Video: Cory Booker helps Team Dougherty launch 2017 campaign
By Kevin Coughlin
Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) took a break from battling the Trump administration on Monday to plug Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty for a third term.
Describing Dougherty as a “managerial genius” and one of “the extraordinary mayors in America,” Booker credited the Mayor with helping make Morristown a welcoming, diverse place that differs sharply from the dark picture of the nation painted by President Trump in his inaugural address.
“To me it’s important to be a little political today,” the Senator said. “Because when one man stood on Friday and cast a shadow over this country, there is another man I know in a town that is beautiful and wonderful and bright… another man who stands up not to cast darkness, but [to be] a source of light.”
Dougherty got laughs from supporters at the Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen when he took his turn at the microphone. “It is so not right for me to have to follow that!” he joked.
The Mayor is running for re-election with incumbent Council members Michael Elms and Toshiba Foster.
David Silva, pastor of the Centro Biblico church, rounds out the ticket. He replaces Councilwoman Michelle Duprée Harris, who will challenge the Mayor in the June primary, leading her own slate of Democratic council candidates.
“I look forward to a vigorous campaign against [the Mayor] and his policies,” said Harris, a 19-year council veteran. “I feel confident that after eight years under his rule, the people of Morristown are ready for change.”
No word yet from local Republicans about their plans.
Booker, whose name often is mentioned as a 2020 presidential contender, broke with Senate tradition last week to oppose the cabinet nomination of a colleague, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-ALA), Trump’s choice to serve as Attorney General. Booker was critical of Sessions’ Civil Rights record during a confirmation hearing.
At Monday’s campaign kickoff, Booker borrowed a page from Martin Luther King, likening Morristown to King’s ideal of the “beloved community.”
Mayors have the toughest job in government, added the former Newark mayor, who lauded Dougherty for fielding pothole complaints and holding down taxes and crime, while “reminding us that the ties that bind us are so much stronger than the lines that divide us.”
Dougherty, a former councilman and zoning board member, works as chief engineer for the Prudential Center in Newark. He thanked his wife, Mary Dougherty, for her support throughout the ups and downs of political life. They moved to Morristown in 1988, he told the crowd, introducing their grown son, Ryan.
The Mayor said one of his prime goals is keeping taxes stable so “people on fixed incomes, our seniors especially…can stay in their homes.”
Among his achievements he cited “sensible growth” and a landmark 2015 tax settlement with the parent company of Morristown Medical Center, a “forever win” that he predicted will contribute to a flat budget–no tax increase–for the seventh straight year. At the same time, he intends to add two police officers to the force, for a total of 14 police hires during his tenure, he said.
The Mayor also mentioned street beautification projects, an ongoing traffic study, and an openness to creative ideas that has seen Morristown become a hub for events including cycling’s Gran Fondo NJ, a book festival, and a jazz & blues festival.
Monday’s announcement came in a restaurant that is a testament to the downtown’s creative energy: In 2014, New York restaurateur Chris Cannon transformed a vacant South Street mansion into a showcase that has earned critical acclaim.
But echoing Booker, who cited activist and author Alice Walker (The Color Purple), Dougherty said voters care most about the unglamorous, everyday things: Snow plowing, trash pickup, the town’s response to Hurricane Sandy.
He looks forward to voters’ feedback.
“I’m more energized in this election than I was in ’09,” said Dougherty, vowing to take his pitch door-to-door “to every resident in this town, probably twice” before the primary.
“There is so much more work to do,” he said.
Slideshow photos by Berit Ollestad and Kevin Coughlin