Lisa McCormick is a Democratic candidate for New Jersey Governor. Her partner, campaign manager, and political consultant is long-time Democratic strategist James Devine. McCormick, who is based in Rahway, is a small business owner and the proud stepmom of a 17-year-old son. She says he graduated sixth in his class and has just started college. “He’s got a good head on his shoulders.”
McCormick is a staunch progressive in almost total agreement with Bernie Sanders’ platform. In 2012, she ran for County Clerk in Union City, against a thirty year incumbent, and won 47% of the vote. She declared her candidacy in November 2016, after being shocked to witness Donald Trump win the presidency. She criticized the Democratic Party for consistently endorsing the wealthy, and likely winners. Finding no satisfactory gubernatorial candidates, she was compelled to run:
I was not active in politics. Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump brought me to feel the need to take action. When Bernie didn’t win, I was devastated; but this is what every good candidate goes through. They get everybody together, they create their team, and then they lose. We walk away with our tails between our legs, and we think we didn’t have a chance of winning—and then I see Donald Trump in office, and I go, “How can I be of service to my state?”
McCormick feels Hillary Clinton lost to one of the most unpopular candidates in American history because “she really didn’t give us anything to vote for,” beyond “I’m not Donald Trump.” She believes that some voted for Trump out of spite:
We wanted change, even if it meant we are losing everything that we have.
Our conversation took place at the former Bernie Sanders campaign office in Pemberton, which is now a U-Haul franchise owned by Mark Georgia and Rachel Delgado-Simmons. Mark and Rachel are members of Our Revolution: South Jersey (full disclosure: so am I), which just hosted its fourth gubernatorial “meet the candidate forum” featuring McCormick. (Their next one is with Ray Lesniak.) The forum took place at Tony’s Pizza a half-mile down the road.
In the forum, several in attendance found one of McCormick’s statements particularly insightful (the person next to me wrote it down in their notebook):
If we just blame Trump, we are saying that the problem just started.
She said that Trump has woken people up and that, being “an entertainer,” people did not take his campaign promises seriously. She elaborates:
[But when] he was sworn into office and he stood by his promises (of the wall and deporting people and getting rid of the ObamaCare), people were shocked. This is what he wants to do with his presidency, and it’s scary….
It finally hurts enough to do something.
McCormick responded to two common complaints about her campaign. The first is the perception that she a negative campaigner; not in posts or articles, but rather in comments made during discussions on Facebook.
McCormick said that negative campaigning is a necessary evil; one that is required to distinguish your campaign from your opponents’. In fact, she considers this a significant factor in Bernie Sanders’ loss to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic primaries: that he was not more pointedly critical. While she wishes that negative campaigning was not necessary, she says that that would require “a paradigm shift.”
The second criticism is that people have received emails which appear to come from Bernie Sanders’ Our Revolution, when, in reality, they are from her own organization, called Our NJ Revolution. The messages ask for personal information, and the perception is that her campaign is collecting information under false pretenses.
Although McCormick acknowledged that it may have required careful reading, she emphasized that her campaign’s information was indeed present. She mentioned that voters are also being misled by “the Democrats and a lot of other people,” and that, regarding voters:
[T]hey’re learning to have more critical thinking; to read the small print.
I didn’t mean to mislead anybody [but] I’m not the one who is in charge of the campaign…. I’m apologizing. I didn’t mean for you to feel misled. But I’m also saying that you weren’t. It’s just a feeling.”
McCormick emphasizes that her campaign is not just about her. It is about running an entire slate of candidates across the state, at all levels. Further, she says, “Running for office should be like jury duty” and that it should be treated like “a civic duty.”
McCormick is proud to be a regular person; someone who does not look how politicians are “supposed” to look. She chooses to dress modestly, “talk from the heart” instead of a polished script, and does not pretend to have all the answers.
McCormick says, despite the press pretending that “a bunch of millionaires” are the only candidates out there, that no one else is more suited than her to truly understand what regular New Jerseyans need: “We are the people we have been waiting for.”
Photo credit: Rachel Delgado-Simmons
By: Jeff Epstein
Edited by: Ben Szioli