A retirement party without the guest of honor: NJ 11 ‘fetes’ Frelinghuysen in Morristown

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Members of NJ 11th for Change threw a retirement party without the guest of honor on Friday.

But they’re used to Fridays Without Frelinghuysen.

Demonstration anniversary. Photo: Bill Lescohier
Demonstration anniversary. Photo:
Bill Lescohier

“We will definitely go on to November. We aren’t going anywhere,” Elizabeth Juviler promised, after a few dozen people had gathered in Morristown to mark one year of what has become a weekly ritual: Attempting a sitdown with Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11th Dist.) to persuade him to hold his first town hall meeting since 2013.

With songs, chants, and cakes, they celebrated their grassroots movement and the 12-term Congressman’s “retirement” they hope to engineer at the polls this fall.

NOT QUITTING: NJ 11th for Change members mark one year of rallies at Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen's (R-11th Dist.) Morristown office. Photo by Bill Lescohier
NOT QUITTING: NJ 11th for Change members mark one year of rallies at Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen’s (R-11th Dist.) Morristown office. Photo by Bill Lescohier

Candidates Mikie Sherrill and Morristown resident Mitchell Cobert, both Democrats, and Martin Hewitt, a Republican, attended the festivities.  Activists who ducked into Frelinghuysen’s building to escape the rain were directed by police to a parking garage; they ate cake in the nearby Morris County Democratic headquarters.

Video by Bill Lescohier:

Frelinghuysen, chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, for years had a reputation as a political moderate. But his support of President Trump’s policies and the conservative GOP agenda has prompted opposition he never has encountered before.

Activists protest President Trump remarks, Morristown, Jan. 12, 2018. Photo: Bill Lescohier
Activists protest
President Trump
remarks, Morristown,
Jan. 12, 2018. Photo:
Bill Lescohier

Lately, the Congressman has been more critical of Trump. In a statement on Friday, Frelinghuysen joined the universal chorus condemning the President’s widely reported disparagement of Haiti and African nations, calling Thursday’s remarks “deplorable.”

In his weekly e-blast to constituents, Frelinghuysen included a link to a 2016 article about a Haitian immigrant who shed tears of joy at his West Point graduation. 

On Friday, Trump denied he had used vulgarities with lawmakers while discussing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Lizzie Foley of NJ 11th for Change recounted her first visit to Frelinghuysen’s office a year ago.

“It seemed to me that he was not voting in a way that represented the best interests of his constituents,” said the Montclair resident.

Activist in Morristown, Jan. 12, 2018. Photo: Bill Lescohier
Activist in Morristown,
Jan. 12, 2018. Photo:
Bill Lescohier

After some very persistent knocking, Foley said, she and Susan Luciano and Marion Jacobson were allowed into the Congressman’s locked Morristown office.

“Once inside, we were told that Congressman Frelinghuysen didn’t really like to interact with constituents, but they’d share our concerns and encouraged us to go away. The Congressman’s seat was safe, you see, and he didn’t need to bother with people like us,” said Foley, a Harvard graduate and community organizer.

The trio returned a week later, with about 30 others. Action Together New Jersey, BlueWaveNJ, the New Jersey Working Families Alliance, Make the Road New Jersey, the Environmental Defense Fund and Morristown-based Wind of the Spirit are among groups that have made appearances.

At times, more than 100 activists have made the trek. “They are smart. They care about their country,” said Foley, who continues waiting to meet Frelinghuysen.

Video by Bill Lescohier:

“It’s been a year, and he still shows no genuine interest in hearing the concerns of his constituents. He’s told us to ‘back off.’ He told us that we’re wasting his staff’s time when we contact his office.

Elizabeth Juviler. Photo: Bill Lescohier
Elizabeth Juviler.
Photo: Bill Lescohier

“He said arranging a town hall meeting was too difficult, and then refused to attend when we arranged five of them for him. He’s called us paid protesters. But he has never listened to us,” Foley said.

Juviler, also from Montclair, considers these weekly gatherings among her most gratifying and “unbelievably frustrating” endeavors.

Visiting Frelinghuysen’s staff is “like feeling a repeated dull ache,” she said.

“Their opacity and their boss’s disinterest in engaging with his own constituents can be seriously depressing.”

Correspondent Bill Lescohier contributed to this report.

A candidate in '44? Aidan Henninger-Lowell makes a statement, Jan. 12, 2018. Photo: Bill Lescohier
A candidate in ’44? Aidan Henninger-Lowell makes a statement, Jan. 12, 2018. Photo: Bill Lescohier

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11 COMMENTS

  1. Rep. Frelinghusen is retiring because he does not have courage to stand for re-election against the background of several candidates challenging his seat. Glad to see him go as he no longervrepresents the views of his constituents.

  2. The celebration proved prophetic or compelling. Either way, it achieved the desired effect. Farewell Rep. Frelinghuysen, we hardly knew ye, because we never saw ye.

  3. Thank You Morristown Green for covering NJ 11th for Changes One year Party and a RETIREMENT Party for Rodney. So glad to learn today that RF has decided to OFFICIALLY Announce his RETIREMENT, Must of not seemed so scary for him, especially since the Congressman has heard our well wishes and learned there would be CAKE – LOTS OF CAKE FOR ALL THE CONSTITUENTS that will be celebrating! (next party someone can even bring the balloons) Now Rodney Truly never has to stress about the Town Halls he was never going to do any way. Time for some Golf for him and he can spend all the Money he made for him and his Bully buddies.

  4. This is what Democracy Looks Like!!! Persist to Resist to bring change. This benefits everyone in our Country. Rodney you work for all of us. You don’t get a retirement pass and cushy nest egg from your compliance with the tax scam and all the harm you have brought upon the population by being complicit with 45 and the GOP. Nope. Happy anniversary NJth for Change! You are a model for all the rest of the districts and we aren’t going anywhere.

  5. Is Mikey Sherrill the one who doesn’t live in the district but feels that she knows what’s best for those who do?

  6. One of the cruelest and most destructive punishments human beings can inflict on one another is the practice of shunning. This is precisely the behavior demonstrated by Rodney Frelinghuysen and his staff toward his constituents. Avoid us at all costs…and when that is impossible, dismiss our concerns with rote, dehumanized one-size-fits-all messages. Why in the world should I not fight with every power at my disposal to replace a “representative” who repeatedly and consistently treats me like that?

  7. Congratulations NJ11th for Change on this impressive anniversary.

    Thank you for your resistance and persistence and for giving hope to people in NJ11 that we don’t have to endure Rodney, a Congressman who doesn’t listen nor share our values.

    Find out more about NJ11: http://www.nj11thforchange.org/

    Ask about joining a local Town Team. We have one in Morristown-Morris Township and other nearby towns. All are invited to participate. If you need more help getting connected, please email: lescohi@aol.com

  8. Sherrifs officer did not direct us to the garage adjacent to RF’s office. Like last week, in sub zero temps, they wanted us outside.

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