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Re: Join Team Vas

Jersey City music legend/political guru/arts-community leader Tris McCall signs up for Team Vas!


Why I'm voting for Joe Vas

If there could ever be a contest that could turn even the most hardened pollwatcher off of electoral politics, the Sires-Vas contest in our 13th Jersey Congressional District would be it. Every day, my mailbox (and yours, too, probably) is flooded with more glossy circulars about police scandals and absentee voting records and friendships with heroin dealers and child molesters. We have all seen WWF events conducted with more dignity. It's arguable that the only sane response to this kind of thing is to stay indoors on Tuesday, forget the whole thing, watch Gilmore Girls re-runs, and pretend we're governed by wise men who are above third-grade name calling.

The trouble is that this isn't some dinky Council election to decide who gets to sit to the right of Mariano Vega and argue about whether Van Vorst Park needs a dog run. We can't afford to blow this one off; we're selecting a United States Representative. We only get one. And barring some kind of radical redistricting, we'll be stuck with the one we get for at least a decade.

When I lived in Union City, Assemblyman Sires was the mayor of West New York. He neither distinguished nor embarrassed himself up there -- he just tried to make himself a functional and non-flashy part of a local political operation that had been in place for years before he'd gotten there, and will likely be in place for years to come. New Yorkers will know what I mean when I say he's the Peter Vallone of Hudson County. He's the guy who always gets promoted by going along with the bigwigs. Then you wake up one day, and he's a bigwig himself.

In our case, Sires became Speaker of the State Assembly. And for the past few years, every time a higher-up in Jersey politics caught a cold or got a paper cut, we had to hear about how Bob Menendez was going to ascend to that post, and (as an afterthought) how Sires would inherit Menendez's seat in Congress. We heard it so much that it started to feel inevitable and natural. Again, Sires was in line for a promotion for no other reason than somebody with power decided he ought to get the job.

Whenever someone takes the "friends and neighbors" route to prominence, you always have to worry about how he'll react when he's challenged. Albio Sires got challenged, and he didn't respond well.

Joe Vas, Assemblyman and mayor of Perth Amboy, threw his hat in the ring this winter, and immediately began some de rigeur posturing on Sires's left. This was exactly what you'd expect from the non-HCDO candidate: a little "alternative-to-the-machine" rhetoric, a little "outsider" crapola, a little "real Democrat" stuff, you know, the usual. Vas sent around a circular outlining his opposition to the Iraq War, promising to bring the troops home and stand up to George Bush. Forget that Joe Vas is about as likely to end the Iraq War as Don Mattingly is. He was actually attempting to inject some debate and substance into the race. (By contrast, Sires's campaign materials had shown him standing around, stiffly and pointlessly, with senior citizens).

As I see it, Albio Sires responded to Vas's rudimentary attempt to elevate the tone of the contest in two ways:

He copied Joe Vas's rhetoric.
He attempted to make Joe Vas look like an outlaw.

About two weeks after getting the Vas circular, we got a nearly identical mailer from Sires. Now he was going to stop the Iraq War and stand up to George Bush. His campaign barely bothered to change any of the phrases in Vas's advert. If you were a high school English teacher, and Albio Sires handed you this circular, you'd report him to the principal's office for plagiarism.
This secondhand propaganda was accompanied by a barrage of some of the most grotesque attack ads I've ever seen in my life -- and I've lived in New Jersey for almost all of it. Joe Vas bailed out a drug dealer. Joe Vas helps child molesters. And so on. One of them had a crying child on it (Vas's fault, of course, he makes babies cry); another had a picture of giant hypodermic needle on the front and a shot of a cadaverous Vas on the back. I don't expose myself to political talk radio, but I do listen to Mike and the Mad Dog. For the past month, I couldn't get through the opening segment without hearing a crudely-produced HCDO spot that called Vas "criminal."

The natural reaction is to laugh at this, and to simply allow it to satirize itself. But the United States government is no joke. It does things like launch gigantic, expensive, and unending invasions of foreign countries on barely-understood pretexts. And I know nobody around here wants to hear this, but for the past fifteen years or so, Robert Menendez has been awfully effective at turning the machinery of the federal government to the advantage and enrichment of District 13. We're not voting to replace some bum who never amounted to anything. We're looking for a successor to one of the legendary political figures in the history of Hudson County.

Albio Sires is Menendez's chosen successor. That's just one man's opinion. It doesn't have to be yours. And the more Sires behaves like he's simply entitled to the office because he always gets to step on the rung where Menendez's shoe used to be, the more I wonder if he's got what it takes to become a big-league legislator. The frontrunner is supposed to be the guy who shows statesmanship and decorum. He's not supposed to bury his opponent with gratuitous (and patently ridiculous) character attacks. Sires has been a frontrunner his entire life. I expected him to show a little more class, or maybe just an ounce of respect for a process that's gotten him pretty damned far in life.

In a surprise move, Assemblyman Vas denied all of the allegations and fired back with some lousy attack ads of his own. There's some truth to Vas's claims: Sires did used to be a Republican, and his support for reproductive rights has not always been unwavering. If you're the sort of person who always votes for the most conventionally liberal candidate available no matter what sort of a jerkoff he is, well, there is good reason to believe that Vas is indeed the more orthodox Democrat in this race. But the older I get, the more I realize what a wretched approach to the ballot this is. We need to elect leaders who aren't bullies -- guys who will listen, and who we actually stand a chance of working with.

It's also true that once this election reached the Mutually Assured Destruction stage, Vas's ads became nearly as intelligence-insulting as Sires's were. But since these candidates are treating us as if we're eight years old, I'm forced to use an eight-year-old's criteria to settle the dispute: Sires started it. Sadly, on June 6, that's the best we can do.

Posted on: 2006/6/5 18:50

Re: Join Team Vas

The Final Stretch -- When/Where Can You Help?

We are in the final stretch of the campaign. Things are looking good -- our polls still have us ahead, and we've been hearing that they're getting nervous on the other side.

So, we need to determine who's going to be doing what on Election Day and the days leading up to it. We need plenty of street workers on Election Day, so if there's any way you can get that day off and spend it somewhere in Jersey City working for the Vas campaign, you'll be making a big difference.

We also need canvassers for Thursday through Monday. Please contact me at ASAP and let me know if/how/when/where you can help.

Posted on: 2006/5/31 19:09

Joe Vas for Congress -- See for Yourself!!!

Tune in to NJN's On the Record tomorrow (Sunday May 7) or Monday May 8 to see Assemblyman Joe Vas in action debating Albio Sires in the race for the Democratic nomination for Congress in the June 6 primary.

Vas, a strong and energetic debator, is guaranteed to wipe the floor with Albio.

Details from
Sunday, May 7 at 9 am and 11 am; Monday, May 8 at 6:30 am
Michael Aron, Senior Political Correspondent
Assemblyman Albio Sires (D) West New York ? 13th Congressional District Democratic Primary Candidate
Assemblyman Joe Vas (D) Perth Amboy ? 13th Congressional District Democratic Primary Candidate
Two candidates in the 13th Congressional District Democratic Primary face each other

On The Record airs Sundays at 9 am and 11 am, and Mondays at 6:30 am. The program is hosted by NJN News Senior Political Correspondent Michael Aron. Executive Producer is Ed Rodgers.

Join Hudson DFA's Team Vas:

Posted on: 2006/5/6 21:16

Re: Join Team Vas

To answer a few questions:
Mouse, you should check out Open Secrets' report on fund-raising and spending in this race. Sires has actually raised twice what Vas has, and more of Vas's money comes from individuals. Check it out:

I'm all for radically reforming the campaign money system, but don't blame candidates for raising lots of money -- it's the only way to win under our current system. If progressive candidates shy away from money, we cede all seats to truly corrupt candidates, and get nowhere.


I actually lived in Middlesex County for many years and can attest that Vas genuinely operated outside of, and often against, the county Democratic machine. He has always been a maverick who stands up for what he believes, and doesn't buckle to the party hierarchy. As far as campaign money, see what I told Mouse. Let's be realistic here. The more active a role we play in the local grassroots arm of his campaign, the more claim we can lay to being the true shareholders in his victory and the more power we have to hold him to his word. You may want to consider sending a check his way yourself. Like you said, the money's got to come from somewhere -- why not us? Then we know exactly to whom he's accountable.

On dual office holding: MrRogers is right -- you cannot hold multiple seats once you attain federal office. Within N.J. state and municipal offices, I have to say, this is another case where we need to change the system rather than blame its participants. Did you know that state Legislature positions are officially part-time? So are most mayoralty's and council seats. As long as that's the case, it is inevitable that politicians will hold two offices the same way someone would work multiple part-time jobs, and one can often make the case for two offices synergizing with one another. I'm for making all these positions full-time, raising the salary accordingly, and then prohibiting dual office-holding.

Posted on: 2006/4/26 14:16

Join Team Vas

Hudson County's DFA group has endorsed Joe Vas for Congress and is helping build the Jersey City arm of his campaign. Vas represents the Democratic wing of New Jersey's Democratic Party and his aggressive stances on ending the war and investigating President Bush are urgently needed.

Please go to and sign up for Team Vas, so you'll get the most up-to-the-minute announcements of what YOU can do to help win this important primary and make change in Washington, as well as in our local community.

Posted on: 2006/4/25 17:59


Also, please remember to attend our meetup this Wednesday, from 7-9 p.m. at Bar Majestic, across from City Hall. We'll be discussing other races we're involved in and prospective endorsements, and also hopefully celebrating Mahdi and Vernon's victories!

Posted on: 2006/4/18 21:33



Hudson County DFA
An affiliate of Democracy for America and New Jersey for Democracy

Release Date: March 15, 2006
Media Contact: Jake Stuiver /


The two members of Hudson County DFA who are running for Jersey City Board of Education -- Mahdi Hemingway and Vernon Richardson -- have received the group?s endorsement.
Hudson DFA, the local affiliate of Democracy for America and New Jersey for Democracy, voted at its montly meetup on March 8 to formally back the two candidates. The decision creates a unique situation, because while Hemingway and Richardson are both active, highly regarded members of the group, and good friends with one another, they are not running on the same ticket. However, given that there are three seats up in the April 18 election, a motion was made to express support for both candidates, and the vote carried. No endorsement was made for the third available seat, and the endorsements of Hemingway and Richardson should not be taken as a statement against either of their running mates. Rather, it is an expression of support for two members of the local DFA group who have demonstrated through their actions and their participation in our grassroots work that they share our values.
The vote puts the strength of the 150-plus members of the rapidly growing DFA chapter behind Hemingway and Richardson?s grassroots campaigns. While the election is nonpartisan, Hudson DFA, an organization that promotes progressive Democrats, determined that Hemingway and Richardson fit with its mission to boost socially progressive, fiscally responsible candidates who are out to create a more inclusive politicical environment, stand up for their principles and focus hard on dealing with the problems of our communities.
Hudson DFA does not endorse candidates in every race in the county. Rather, it selectively backs specific candidates who fit the ?Dean Democrat? mold of running grassroots campaigns aimed at engaging the community and building a base beyond the usual suspects of insider politics.
Both candidates are lifelong Jersey City residents who came up through the Jersey City public-school system and are intimately familiar with its strengths and weaknesses. Hemingway is coordinator of the Booker T. Washington After-School program, where he works as a tutor and mentor. He is a certified substitute teacher and an intern at a day reporting center for New Jersey State Parolees. He is also a full-time student at Bloomfield College, set to graduate this spring; an aide to Jersey City Councilman Steven Fulop; and a member of the Jersey City Branch of the NAACP. He is running on a platform of school safety, after-school programs, arts awareness and reducing class size.
Richardson has spent the past 15 years working on educational issues at every level of government, including jobs with New York City Hall; the Congressional Black Caucus; and U.S. Sens. Tom Daschle, John D. Rockefeller, Byron Dorgan and John Kerry, as well as former Vice President Al Gore. He is particularly concerned about the rate of failure, dropouts and violence in Jersey City schools, especially given the amount of taxpayer money poured into them. He aims to focus on improving schools? performance through increased accountability and to expand after-school programming.

What is Democracy for America?
Inspired by the presidential campaign of Howard Dean, Democracy for America (DFA) is a political action committee dedicated to supporting fiscally responsible, socially progressive candidates at all levels of government?from school board to the presidency. DFA fights against the influence of the far right-wing and their radical, divisive policies and the selfish special interests that for too long have dominated our politics, including within our own party.
DFA?s long-term goal is to rebuild the Democratic Party from the bottom up. It will take time, but we must start building a base now for the future. Dean, who is now chairman of the Democratic National Committee, founded DFA with the goal of supporting Democratic candidates running for every level of office. DFA uses its resources to target, train and support candidates who align with Dean's platform of social progressivism and fiscal responsibility.


Posted on: 2006/3/16 17:46




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