We Now Have Election Season, Not Election Day And Republicans Better Get Their Act Together

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A guest column penned by Brigid Callahan Harrison (yes, the Montclair State Brigid Harrison) that appeared in the Star-Ledger over the weekend caught my attention. The piece, “How votes by mail helped turn the tide for key races in N.J.’s big blue wave,” reminded me of something listeners of The Bob & Steve Show have heard me say numerous times – we now have an election season, not just election day.

For some odd reason Republicans in New Jersey cannot seem to figure out New Jersey’s Vote-by-Mail program. They act like it is some strange, out of this world concept. It’s not. Simply put, it’s an early voting system. At least 34 states, including New Jersey, have some form of early voting.

I’ll save the arguments about the potential fraud that can occur with voting by mail, but I will say I prefer in person early voting, much like the system in New Mexico with voting convenience centers. Unfortunately, this is New Jersey, so we are stuck with vote-by-mail.

Here’s the thing, it is not rocket science! In the Star-Ledger piece, Democratic party strategist (and all-around good guy) Steve Ayscue how easy this is:

The author of that playbook is Steve Ayscue, a political strategist who works for Norcross, and he describes their effort to drive out VBMs as a form of grassroots activism that is elegant in its simplicity: Ayscue invites party loyalists to house parties; Freeholders speak, food and drink is served, and then the Democratic loyalists cull through voter lists, identifying voters they know. These workers then become responsible for contacting “their voters” and ensuring that their ballots are returned. Starting in September and continuing through to Election Day, voters are texted, called and visited by a party worker they know and reminded to return their ballot.

Unlike campaigns that rely on random canvassers or volunteers, Ayscue says that “relationships still matter in politics,” and relationships are what deliver results.

What Ayscue explained in the Star-Ledger piece is exactly the kind of thing we did when I was the executive Director of the Bernalillo County GOP in New Mexico. It led to a pick up of a seat in the state senate, a seat on the county’s board of commissioners and eventually helped Republicans gain control of the state house of representatives for the first time in 60 years.

It’s also what we do in Greenwich Township (Gloucester County – the locals call it Gibbstown). It works! Greenwich Township Mayor George Shivery has won six terms now in a town that is roughly 5 – 1 Democrat to Republican. Our team knows personally about 60% of the people who are voting for him before an actual vote is cast. The volunteer who handles the computer program we use to track voters can tell us what the percentage of votes will be long before the results come in.

I mention Gibbstown because voter registration disadvantage doesn’t matter when it is about relationships. I am an elected member of county committee and I do as a committeeman should – I walk my neighborhood and meet my neighbors. One neighbor in particular I met is a union guy and was not registered to vote when we first met several years ago. He registered to vote, as a Democrat, “because I have to.” But every year when he gets his mail-in ballot he calls me and asks who I’m supporting, well okay, he asks, “who am I voting for?” It’s a personal relationship.

Another neighbor, one who places Democratic party candidate’s signs in his yard, calls me with basically the same question every election. Again, because there is a personal relationship.

I also mentioned Gibbstown because I’ve talked with folks who live in Camden County, almost every one of them says, “but the Democrats pay people to get them to vote by mail.” Maybe they do, maybe they don’t, but if the elected (or appointed) members of the county committee do as a member of the committee should and meet people you will earn their votes for the Republican ticket. It’s just an example that if people are willing to put in the work, they can win, no matter the voter registration disadvantage. President Trump and Bob Hugin both won Gibbstown despite losing New Jersey.

Being a committeeperson is more than simply putting your name on the ballot in June every couple of years. It requires work to build the personal relationships required to win. Try it, you might like the results. Start now and deliver Christmas cookies to your neighbors. I do.

Gloucester County GOP Chooses Shivery To Run For Surrogate

Greenwich Township Mayor George W. Shivery, Jr.

Greenwich Township Mayor George W. Shivery, Jr.

Gloucester County Republicans have chosen Greenwich Township (Gibbstown) Mayor George W. Shivery, Jr. as their candidate for County Surrogate.

The Surrogate position had to be added to this year’s general election ballot as a result of a vacancy created upon the passing of former Surrogate Helene Reed.

Shivery is currently the longest serving Republican mayor in Gloucester County. He is a proven vote getter winning re-election to a sixth consecutive term last year in a Township with a roughly 5-1 voter registration disadvantage for the Republican. Gloucester County GOP Chairwoman Jacci Vigilante said in a statement from the Shivery campaign, “He’s obviously got the ability to bring Democrats into the Republican column. As an organization we’re excited to have him on the countywide ticket.”

Shivery last sought higher office in 2009. He and former Cumberland County Surrogate Art Marchand were backed by the state GOP in what became a circus of a primary election. Then Gloucester County Chairwoman Loran Oglesby refused to give the Marchand-Shivery ticket the line, instead placing all candidates in the column with the organization’s slogan and Marchand and Shivery being bracketed pulled lousy ballot position. The folks in Salem County were okay with Shivery but preferred Robert Villare to Marchand and only Villare used the county’s slogan. Only Cumberland County gave the line to Marchand-Shivery and former Chairman Bob Greco’s line held. The strength of their victory in Salem County led to a win for Villare and Lee Lucas, a frequent caller to The Bob & Steve Show.

Despite the loss, Shivery didn’t go away and hosted Chris Christie’s town hall with Neil Cavuto at Gibbstown’s Broad Street School. Shivery packed the place to standing room only even though Christie’s staff doubted Shivery’s ability to do so. I know because I had just arrived for a visit from New Mexico and received a call from Christie staff suggesting they might bring pipes and draping in case the crowd wasn’t big enough.

While Shivery has always been a team player, he was the first South Jersey mayor to endorse Christie for Governor, he always puts his constituents first. When Christie was busy preparing to run for president a freak, macroburst storm hit Gloucester County, leaving most of Gibbstown without power for days. Shivery could get no satisfaction from the Governor’s office, so he put the town’s residents before politics and called Christie out for his refusal to declare an emergency.

Shivery did more than call out Christie after that storm. After learning the Volunteers of America facility that houses senior citizens was without power he enlisted the help of former NRA Field Coordinator Christian Ragosta and provided bagels, coffee, donuts and water to residents that were unable to get upstairs to their rooms because the elevators didn’t work. Shivery was everywhere in town, helping however he could.

Shivery is a proven vote getter who understands the difference between good campaigning and good government and will be of value to the Republican ticket in Gloucester County this year. Following is the press release announcing his candidacy for Surrogate:

Gloucester County Republican Executive Committee Chooses Shivery

Greenwich Township Mayor George W. Shivery, Jr. to run for Gloucester County Surrogate

GIBBSTOWN – At a meeting of the Gloucester County Republican Executive Committee yesterday held in Mullica Hill, Greenwich Township Mayor George W. Shivery, Jr. was selected as the GOP’s candidate for Gloucester County Surrogate in the upcoming special election.

“I was happy to give Mayor Shivery the news that he was unanimously selected as our candidate for Surrogate,” Gloucester County Republican Chairwoman Jacci Vigilante said. “Last year George won his sixth term as mayor of Greenwich Township, despite a voter registration disadvantage of roughly 5-1. He’s obviously got the ability to bring Democrats into the Republican column. As an organization we’re excited to have him on the countywide ticket.”

Shivery is in his 16th year as mayor of Greenwich Township. Prior to winning election as mayor Shivery was on the Greenwich Township Board of Education for six years and served as its Vice President.

“I’m thankful for the confidence the Gloucester County Republican Executive Committee has in me and look forward to an aggressive campaign season,” Mayor George W. Shivery, Jr. said. “Given that very few people know what the Surrogate does, as a career educator, it’ll be important that I make certain voters know what their County Surrogate does, make the difference between my opponent and me clear and show why I’m the better choice for the position.”

Shivery added, “The Surrogate’s office is actually very well run, I don’t see myself trying to fix something that isn’t broken. I believe the position is largely administrative and since I have served as our Township Administrator at no additional cost to taxpayers since 2006, who better to be the next Surrogate.”

“I look forward to working with Chairwoman Vigilante and her team to bring voters into the Republican column up and down the ballot,” Shivery said.

George W. Shivery, Jr. was re-elected Mayor of Greenwich Township for his sixth consecutive term on November 7, 2017. Prior to becoming Mayor in 2002 Shivery served for six years on the Greenwich Township Board of Education, four of those years as Vice President, a Commissioner on the New Jersey Mosquito Commission and a past president of the Gloucester County Mayor’s Association.

Active in the community, Shivery is a member of VFW Post #5579 Auxiliary (his father was a charter member and past Commander of the Post), a member of the Board of Education of Guardian Angles Regional Catholic School, President of Mullica Hill Rifle and Pistol Club, a member of the Elks Lodge and the Loyal Order of the Moose.

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This Gloucester County GOP Chair Is Putting In The Effort

Gloucester County GOP Chair Jacci Vigilante (from gcrepublicans.com)

Gloucester County GOP Chair Jacci Vigilante (from gcrepublicans.com)

I admit it, I haven’t always been warm and fuzzy with the county party where I live. The previous county chair didn’t much like me and, to be honest, I wasn’t his biggest fan either. My problem was that the town in which I am the GOP municipal chair, Greenwich Township, was treated as the proverbial red-headed step child, despite having the currently longest serving Republican mayor in the county. You might think the former leadership might try to help the guy a little bit. Instead it was, “Oh, they’re fine. They raise their own money, blah, blah…” It never seemed to matter that the Democrats always have a target on the mayor’s back.

Fast forward to the present and all I can is the new Gloucester County chairwoman, Jacci Vigilante, is putting in the effort. From the new and improved website to now hosting a monthly breakfast, which I unfortunately cannot attend as I’ll be doing the radio show with Bob, and a monthly Gloucester County Happy Hour designed to build some camaraderie among the rank-and-file, something that’s been missing in Glouco for years.

Not only is Vigilante trying to build camaraderie, she’s making the effort to rebuild previously burned bridges. She took the time to sit with Greenwich Township Mayor George Shivery and me in a meeting brokered by state GOP Executive Director Theresa Winegar, and trust me, Vigilante knew she was heading into hostile territory. Vigilante did as a party leader should and worked to rebuild a bridge that had been, not just burned, nuked by the previous chair.

I’m not always the easiest guy to get along with, as I explained to Vigilante when I introduced my mayor, “Everyone loves George, me, I’m an acquired taste.” She made the effort, there is now peace between the county and municipal parties. Even better, she gets that in my role as a municipal chair my chief responsibility is to support my elected officials above all else and that anyone, regardless of party, taking a shot at or disrespecting my mayor will suffer the consequences.

Gloucester County’s new GOP Chairwoman is not relying on what others have to say and is actively meeting with fellow Republicans and forming her own opinions. In other words, she’s acting like a leader. She’s giving Glouco Republicans a reason to get a little excited.

She’s got some opportunities coming up. There’s a special election in the 5th district for assembly. The district is shared with Camden County and not very winnable but, working with the folks in Camco it’s possible to put together a spirited campaign. Vigilante also has to choose a consensus candidate for the special election for County Surrogate.

Bottom line: Vigilante is doing a good job, especially considering the condition the previous chair left the party in. She’s light years ahead of the last chair. Let’s hope she can keep it up.