Election Maplewood Politics

Murphy Wins, Campaign Signs Disappear, and Elmwood Avenue Neighbors Remain Divided

[L-R] Libby and Art Christensen; Eric Shorter; Scott McGowan, Rick Myers, and Mary Whithed with one of their daughters, Essa, age 9. (Photos by Thomas E. Franklin)
Residents of Maplewood woke up on Wednesday, November 8 to chilly, crisp weather. A few leaves escaped from their piles along Elmwood Avenue. A group of students walked down the block, turned left onto Valley Street and made their way to Maplewood Middle School, a day after school had been closed for Election Day.

Democratic candidate Phil Murphy’s victory was called early on Tuesday night. CNN projected his victory at 8:01 p.m. — a minute after New Jersey polls had closed. Unofficial results for Maplewood show Phil Murphy winning 6,935 votes with Republican candidate Kim Guadagno taking 791 of the votes cast. 129 votes were cast for the remaining candidates.

Elmwood Avenue resident Mary Whithed said she was “glad for a change in leadership in New Jersey. Overall, I was heartened by the number of women and under-represented people running in races across the country.”

Village Green interviewed Whithed and her family for a series of articles that profiled a selection of neighbors on Elmwood Avenue between Prospect Street and Boyden Avenue. The dialogue among neighbors was part of Voting Block, a collaborative reporting effort to encourage civil political discussion and more informed voters in neighborhoods across New Jersey ahead of the gubernatorial election. For this project, we have been partnering with 15 hyperlocal and six ethnic news organizations across New Jersey as well as WNYC, WHYY, NJ Spotlight and The Record.

On Sunday, October 15, the project culminated with the Village Green’s Voting Block potluck — a gathering of neighbors on Elmwood Avenue (and a few who live around the corner or nearby) spanning a variety of political perspectives. You can read about the discussion and listen to recorded segments of the potluck here.

Full table shot of potluck
Village Green’s Voting Block Potluck at Les Saisons Bed & Breakfast on Elmwood Avenue, October 15, 2017. (Photo credit: Mary Mann)

In addition to Whithed, we had a chance to speak with neighbor Eric Shorter, who also took part in last month’s potluck.

“I am very glad Phil Murphy won. I hope that he will live up to his many promises and not prove the naysayers right,” said Shorter, a Maplewood resident of 13 years, a musician, and father of three daughters. “I heard a bit of grumbling about him being just another Wall Street huckster, but I take his words at face value and will expect his actions to follow suit. I also heard a few people say that they couldn’t be bothered to vote because it’s meaningless. My response to them was that not participating in the electoral process is the exact same thing as surrendering.”

Last month, when the potluck attendees were asked if and how their attitudes towards politics changed since the November 2016 presidential election, Shorter described himself as energized. “I feel like this has actually inspired me to be more vociferous and speak out,” he said. “Bottom line, for me, on all of the issues, back to taxation without representation, the 100 men and women in the Senate that can’t get it together. We are divided and conquered. But the Executive Office of the United States is currently occupied by a criminal who is in violation of the U.S. Constitution. The rule of law is null and void right now … And that’s where my passion lies.”

Rick Myers, who along with Whithed and Scott McGowan is raising two daughters in Maplewood, voted for Murphy as well. Myers knows the governor-elect personally because they both worked at the same investment bank years ago. “I always knew him to be a straight shooter,” Myers said during an interview in September. “We’re not in good fiscal shape right now and that’s an area where he can help New Jersey. And I like what he stands for on LGBTQ issues and gun control,” he says. “You always knew where you stood with Phil.”

Photo by Thomas E. Franklin

Art Christensen, a resident of Maplewood for 72 years and a supporter of Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign, voted for Kim Guadagno. Christensen said he wasn’t surprised by Murphy’s win. “I get it, we’re blue and she was never really expected to win. It’s not a big shock,” he said. He added that his wife, Libby Christensen, also voted for Guadagno.

When asked what he and his Libby spoke about after Murphy’s victory, he expressed concern for the governor-elect’s support for making New Jersey a sanctuary state.

A statement on Murphy’s campaign website explains his stance. “Now that Donald Trump is President, Phil will protect the Dreamers and oppose any efforts to use state and local police to assist in mass deportations. He will also end Governor Christie’s pandering to the hard-right special interests and take action at the state level to make life easier for our undocumented neighbors…”

“What will New Jersey look like as a sanctuary state? To me, the whole idea of a sanctuary state bothers me,” Christensen said. “I just don’t know what my state is going to look like. It’s depressing.”

By Thursday, campaign signs for the local, county, and statewide candidates were disappearing from the lawns of Elmwood Avenue residents. Temperatures were dropping and expected to approach freezing levels by early Friday morning.

Governor-Elect Phil Murphy’s inauguration is less than 10 weeks away.

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