First of all, thank all of you that have followed the Restore GT Team for the last two years. The experience of running to represent this township will leave a lasting mark on me and probably the rest of the team forever. Getting involved in politics isn’t something any of our team ever planned on doing. For me, it was about getting off my ass, putting the keyboard down, and working to make a difference. I’m glad I ran and I am more than grateful for everyone that chose to vote for me and my team. I also can’t even begin to express my gratitude for those of you that put the work in behind the scenes. Many of you submitted outstanding material that made its way to our website. You made our platform the best platform any campaign ran with. The folks that helped get our message out by sharing our posts, displaying our signs, and even decorating your cars with our signs are truly awesome people. You all are more inspiring than you could ever know.
So WTF happened?
Apparently, over 70% of Gloucester Township’s registered voters stayed home or didn’t send in a mail-in ballot. I honestly don’t have any words for this. If taking 30 minutes out of your day to run down the street is too much you still have the option to mail a ballot in. I’d like to ask every single person that didn’t show up how much easier it has to be to get you involved, but I’ve witnessed these people firsthand after spending months knocking on doors. Some of your neighbors just don’t care about the government they pay for. At times I’d walk a neighborhood and wonder if something was in the water because at times we’d hit 20 houses in a row where people had absolutely no thoughts on their local government. I honestly thought they were just Team Mayer supporters rather than just being no-vote zombies, but I guess I was wrong. I don’t know how to fix this. If a 67% municipal tax increase over the last 10 years including an increase over a global pandemic didn’t wake them up, I’m not sure anything will.
What else went wrong?
Voter education is a huge problem across the country. On a national level, 24-hour news channels have been spewing divisive garbage for decades and it’s only getting worse. On a local level, candidate information has to be sought out. The Patch sent out a candidate profile for every person running for mayor, council and the school boards. Like most Meet The Candidates articles published by The Patch, there’s a link to the candidate’s website in the profile. From there, it’s likely that you’ll find out a lot more about the candidate or locate contact information to reach out to them directly. Even if you’ve never followed The Patch, a simple few related searches in Google reveal that Sam Sweet and Joe Damico were both running against David Mayer.
If you have never followed the Patch, The Sicklville Sun, or don’t know how to use Google, you definitely received a flyer in the mail from The Restore GT campaign. We paid a ridiculous amount of money to get those flyers out to EVERY SINGLE HOME in Gloucester Township. We also had billboards on Cross Keys Road and Rt 42. Team Damico also sent out flyers, had billboards and even did TV commercials. There was absolutely no way anyone could have shown up at the polls not knowing anything about at least Sam Sweet or Joe Damico let alone their council running mates.
Our advertising didn’t work
With social media advertising, paper mailers, billboards and tv commercials the people I approached at the polls seemed for the most part clueless. Many people never heard of me or my team even though I was surrounded by Restore GT signs. The car I was leaning against was decorated in Restore GT and it was like no one ever saw any of the 500 signs we placed. A lot of people thought I was one of the Republican council candidates which tells me they didn’t pay attention to any other advertising either. A handful of people decided they were aggravated to learn about us in the parking lot and blamed us for not advertising enough. If you were one of those people I’d love to know how 4 independent people who have regular jobs and regular incomes can afford $100,000 in advertising? Donations? You need people to know who you are to get donations. To be blunt, if you didn’t know about anyone running against the incumbents it is your own fault.
Lets talk about the elephant in the room
With Team Mayer getting 48% of the vote (as of Nov 3rd at noon) everyone is going to want to talk about splitting the vote. If the 6,617 Republican votes went to Sam Sweet he would have won by 680 votes. If the 2,346 Independent votes went to the Republicans they would have won by 680 votes. You could look at it either way. If you are a Republican I’m sure you think Sam and his team took votes that would have helped. If you’ve followed Restore GT and believed it was the strongest platform then you probably blame this failure on straight party-line voting. There’s no guarantee how those 680 votes would have played out. Maybe without Sam Sweet or Joe Damico those 680 people would have stayed home.
I haven’t done much social media digging today, but I do know the armchair quarterbacks are out there blasting us. These are the loudmouth keyboard warriors that were nowhere to be found when Sam and I were looking for people to build a team A YEAR AND A HALF AGO. Everyone is going to have some type of opinion now and for the next few months or even years, but none of those people wanted to prepare early and join together. At the end of the day, this is mostly the fault of the 70% of voters that stayed home. The rest of the blame goes towards the partisan garbage that kept us from working together as one team. Keep up the hate and you’ll likely turn off the rest of the voters you’ll need in 2 years.
What would you have done?
So let’s pretend you are me and it’s early 2020. You have two years of battling against the current administration under your belt and are surrounded by a bunch of really passionate people who want to make a difference. You ask everyone, “Who wants to build a team to kick Team Mayer’s ass?” A few people step up and offer up help, but not a lot of people are interested in running for office. You try to work with different political groups throughout the area, but they tell you that you aren’t Democrat enough or are too Democrat to qualify for their time. You then ask these groups, ” Do you at least have candidates or a plan ready for 2021?” You find out they have nothing other than a few hopes and dreams. Months later when the fall of 2020 comes and goes you know you have two choices. You can move forward with the team you have or your can sit back and hope some politically backed team steps up.
I couldn’t sit back any longer and watch people constantly lose. I had to do something and so did Sam. By the time Carolynn Grace was appointed to Scott Owen’s seat, Sam and I were ready to go. No one else wanted to step up so we did. We called up Shaylynn Lattie and Dawn Sabella and told them we wanted them to run with us, but there was the chance two of us might step aside to make way for a split campaign. When that didn’t work out we had no choice but to move forward.
We all have a political hangover at this point and I’m sure none of you want to think about any of this for a while, but you better. We all got our asses kicked by a political machine that is never going to slow down. They have money in the bank and by 2023 they are going to have a lot more money in the bank when Mercado, Trotto, Mignone & Stubbs are up for reelection. If you are going to run in 2023 YOU NEED TO START PLANNING NOW!
We need good candidates and we need voters to stop putting national political bullshit in front of their decisions to pick council members. Pick good, responsible and transparent people to represent you and stop worrying about what party they registered to vote for 20 years ago. Educate yourself and help to educate others in a respectful way. Don’t be the idiot who constantly spews how much they hate Democrats, but then later needs Democrats to vote for their candidate when their voters don’t show up. Don’t be the other idiot that immediately rejects any Republican candidate, because your news station tells you that what you should believe. You are all going to need each other against this powerful political machine.
Good luck Gloucester Township,