The night before the election, when I didn’t sleep, I was thinking, “What if nobody shows up?”
I kept hearing from members that they were going to be at The Forge in Woodbridge to work our Election Day phone bank. Or that they would be at the Bergen County “Boots On The Ground” Rally. Or that they would be at the phone bank in Atlantic County.
But you actually don’t know.
Then, I arrived at the State PBA office that morning, and at 9:30, I heard that 50 members were already at The Forge. And Local 600 members had already filled the conference room at the office to make calls to get out the votes.
I was overwhelmed with excitement. Our members were finally believing. All the months of talking and writing and preaching finally came to fruition. We had a room full of people volunteering on their day off. We had members who came in having just worked the midnight, telling me they had not slept but that wasn’t going to stop them from being here.
Our efforts made the difference. See Rob Nixon’s analysis on pages 13-14 to get all the details of how the State PBA membership’s political action changed the game for several candidates in the key legislative districts we targeted.
But seeing the roomful of women and men also showed that the members truly understand what’s at stake, and that they believe they can make a difference. If they didn’t, they would have been there. And they weren’t playing around. They had their game faces on, and they were really serious. And they should all know that if they didn’t make those calls and knock on those doors, we would not have had the overwhelming success we created.
Not only is this an indication that members are starting to believe what we are telling them about the power of taking action, it’s a confirmation that they realize the time of sitting in the muster room, stomping their feet and crying about what the PBA is going to do has passed.
We’re telling you what to do, and members are finally listening. Not only are they listening, but they are doing something about it. At the primary, it was 200 members. On Election Day is was 500 members. Next year on Election Day it will be 1,000 members. And so on and so on. Yes, not only are members listening; they are doing something.
Election Day also confirmed that members understand that we’re not the PBA – Pat Colligan and me. You are the PBA, from the member who just got hired today to the one has 44 years in on the job. You will see how much of a difference that will ultimately make.
Please note that none of this would have happened without you forming the team needed to get out the vote and create the presence in the PBA’s political action. I am proud to have been your navigator and blessed that Pat Colligan believed in the vision. I am grateful to all of you who made sure it worked.
There are a few people I wish to recognize and thank for their tireless effort:
Bruce Chester, longtime Executive Board member and State Delegate for Woodbridge Local 38. Bruce led more than 100 of his members to come to the phone bank on their day off. And he stayed there for more than eight hours just one day after having surgery.
Joe Krech, President of Union County Corrections Officers Local 199, pledged to find as many of his members as possible to get to the phone bank in Woodbridge. Seeing the row of 199 officers smiling and dialing inspired us all.
I want to thank the Bergen County Political Action Committee under the direction of Saddle River Local 348 State Delegate Charlie Schwartz and Bergen County Conference Chairman Joe Biamonte for leading more than 200 members out into the streets to get out the vote on Election Day. And two days before that, they led another 200 walking with candidates to show PBA support.
And we are grateful to Paul Nunziato, President of the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association whose ideas contributed so much to our success.
And the success we had in Districts 1 and 2 in the southern part of the state was built on the leadership of Atlantic City Local 24 State Delegate Keith Bennett and Longport Local 363 State Delegate Chris Ricciotti. They organized a phone bank at our offices in Atlantic County that added so much to our political action.
And kudos to Past State PBA President Tony Wieners and Executive Vice-President Keith Dunn. Without their foresight to start the voter registration drive in 2013 that led to every one of our members being registered to vote, none of this would have happened.
Remember Election Day 2015 as a groundbreaking event. We set down a cornerstone for a wall we need to build that will take a lot more work. If we do this next year, and just 50 members show up, it will all have been for nothing.
But if we keep it up, come 2017 when it’s time to elect a new governor, we can have a powerful and effective machine in place to hit the streets and support the candidate that is going to need us. This is history in the making. We have started with a few hundred members, but if we keep up the work, it won’t be long before they recognize us as the most powerful group in the state.