In A Dream World
The NJN chatter drifted to another topic, but my thoughts lingered on Stender, and it hit me: her candidacy explains everything you need to know about New Jersey politics. Yesterday, the good old boys of Greater Linden deemed her unfit for a state Senate seat she was perfectly qualified for. Today, she wants to run for Congress, and they're fine with it. And it makes perfect sense.
It's a conversation I've had dozens of times with D.C. people. A seat in the House or the U.S. Senate, I'll say, can be fool's gold for a politician, and invariably, I'll borrow from the bible of Nick Acocella and point out that in New Jersey, the two most powerful jobs are Governor and Freeholder – because that's where the jobs and contracts are.
But isn't it funny: a House seat is one hell of a springboard. Maybe the Big Boys thought they were tossing scraps to Linda Stender with a nomination that looked worthless six months ago, but this is feeling more and more like the kind of year when a lot of Democrats will hit the lottery. So even though the bosses wouldn't let her within sniffing distance of the state Senate, what's to say that somewhere down the line Congresswoman Stender doesn't suit up for a campaign that will make her New Jersey's first female Democratic governor?
And it was around then, as I toyed with which musical act might headline the 2014 gubernatorial inauguration, that I looked up at the sign for Exit 11 and the Parkway and snapped out of it. Linda Stender was still in the Assembly and still facing long odds – very long odds – against Fergie. And I was two exits past where I was supposed to get off.