for a chance at lunch with Obama. She wasn’t going to make an additional donation; she knew she could enter without contributing since technically it’s illegal to solicit donations on the premise of some type of prize.
Casually, she checked the box “enter me” and just as quickly forgot about her entry. Brady always has appreciated the fact that the President relies more heavily on $5 and $10 donations than on larger contributions.
Fast-forward one month: Brady received a call from a “bubbly, honest-sounding” woman one night around 9 o’clock. The woman informed Brady that she was among 50 finalists for the dinner with Longoria and Wasserman Schultz, and to be on the lookout for several release forms that she would be required to sign before being considered.
Brady hung up the phone and ran excitedly to tell her husband Wendell of her good fortune. He immediately responded with a dismissive, “Yah,” and added: “I hope you didn’t give out any personal information?”
Marge Brady divulged that her husband was a Longoria fan who had enjoyed the guilty pleasure of The Desperate Housewives from time to time.
The following day Brady took the paperwork to her attorney, who initially was skeptical. But after further review and fact-checking, the lawyer said the offer was legitimate.
Brady received a call soon afterward, stating that the Obama Campaign Committee had Googled her name and had run a background check on her. It was determined that Brady, a councilwoman from 1978 to 1985, represented a nice cross-section of the country. She then was asked for her dietary preferences.
“I’ll eat anything you put on the table and deal with the adverse effects later if I get to meet the people mentioned,” responded Brady, a co-founder of the Franklin Corners Neighborhood Association and member of the Morristown Parking Authority. She was sworn to secrecy, directed not to discuss the event in advance, to avoid unwanted media attention.
Others selected for the dinner included Luis, a Mexican-American in his mid-50s who is a retired firefighter from Ventura County, Calif. Stephanie, an African American from Baton Rouge, La., owns a small business and is raising three children who range in age from 7 to 13. She experienced flooding from Hurricane Katrina.
Another guest, Alyssa, 27, is a Minneapolis resident who is pregnant with twins. Laid off from an insurance job, she realized her dream of owning a local insurance company. Rounding out the list was Ann, a PhD scientist in her 60s from Savannah, Ga., who has worked for the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC.
Brady said it was insightful to see the different perceptions of the multi-generational gathering. Longoria shared that she became involved in politics because an older sister had special needs. She excelled in math and science but the opportunities that came her way had more to do with her beauty than her brains.
What catapulted Longoria onto the national political stage was social media. Her Twitter use garnered some unsolicited attention from Newt Gingrich. After a health care initiative had passed, Longoria took to the internet to share her views and Gingrich injected his own “less than flattering comments.”
“Eva Longoria is absolutely stunning to look at, but clearly her beauty comes from within. She is as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside,” said Brady.
Longoria wore an original gown from the the collection of Victoria Beckham, a friend of Longoria. For the gala affair Brady was thrilled when she found a classy blue dress at a Morristown consignment shop for $12.
She also was impressed with Wasserman Schultz and her “unwavering commitment to her country. She comes across as very approachable and down to earth to talk with,” Brady said.
The dinner fare included a spring salad, grilled salmon and fresh broccoli and concluded with fresh strawberries lightly drizzled with a Zabaglione sauce.
It’s probably a good thing for Joe Biden that Marge Brady was out of town when he swung through. If she had laid her hands on a coveted ticket for the fundraiser in Morris Township, she surely would have put the Vice President in the hot seat with some tough questions for the administration!