Coffee and…a congressional candidate, and a Governor, in Morristown

Gov. Phil Murphy with Genesis Gobin, left, and Amelia Sisto, at Morristown's SmartWorld Coffee, Nov. 5, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Gov. Phil Murphy with Genesis Gobin, left, and Amelia Sisto, at Morristown's SmartWorld Coffee, Nov. 5, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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You never know who will pop into the local coffee shop.

Patrons of SmartWorld in Morristown were surprised Monday afternoon by Gov. Phil Murphy, making a whirlwind “get out the vote” Election Eve visit to South Street with Congressional candidate Mikie Sherrill.

“If you sit at home, it’s not a neutral act. It’s an act against democracy, against the good guys,” the Governor said.

“We’ve got to get everybody out to the polls,” said Sherrill, a Democrat with a big fundraising edge but a narrow lead over Republican Jay Webber in the 11th District race, according to a pair of recent polls.

Webber campaigned Monday in Parsippany. A spokesperson issued a statement charging that Sherrill demonstrated her “far-left agenda” by stumping with Murphy.

“Murphy stands for bigger government, sanctuary cities, drivers licenses for illegal immigrants, and billions in tax hikes. There is nothing moderate about a candidate who campaigns alongside a politician like Murphy, admires Nancy Pelosi’s term as Speaker of the House, and votes for Bob Menendez,” Webber said.

GOP Congressional candidate Jay Webber, right, campaigns Monday at the Spa Restaurant in Parsippany's Lake Hiawatha section. Photo courtesy of Webber campaign.
GOP Congressional candidate Jay Webber, right, campaigns Monday at the Spa Restaurant in Parsippany’s Lake Hiawatha section. Photo courtesy of Webber campaign.

Sherrill, a former Navy helicopter pilot and federal prosecutor, and Webber, a Harvard-educated lawyer and state Assemblyman, are vying for the seat held for 24 years by Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, a Republican from Harding who is retiring.

Federal reports show Sherrill has raised some $7.6 million, vs. about $1.4 million for Webber. Political action committees associated with former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the national Democratic party have anted up big bucks for Sherrill.

But a recent Monmouth University poll showed Sherrill only holding a 4-point lead. A New York Times/ Siena College poll gave Sherrill a 9-point advantage.

In a barrage of blistering TV ads, Sherrill’s camp has painted Webber as too conservative for the district. Webber’s side, with backing from the conservative Heritage Action for America PAC, has portrayed “Montclair Mikie” as too liberal.

Sherrill’s campaign has touted her military service and emphasized healthcare, infrastructure and reducing taxes, while hammering Webber for his pro-life views, his support for the Trump tax package, and his opposition to bills for equal-pay-for-women and prohibiting gay conversion therapy for teens.

Webber has trumpeted economic gains under Trump, while trying to align Sherrill with Sen. Bob Menendez, who was investigated on corruption charges, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. The Assemblyman from Morris Plains has been endorsed by Trump.

Last month, Webber announced he received a letter threatening his seven children; he used the incident to solicit funds.

Slideshow photos by Kevin Coughlin. Click / hover on images for captions:

Gov. Phil Murphy with Genesis Gobin, left, and Amelia Sisto, at Morristown's SmartWorld Coffee, Nov. 5, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Congressional candidate Mikie Sherrill, left, talks with barista Amelia Sisto in Morristown, Election Eve 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Mayor Tim Dougherty, Freeholder candidate Mary Dougherty, Congressional candidate Mikie Sherrill, and Gov. Phil Murphy at SmartWorld in Morristown, Nov. 5, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Gov. Phil Murphy greets Betsy Keppel, center, and Morris Freeholder candidate Mary Dougherty, at SmartWorld in Morristown, Nov. 5, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Congressional candidate Mikie Sherrill, right, speaks with voter on South Street, Morristown, on Election Eve 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Gov. Phil Murphy with Morris Freeholder candidates Rupande Mehta and Mary Dougherty, at SmartWorld in Morristown, Nov. 5, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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The race may well hinge on voter turnout, on a day forecasters say will be soggy.

On Monday, the blog FiveThirtyEight gave Sherrill a 6-in-7 chance of victory, predicting a turnout of just over half of the district’s estimated 550,000 eligible voters.

Only 37 percent of District 11 registered voters turned out for the 2014 midterms, according to data from the Center for Government Services at Rutgers.

At SmartWorld on Monday, Murphy and Sherrill were accompanied by Morris County Freeholder candidates Mary Dougherty and Rupande Mehta, Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty, and Morris Township Committee candidate Mark Gyorfy.

Only a handful of shop patrons were present, and two–a visitor from Mexico, and another from Princeton–cannot vote in the 11th District on Tuesday.

But Betsy Keppel, a retired hospital technician enjoying a break from the dreary weather with her chihuahua, Lola Belle, was beaming.

“I’m nervous and excited” about the election, Keppel said. “I believe we need a big change. I believe Mikie Sherrill will be the change we need.”

Miriam DePaz, a 21-year-old nanny from Morristown who attended to infants Lucy and Ryan in a double stroller, said she’s been too busy to pay much attention to politics, but Sherrill’s surprise visit may sway her. “She’s super nice,” DePaz said.

Meeting Sherrill left barista Amelia Sisto, 20, feeling “flustered.”

“I love Mikie Sherrill,” said the Mendham resident. “She is empowering.”

SmartWorld is a short walk from the Mayo Performing Arts Center, and big names occasionally saunter over to get caffeinated. Monday’s celebs were noteworthy, said Sisto’s co-worker, Genesis Gobin, 19.

“I’d rank it on the same level as the Price Is Right guy,” she said.

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