By Marion Filler and Kevin Coughlin
Democratic Congressional candidate Mikie Sherrill got a plug from the head of Emily’s List on Friday in Morristown, where she rapped the “divisive” politics of GOP opponent Jay Webber and President Trump and said they should have spoken out more forcefully against this week’s pipe bomb attacks against Trump critics.
Sherrill and Emily Cain, executive director of Emily’s List addressed about 200 Sherrill supporters at a rally in the posh Jockey Hollow Bar and Kitchen.
Speaking with reporters afterward, Sherrill was asked about a Trump fundraiser for Webber and other Republican candidates in Washington on Thursday.
“I was just concerned that President Trump has started to use very divisive language about the press with respect to the pipe bombs that are being sent. I think it would have been opportunity to unite the country around this really horrible behavior and provide real leadership,” said Sherrill, a former federal prosecutor and Navy veteran who lives in Montclair.
“We see Assemblyman Webber mimicking some of that by not coming out strongly in opposition to this and running a very divisive campaign. I was sorry to see that,” the candidate said.
Webber, an attorney and state Assemblyman from Morris Plains, shot back with a statement:
“Mikie Sherrill’s politicization of this very serious crime is the exact type of divisive politics she pretends to oppose. Coming in the same week my family was threatened, and a week after Sherrill’s allies promised to ‘take me down,’ Sherrill’s comments are hypocritical, wildly irresponsible, and beneath the office she seeks,” Webber said.
Slideshow photos by Kevin Coughlin. Hover / click over image for captions:
Friday’s war of words came on a day when federal authorities announced the arrest of a Florida man in connection with suspected explosives packages sent to public figures this week.
Liberal philanthropist George Soros, former President Barack Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and actor Robert De Niro were among those targeted, according to news accounts.
Sherrill and Webber are competing for the 11th District seat held by Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, a Republican from Harding who is retiring after 12 terms. Morris County is the heart of the district, which includes portions of Essex, Sussex and Passaic counties.
Although Sherrill has a huge fundraising advantage over Webber, the district tilts slightly Republican and a recent Monmouth University poll only gave Sherrill a four-point edge — within the survey’s margin of error.
Republicans have redoubled their efforts over the last few days. In addition to his fundraiser, Trump tweeted support for Webber for the second time in the campaign. His senior adviser, Kellyanne Conway, spoke at a Webber fundraiser in Wayne. Vice President Mike Pence has made two appearances for the conservative state legislator.
Biden came to New Jersey last month to stump for Sherrill, a mother of four who flew helicopters in the Navy.
“This is not a moment. This is a sea change and it’s happening right here is Morris County,” Cain told Sherrill supporters on Friday.
Emily’s List was established in 1985 to promote the election of pro-choice, Democratic women. “We start them off with their campaigns, we help them understand what they are getting into, we hope to get them off the ground and get taken seriously by people in their districts, by Washington D.C., and all across the country,” Cain said.
When 1,920 women reached out to Emily’s List in 2016, “we thought, wow, that’s really good.” Since Trump’s election, she said, more the 42,000 women have come forward wanting to run for office.
The January 2018 Women’s March in Morristown convinced her she made the right decision to enter the race.
“When I saw all those women marching, there was no doubt about it. This was ground zero and that’s no surprise because Morris County was the heart of the American Revolution – even though my friends in Boston might disagree,” Sherrill said.
Meghan Lynch, head of the state Democratic Women’s Caucus, told the audience “we are in the fight of our lives for the soul of this country,” and urged everyone to vote. “The old adage, ‘the decisions are made by the people who show up’ couldn’t be more true than at this moment.”
Sherrill emphasized quality healthcare for all, constructing the Gateway Tunnel, common sense gun laws, curbing taxes to stem an exodus of residents between the ages of 18 and 25, and protecting the environment. “It’s a today problem, not a tomorrow problem,” she said.
Neither she nor Cain mentioned President Trump in their public remarks, before a mostly female crowd that was asked to donate between $250 and $2,700 for the breakfast reception.
“This election is not about Donald Trump,” Cain said afterward. “This election is about the direction of our country, and the kind of leaders we need in Congress, so Congress can actually get things done that help people… Donald Trump keeps himself in the press plenty. There’s no reason for us to keep talking about him.”
With 11 days until the Nov. 6 election, Sherrill said she was focusing on her core issues–not Donald Trump or the struggles of Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, whose race against wealthy Republican Bob Hugin has been rated a “tossup” by the Cook Political Report.
“What I’ve been working on is uniting everyone here” in the district, Sherrill said.
The rally also promoted other Democratic women competing for offices across the district.
They included Morristown First Lady Mary Dougherty and Rupande Mehta of Denville, running for Morris Freeholder seats; county Clerk candidate Shahla Gagliardi; Tina Genest for Morris Plains Council; Rhonda Allen for Harding Township Committee; Kate Barry for Harding Township Committee; and Nancy du Tertre Lester for Mountain Lakes Borough Council.