In this episode of Wine, Women, and Revolution (The Socialist Podcast) Heather breaks from her usual policy and interviews a former Democratic candidate for CD-2, Tanzie Youngblood. Heather does not and will not endorse any candidates from the corporate duopoly, but this is a story that needs to be told. *Disclaimer* Heather is the campaign manager for Steve Fenichel, an opponent of Mr. Van Drew.
Tanzie Youngblood was a candidate in the Democratic primary for Congressional District 2 in NJ. Her opponents included Jeff Van Drew, Nate Kleinman, Sean Thom, and Will Cunningham. Tanzie announced her campaign before the previous Congressman Frank LoBiondo announced his retirement. LoBiondo was a Republican and the Democratic Party has never really supported a challenger against him.
A Long Time Resident
Tanzie has lived in this district for nearly 2 decades. She saw the district vote for Obama and wondered why a district like CD-2 had a republican congressman for 2 decades. Tanzie decided if a problem needed fixing, she would be the one to fix it and threw her hat in the ring.
A Racist Surprise
Upon entering the race, she was told by a prominent local democrat that CD-2 was a “conservative district” and that she should not run. What “conservative” really meant was that since Tanzie was a black woman she didn’t fit the image of who the party wanted to run in CD-2. She believed the Democratic Party to be a place inclusive of the voices of Black Women and was shocked to be told she was not welcome at the table. Although residents of the district expressed support, the party bosses had very different opinions.
Who Really Decides?
In November of 2017, Tanzie attended a celebration in Salem County, one of the 8 counties that make up CD-2. The county chairs of each of those 8 counties are white men. Steve Caltabiano was one of those men, and the chair of Salem county. At this party, Tanzie says, he blatantly told her she should not run because a decision was made years ago by both the democrats and the republicans. They decided that once LoBiondo retired the next Congressman would be Jeff Van Drew. Tanzie fought back. This should be a right that belongs to the voters, not a group of men in a smoke filled back room.
A National Stir
This conversation made national headlines. Tanzie was interviewed by Newsweek and talked about what was said to her. Tanzie feels that is when the contentious relationship between her and the democratic party really began. She spoke out about what was supposed to be secret.
A Retirement Sours an Already Rocky Relationship
Prior to Congressman LoBiondo announcing his retirement, Tanzie Youngblood trained with and met members of the DCCC for 5 day in DC. The day before he announced, Tanzie got a call telling her Frank was retiring. This seemed like the opportunity she had been waiting for. There would be no incumbent in the race and it was wide open. What Mr. Caltabiondo told Tanzie came to pass though. Everyone from the top to the local chairs all lined up behind Jeff Van Drew. Despite objections from the Congressional Black Caucus, the DCCC endorsed Jeff Van Drew before the primary was over.
Its All About the Money
The early endorsement by the DCCC froze Ms. Youngblood out from money and donation sources she might have otherwise had access to. Meanwhile they set unrealistic funding goals for her. To so many people, money equals viability. Platform and background don’t matter. It all comes down to money. You can be kept out of debates or platforms simply because you don’t have enough cash.
The Spoiler Effect
What was originally going to be Tanzie vs Frank Lobiondo became a 5-man race for the democratic nomination. Tanzie finds it surprising 2 of her “progressive” opponents didn’t even live in the district prior to filing their paperwork to run. Tanzie asks “where did these people come from?”
When Dirty Tricks Don’t Work, Try A Bribe.
Tanzie gained support despite the obstacles set in front of her. She was a roadblock to Van Drew and a different tactic was tried. A local seat was offered to her, along with 36,000 dollars in already completed fundraising. More smoke-filled backrooms deals. Tanzie said no thanks.
Racism Sexism, and Classism on the Campaign Trail
Ms. Youngblood saw extremely concerning cases of classism from her opponents on the campaign trail. In working class and communities of color, the party would give residents a hotdog and a mail in voter application. These tactics were never used in more affluent communities. No one would go to Avalon and ask someone to sell their vote for a hotdog or hamburger. This shows a lack of respect for these communities.
Tanzie Youngblood says make people earn your vote.
She says she will be voting for the person who earns her vote with their platform, and asks for her vote.