Progressive Democrats challenge establishment machine in Middlesex

Nearly 100 progressive Democratic candidates filed for county committee races in Middlesex County , along with a slate of contenders for state and county offices, who are aiming to shake up the status quo in a rare challenge to the entrenched political establishment.

Inspired and united organizationally by their support for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in last year’s presidential election campaign, Atif Nazir and Catherine Hunt are running for freeholder against incumbent Charles E. Tomaro of Edison, who is running for a third three-year term, and

Shanti Narra of North Brunswick, who was appointed to replace James Polos in October, is running unopposed for the remainder of term.

Senate candidate Bill Irwin plus Assembly candidates Heather Fenyk and Ralph Johnson will challenge District 17 lawmakers Sen. Robert Smith, Assemblymen Joseph Egan and Joseph Danielsen. Irwin has been elected as a school board member in Piscataway but this is the first time running for elected office for most of the progressive Democratic challengers.

Atif Nazir, Catherine Hunt, Bill Irwin, Heather Fenyk and Ralph Johnson are leading a slate of about 100 Middlesex County Democrats who are challenging the entrenched political establishment inspired by Sen. Bernie Sanders’ race for president last year.

Kevin Hoagland is running unopposed for a sixth five-year term as Middlesex County Surrogate.


Information about the group can be found on Facebook and at the group’s website.

More than 60 candidates filed for Middlesex County Democratic Committee in Piscataway alone, the town where Smith has held sway for decades.

The establishment candidates have reacted with umbrage. accusing their opponents of nefarious action as if participating in election campaigns is a royal right.

But the bold progressive challengers are at a disadvantage because their success depends on people you, who often skip voting in off year and primary elections. However, voters who make the effort to them elected can get significant benefits in return.

“More than a generation of gerrymandering, private financing of public elections, and pay to play have resulted in a political process that is not responsive to the American people,” says the progressives’ website, under the heading “political justice.”

“The result is system that siphons our tax money into the pockets of a wealthy few while leaving our most pressing problems unresolved,” the progressives say. “As a first step to implementing our progressive agenda, it is essential that we restore control of our democracy to people – one person, one vote.”

“People who have never run for office, or been involved in politics before, have come out to stand up for their principles,” said Irwin, the Senate candidate who is Berger’s husband. “In our area, and especially in the Piscataway community in which I have been honored to serve as the president of the Board of Education, our neighbors are looking for leaders who will stand up for working people and fight for our democracy.”

“Our local party has failed to show up in this critical time for our country and community,” said Irwin.  “They have done virtually nothing to fight the Trump agenda.”

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