Green Party Gains Another Legislative Seat
Legislator Leaves Corrupt Democrats, Joins Green Party
Here are portions of a recent report from the North Jersey Media Group.
A Brave Leap
by Mike KellyIt's not always easy being a member of the Green Party. But in the world of Matt Ahearn, the alternative was much worse. He could still be a Democratic donkey.
Nine days ago, Ahearn, a rookie state assemblyman from Fair Lawn, switched political parties. He was tired of playing games with Democratic insiders, he said, sickened by the pressure to raise campaign cash.
So he jumped to the Green Party. "I just want to speak my conscience," he told The Record.
Instead of praising a politician who talks of speaking his conscience, Democratic leaders responded with petty attacks. They first spread rumors that the 44-year-old Ahearn wanted a Democratic Party job apart from his career as a lawyer. Then they flipflopped and said the party wanted to replace him anyway in the fall elections.
Even Bergen Democratic boss Joseph Ferriero jumped into the fray, accusing Ahearn of "looking for excuses for his inability to be an effective legislator."
Funny thing, only four days earlier Ferriero called Ahearn a "dedicated and hardworking public servant" in a joint press release with him.
Ahearn chuckles now at how Ferriero and other Democrats turned on him. "They have sold out so long ago," Ahearn said in a phone interview, "they don't even know what they are doing."
Ahearn is a former captain with the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division who can talk a blue streak about the need to increase benefits for military veterans. What's more, a check of his record in Trenton reveals he is hardly ineffective.
In his first year in the Assembly, Ahearn helped introduce more than 100 pieces of legislation, with some 25 approved by the Assembly -- a number far beyond many longtime lawmakers. Four bills that Ahearn sponsored or co-sponsored actually became law. They include tax breaks for New Jersey victims of the World Trade Center attacks, a requirement for child-proof safety devices on guns, a plan to alleviate the nursing shortage, and a ban on tow-truck operators refusing to help stranded motorists who don't have cash.
These are the causes of a lunch-pail legislator, interested in the nuts-and-bolts concerns of ordinary folks. So why aren't New Jersey Democrats rushing to support Ahearn? The answer tells us much about the state of politics today.
As he dutifully worked on bills in Trenton, while also handling 614 constituent cases from his Fair Lawn assembly office and responding to another 1,400 constituent email requests for help or information, Ahearn seemed to put less emphasis on a job many Democratic leaders considered a top priority -- campaign fund-raising. Indeed, when it came to campaign cash, party bosses were not pleased with Ahearn's independent streak.
Says Ahearn: "Politicians should never mess with paratroopers."
On New Year's Day, Ahearn drove across the 13 towns of his Assembly district, which stretches across central Bergen from the Hudson to the Passaic River. He dropped into a variety of political get-togethers, expecting a lot of friendly conversation. What he heard, he says, were rumors that the party planned to replace him in the spring primaries.
He called Ferriero. Ahearn says Ferriero offered him a job in return for allowing another Democrat to run for the Assembly. Ferriero denies this. But if you examine a Jan. 21 joint press release from Ferriero and Ahearn, it's clear the two were talking about other options. "They were selling my seat, to put it bluntly," Ahearn says.
Days later in Trenton, after Assembly Democrats managed to table a bill limiting campaign contributions from those who get state contracts, Ahearn was fed up. "It all clicked," he said, "as I was driving home on the Parkway."
He called the Green Party.
"I have always been the type of person who fights to fix things," he said. He's also a realist, though. He knows he has an uphill fight to hold on to his seat in the fall elections.
But this year -- potentially his last as a politician -- Matt Ahearn wants to be free to speak his mind. "I want to speak the truth about power," he says.
Democrats should duck. So should Republicans.
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