Moment of truth for work? AFL-CIO still supports anti-choice Republican in New Jersey

Several weeks before Labor Day, it seems that despite the great national uproar sparked by the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, longtime “pro-life” Rep. Chris Smith, a Republican from New Jersey, will likely survive the serious challenge. of a much younger Democratic opponent, small business man Matthew Jenkins.

Smith’s strong position runs counter to New Jersey polls Rutgers Eagletonwhich found that even before the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, two-thirds of state voters surveyed were concerned about the fallout, with a majority of voters saying they wanted New Jersey to pass laws to ease the access to abortion:

More than half (54%) would generally like to see New Jersey pass laws that protect and expand access to abortion care, while 25% would like to see the state make it harder to get abortions; 11% choose no option and 9% are unsure. Four in ten New Jerseyans say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who runs for office in New Jersey and supports the reproductive freedom law – double the number who say they would be less likely to do so (21%). Just over a quarter (28%) say it wouldn’t change their vote, and 11% aren’t sure.

“Abortion rights have always been supported in New Jersey for as long as the Rutgers-Eagleton poll asked the question,” said Ashley Koning, assistant research professor and director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling (ECPIP). at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. “In fact, New Jerseyans have continually opposed any state law restricting access to abortion for the past three decades.”

At least Chris Smith has been true to himself. On his congress website right after the controversial Supreme Court decision, Smith announced the end of Roe.

“There is nothing humane, compassionate or benign about abortion,” he wrote. “Abortion is not health care unless one interprets the precious life of an unborn child as analogous to a tumor to be excised or a disease to be conquered.”

He continued. “The Supreme Court’s anti-child decisions of 1973 and several that followed like Casey allowed the violent deaths of unborn baby girls and boys by dismemberment, beheading, forcible expulsion from the womb, lethal poisons and other violent methods to any time and for any reason until birth.”

A call to Smith’s press office was not returned.

Decade after decade, Smith sailed toward re-election with more than 60% of the vote in New Jersey’s 4th Ward, a largely red suburb in a state that’s turning increasingly blue. In the 2018 election wave, when Democrats took over the House of Representatives, Smith’s Democratic challenger, Joshua Welle, managed to beat 43%, garnering 127,000 votes.

While Smith has been one of the most zealous abortion critics in Congress, thanks to his opposition to so-called free trade and pro-worker votes, he has enjoyed consistent support from the AFL- New Jersey CIO. Last month, the state’s largest apex union again backed him and former Democratic Rep. Jeff Van Drew, who switched parties in 2019 to pledge allegiance to Donald Trump.

“For me, the cause of working families and the critical importance of unions in the endless fight for fair wages and benefits, workplace protections and other important employment conditions achieved through bargaining collective is a core belief,” Smith said in 2020 when he earned the NJ AFL-CIO endorsement… “My dad was a teamster and instilled in me a firm belief that without unions, working families would be marginalized, divided and exploited. Unions level the playing field and make both the workplace and America itself fairer and more just.”

Conventional wisdom in the labor movement dictates that you don’t bet against an incumbent — and for 50 years unions have avoided picking sides in the abortion debate.

In some ways this is easy to explain. Conventional wisdom within the labor movement holds that betting against a congressional incumbent is a wild ride and it is the incumbents who can deliver results for members. Historically, the country’s labor movement has relied on an alliance with the Catholic Church, both locally and nationally, on issues related to immigrant rights as well as labor rights. During the half-century that Roe was the law of the land, unions managed to avoid having to choose sides in the abortion debate.

Now, however, with access to abortion no longer guaranteed, pro-choice women in the labor movement and their male allies argue that reproductive rights are the foundation of labor rights and that the movement’s historic neutrality can be more difficult to maintain. Right after Roe’s leaked opinion surfaced, Liz Shulerthe newly elected AFL-CIO National President, tweeted: “Access to health care without fear or intimidation is everyone’s right. We must be able to control our own bodies — which has a direct impact on economic justice and the ability of workers to improve their lives and those of their families. »

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Kyle Bragg, president of SEIU 32 BJ, which represents 135,000 workers, called the leaked draft notice toppling Roe a “massive and sickening step backwards in this country,” in a statement released before the Dobbs decision. Bragg said the ruling “would inflict the greatest setback to fundamental rights in a generation and end decades of progress for women. The rationale for this view rests on a medieval worldview and sets the stage for an even more onslaught.” more important against fundamental freedoms and protections. This is an opinion concocted by an illegitimate majority that advances a vision of America that is only for straight white Christian men. What a total shame.

Until Roe’s reversal, most political analysts predicted that Democrats, shaken by inflation and President Biden unpopularitywere almost certain to lose control of Congress in the fall. Bloomberg News reports, however, that a more recent Morning Consult/Politico poll indicates that Roe’s overthrow could “energize” Democrats, saying that “half of American voters support Roe’s guaranteed abortion rights and don’t want the Supreme Court overturns the decision.”

The Bloomberg report continued: “About 42% of voters who lean Democratic — and 45% of female Democrats — said it was more important to vote for a candidate who agreed with her position on the abortion, even if he disagrees on other issues. That number is up five points since last December.” In contrast, only 31% of Republican voters polled thought abortion was more important than other issues in the midterm elections for Congress and other offices.

“This trend reverses more than a decade of polls that have shown Republicans more motivated by the abortion issue,” Bloomberg News said. “Last year, Gallup found that 30% of self-proclaimed ‘pro-life’ voters said they would only vote for a candidate who shares their views on abortion, compared to 19% of those who support the right to abortion.”

That enthusiasm gap is the lifeline that Matt Jenkins, Chris Smith’s Democratic opponent, seems to be counting on. “The emails come straight to me,” Jenkins told NJTV News in a recent interview. “They’re getting into the Democratic Party. They’re getting into the state party. People want to get involved in my campaign.”

According to his campaign website, Jenkins attended Ocean County College and worked as a substitute teacher before earning a degree in biochemistry and molecular biology at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. Her site lists “generational change, making New Jersey work for working families, fighting for women’s rights, LGBTQIA+ issues, health care, energy and climate change as her top priorities. problems.

Jenkins’ chances are long. In 2020, Smith’s Democratic opponent was held to 38.3% of the vote, even as Biden beat Donald Trump by nearly a million votes statewide. Smith’s district includes Ocean County, one of the reddest parts of New Jersey, where Trump won nearly 64% of the votes cast. The last cutting made the Jenkins climb even steeper. The 4th District now has 36% Registered Republicans, 23% Democrats and 40% Unaffiliated voters. The reconfigured district lost part of the suburban Trenton in eastern Mercer County that has traditionally been more Democrat-friendly.

Smith was among 35 Republicans who voted for a commission on Jan. 6. Last month, he survived a challenge from a pro-Trump podcaster who was backed by Michael Flynn, Rudy Giuliani and Roger Stone.

During last month’s Republican primary, Smith was challenged by Trump sidekick Mike Crispi, a podcast host who had the support of retired general Michael Flynn, Rudy Giuliani and Roger Stone. Smith beat him by nearly 12,000 out of 52,000 votes. Smith had drawn the ire of Trump World as one of 35 Republicans to vote for a 9/11-style commission to investigate the Jan. 6 insurgency. The measure passed the House and was endorsed by former Rep. Lee Hamilton and former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean, co-chairs of the 9/11 Commission, but deceased in the US Senate.

Smith was first elected to Congress in 1980 when the district was configured differently, including coastal towns in Monmouth and Ocean counties, and reaching as far west as the state capital of Trenton, where Smith grew up and his family operated a sporting goods wholesale business. . He had held no elected office prior to his candidacy for Congress, but in 1976 he became executive director of the New Jersey Right to Life Committee. He won the election his first time, beating veteran Democratic incumbent Rep. Frank Thompson – who had held the seat since 1954 – by 27,000 votes.

During Thompson’s 26 years in the House, he had been a champion of civil and labor rights and was among the architects of the landmark Landrum-Griffin Act, a bill of rights for rank-and-file union members that promoted transparency and transparency. democracy. in the functioning of trade unions. He led John F. Kennedy’s voter registration efforts in the 1960 election, which saw 91% of New Jersey voters turn out, an all-time high.

But in June 1980, before the campaign was in full swing, Thompson was charged with federal corruption in the FBI’s Abscam case. That contentious corruption probe also nabbed Sen. Harrison Williams along with half a dozen House members, including Thompson – who was convicted in December, a month after voters rejected him at the polls. Chris Smith has been in the job ever since.

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