Rob Carlson, Democrat for US Congress
New Jersey District 1
Rob Carlson, Democrat for US Congress
New Jersey District 1

Thanks and the Path Forward

First, Thank you to all who voted for me, donated,  followed the facebook page or reached out to me in one way or another.  This will be kind of long, so if you want the ballot stuff and the plan forward scroll to the bottom…

So this is the end of the campaign for the Democratic nomination this year, but not the end of activity.  I got into this race for 3 reasons— first I was and have been offended by what has happened to this country.  I wanted a real candidate for Congress to call Donald Trump what he is— a traitor, and the Republican party for what they are–complicit in treason.  Secondly, I believe that the machine has to have a challenger every year until it gets beaten.    I have some real problems with the corruption and lack of ethics in the Norcross organization, and true to form, they didn’t disappoint in this past election.  Lastly, and most importantly, I felt (and still feel) like I have something to say and real ideas about what should be happening to improve our country.

I still believe that Fair Play, Compassion, and the Common Good exemplifies everything good that the Democratic party (and liberalism in America) has accomplished.  I think those are maxims that people will understand and trust when asked what we stand for.  I also believe that voting rights and fair representation are the most important issues we have to tackle in America.  If our right to vote is compromised, if citizens are disenfranchised from the process, or if the process isn’t fair; we will never be able to fight climate change, get for Medicare for all, get for equal rights and equal pay, stop institutional racism, or end the drug war and close for-profit prisons.   This is key, and this issue is why I am mad at myself for not pushing harder for the last few weeks.

I made several mistakes, in terms of timing and effort.  I took too long to decide that I wanted to run.  When I did, I was under the radar for a couple of months because I wanted to have my positions clearly articulated, in case any one asked.  I wanted to have an operational website, a legitimate bank account, and federal registration.  Once I finally had that, I was getting pretty close to the deadline to submit signatures and my time was spent (mostly biking around Collingswood) doing just that.  My signatures were turned in on the deadline day.  During that period, and shortly afterward I had a couple of engagements where I spoke to people and met people, but not enough.

In retrospect that work should have been done many months beforehand to lay a groundwork of contacts.  On the other hand, I didn’t want to engage these groups without having a philosophy and positions laid out, so that was a bit of a Catch-22.    In those last weeks I didn’t push hard enough to ask for speaking appearances.  In all honesty, beyond a few groups, I wasn’t sure whom I _should_ ask.    I fully admit that I got kind of discouraged at the end, I was maintaining a full time job (I’m an IT Director), trying to be a present Dad (also helping to coach my son’s travel soccer team) and fighting some health issues (hearing loss and tinnitus).  As this was almost solely a one man operation—other than friends and family whom occasionally proofread for me, and one very good friend (ask me if you need great design work) who took my website and made it look top-notch—I started to feel like there wasn’t much point in pushing that hard near the end.  I know this would have been different if there was a team, because if nothing else I would have had an obligation to others working for the same goal.  That is what was needed from day one, but I didn’t know how to ask or how to find people that believed in what I was pushing for.

I also know that I could not work full-time and do this again.  At the very least I’d have to cut work to part time—and I would willingly do it— but not without an organization.   One person cannot beat the machine.  A team is required, not just for sharing labor and calling or writing people, but also for brainstorming and the sharing of ideas and formulating strategy.   I know the machine is beatable.  Am I someone who could be the face of the opposition to do that?  With the right people involved, I believe so.  To quote the Shawshank Redemption— “Pressure and Time”.  It doesn’t have to be 19 years, but it has to be at least one year, and with the pressure of a lot of minds and a slate of freeholder candidates. 

So how do I see my performance in this?  Well, yes, Don Norcross got 84% of the vote.  I got 10%.  However if you look at the graphic of the ballots an interesting factor comes into play.  (Note: I was supposed to be bracketed with Lisa McCormick.  See image.).  In Camden County, I got 6.6% of the vote.  In Gloucester County I got 15.99%.  In the part of Burlington County that is District 1 I got almost 25%.  (Scot John Tomaszewski received 6% in all 3 locations).  Perhaps I am being naive, but I have to believe that location on the ballot counted for something.  I would hazard that in my case it made cost me 9% in Camden county—  which probably would have pushed me up to 15-16%.  Hypothetical, I know, but worthy of consideration.  Considering I spent about $500 on the campaign, and received less than that, I didn’t do too badly—not to mention there was a second opposition candidate.  The Norcross machine sent out as many glossy fliers as it did 2 years ago, and he was probably on TV more.  Reality check— he’s not as progressive as he claims to be, and his brother the Trump buddy controls the organization that gets him money, endorsements, and votes.

So about that ballot…

My last Facebook post shared a post from the Cherry Hill United Group about the “phantom” freeholder candidates in Camden County (5 slates I believe, in addition to the official machine bots).  I absolutely believe (as it is documented thoroughly) the credibility of the reporting.  The readers should be aware that running these “phantom” slates has a dual nefarious purpose.  The purpose that I felt, and Alex Law managed to avoid by getting a slate of freeholder candidates to bracket with, is that a Congressional Candidate NOT bracketed with freeholders gets pushed to the extreme edge of the ballot in Camden County.  This bit of crookedness is by design.  It happened in 2014, when there were two other candidates opposing Don Norcross to fight for Rob Andrews’ old seat.  The Camden County Board of Elections will quote New Jersey Revised Statute 19:23-24 (Primary election ballots; position) to say that this allows them to arrange the ballot this way because of their “interpretation”.  But screwing potential Congressional challengers to the machine is only half of the mischief.  In certain years, Progressive groups have put together slates to challenge the machine.  This allows one phantom slate to be something like “True Progressives of SJ”  and another to be “Real NJ Progressives”  or “Shiny Happy Progressives”.  You get the idea.  The aim is to muddy the waters and sow confusion.  If Joe Progressive knows he wants to vote against the machine and doesn’t know much else, which does he choose?  You would think that an organization this powerful wouldn’t have to resort to unethical crap like this, but then if you thought that you probably haven’t lived in Camden County very long.

So what to do…

Well, in the spirit of supporting voting rights and fairness, we are going to start in NJ.  I’ve registered a new domain name, to help make better laws regarding voting and representation.  I think a good start would be asking all state legislators to amend New Jersey Revised Statute 19:23-24 to state unambiguously that candidates for the same office should appear on the same section of the ballot.  Let’s see who opposes the idea.  Hopefully we can build a website that will address not just ballot issues, but any other voting or districting issues— like perhaps mandating open-source machines to be used in the state (until federal law can take over).   We aren’t as bad as other states, but there is no reason we can’t be better.

As for District 1—  We need slates of progressive Freeholders to run regardless of whether or not the law gets changed.  We need to force their hand on the ballots and more importantly, we need to elect non-machine people to ALL positions of government.  Maybe you need to think about running.

As for me, I’m going to keep a chip on my shoulder for a while. will probably stay up in an amended not-a-candidate-for-anything-right-now form for the next 7 months.  After that, who knows?  Feel free to stay in contact with me there, through email and on the upcoming site.  Thanks again for the support.  


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