Frelinghuysen’s challengers take the stage in Morris Township

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They each hope to trump Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11th Dist.) in next year’s midterm election. 

Sharing a stage for the first time on Wednesday, six challengers expressed shared loathing for President Trump and said Frelinghuysen–who skipped the forum, and has not held a town hall meeting since 2013–must be cashiered for supporting what they consider disastrous Trump policies.

Six candidates attended District 11 forum presented by NJ 11th for Change and BlueWaveNJ, Nov. 29, 2017. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen was invited but did not come. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Six candidates attended District 11 forum presented by NJ 11th for Change and BlueWaveNJ, Nov. 29, 2017. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen was invited but did not come. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Five Democrats —John Bartlett, Mitchell Cobert of Morristown, Tamara Harris, Mikie Sherrill and Mark Washburne — and Democrat-turned-Republican Martin Hewitt addressed a packed room at the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship in Morris Township.

The 90-minute affair was presented by NJ 11th for Change and BlueWaveNJ. Herb Jackson of The Record mixed his own questions with queries from audience members and online viewers.

You can get a quick sense of the contenders from their closing remarks (video above). And here is a replay of the whole forum.

Slideshow photos by Kevin Coughlin

Six candidates attended District 11 forum presented by NJ 11th for Change and BlueWaveNJ, Nov. 29, 2017. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen was invited but did not come. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Democratic candidate John Bartlett, at District 11 forum presented by NJ 11th for Change and BlueWaveNJ, Nov. 29, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Democratic candidate Mitchell Cobert speaks, while candidate Tamara Harris awaits her turn, at District 11 forum presented by NJ 11th for Change and BlueWaveNJ, Nov. 29, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Democratic candidate Tamara Harris at District 11 forum presented by NJ 11th for Change and BlueWaveNJ, Nov. 29, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Republican candidate Martin Hewitt at District 11 forum presented by NJ 11th for Change and BlueWaveNJ, Nov. 29, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Democratic candidate Mikie Sherrill, at District 11 forum presented by NJ 11th for Change and BlueWaveNJ, Nov. 29, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Democratic candidate Mark Washburne, at District 11 forum presented by NJ 11th for Change and BlueWaveNJ, Nov. 29, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Audience at District 11 forum presented by NJ 11th for Change and BlueWaveNJ, Nov. 29, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Videographer gets footage of Mikie Sherrill at District 11 forum presented by NJ 11th for Change and BlueWaveNJ, Nov. 29, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Saily Avelenda of NJ 11th for Change at District 11 forum, Nov. 29, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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P1700616 - Six candidates attended District 11 forum presented by NJ 11th for Change and BlueWaveNJ, Nov. 29, 2017. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen was invited but did not come. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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“It’s a testament to the hard work that this organization has done that we have six qualified candidates. To me, it says there is hope. This district lacked hope,” said Saily Avelenda, chairperson of NJ 11th for Change.

Long a Republican bastion — filmmaker Michael Moore once ran a ficus plant against Frelinghuysen to underscore the futility of opposing him–the 11th District this month was downgraded to a “tossup” by the Cook Political Report.

Saily Avelenda of NJ 11th for Change at District 11 forum, Nov. 29, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Saily Avelenda of NJ 11th for Change at District 11 forum, Nov. 29, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

“He’s vulnerable. He knows it. And we have another year,” Avelenda said of the 12-term Congressman, who heads the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

She quit her bank executive job earlier this year after Frelinghuysen “outed” her activism in a note to a board member.

Avelenda insisted on Wednesday that her drive to oust the Harding Republican is nothing personal. But if Michael Moore runs his candidate again…

“I think the ficus plant has a really good chance,” Avelenda said. 

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