By Marion Filler
After two rousing hymns, an array of announcements, and special wishes for the sick and shut-ins, Pastor Sidney Williams Jr. on Sunday asked visitors to Bethel AME Church in Morristown to stand an introduce themselves to the congregation.
Congressional candidate Mike Sherrill, seated inconspicuously three rows from the front, rose and announced her presence.
The Democrat from Montclair, who is running against Republican state Assemblyman Jay Webber of Morris Plains for the seat held by retiring Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11th Dist.), joined in the ritual greeting of the service, moving through the crowd, shaking hands and receiving hugs.
Finally, after everyone was seated and more announcements were made, Williams began his introduction of Sherrill by pointing out the low turnout in the last Presidential election.
“Many African Americans chose not to vote. If you are complaining about what’s going on in Washington D.C. now, you’ve got to take a little responsibility, and therefore the consequences of elections,” the pastor told his audience.
Standing before the African American congregation, microphone in hand, Sherrill asserted: “Black women are some of our best voters in the Democratic Party. I say Amen to that.”
After the applause quieted down, she continued stressing the importance of the black vote.
“I was talking to James Clyburn, former leader of the Congressional Black Caucus. He knows like I know that it’s the minority vote that can put this election over the top – that’s how critical your vote is.
“It’s not just in the 11th District of New Jersey. It’s critical across the nation and it’s critical for making a difference in the House,” said Sherrill, a former Navy helicopter pilot and federal prosecutor.
“We talked about the history of Morristown being the heart of the Revolution, and we haven’t been a battleground state since the American Revolution. But in this election, we are,” she said.
Echoing a campaign theme, Sherrill referred to former Vice President Joe Biden’s eulogy of Sen. John McCain: “John McCain is a hero, but this country wasn’t built by heroes. This country was built by ordinary Americans doing extraordinary things.”
Although citizens may feel their values are being rejected, Sherrill said, she’s not worried “because I heard somewhere that the rejected stone can become the cornerstone.”
As she described her political agenda – affordable, quality healthcare; a tax plan that invests in New Jersey; a new commuter tunnel under the Hudson–murmurs of agreement rippled through the church.
She concluded by again citing the late Sen. McCain, and the Arizona Republican’s willingness to speak out against his own party when necessary.
“I’d like to see more people standing up for the people and not the party by reaching across the aisle,” Sherrill said.
Noting agreement between the Koch brothers–major GOP donors–and the ACLU on criminal justice reforms, and 90 percent support for universal background checks, the candidate said she hopes she can help forge a functional, rational Congress.
Williams, who ran for town council as a Republican in 2015, said all candidates are welcome to speak at Bethel.