While all eyes were on Virginia’s gubernatorial race Tuesday night, a dark horse came from behind and unseated one of the most powerful Democratic politicians in New Jersey.
The victor wasn’t some upstart populist with an endorsement from Trump, and he wasn’t some establishment darling who ran a data-driven campaign flush with big-donor cash. He’s a blue collar trucker named Edward Durr, and he reportedly spent only $153 on his campaign, half of which went toward coffee from Dunkin Donuts.
His opponent was Democratic New Jersey State Senate President Steve Sweeney, who has held that position for 12 years and has been involved in politics for almost 20. He also happens to be an extremely powerful officer in the international Ironworkers union.
Durr ran on a simple platform that criticized Gov. Phil Murphy’s decision to force nursing homes to accept nursing homes patients, the state-mandated lockdowns that caused thousands of small businesses to close, and the rising cost of living in the state. He also pegged Sweeney’s South Jersey political machine as corrupt.
“Just the constant nepotism, corruption, ‘if you take care of me, I’ll take care of you deals,’” Durr said, according to Politico. “You don’t have evidence, you can’t get anyone arrested or prove anything, but there’s always ‘when there’s smoke there’s fire’ kind of statements.”
The GOP ultimately came up short in wresting control of the New Jersey governor’s seat from Phil Murphy, but Ed Durr delivered one of the most shocking and refreshing political upsets in recent memory when he unseated Sweeney.
With a powerful message and determination, Durr toppled the ringmaster of the Democratic Party’s political machine in the state.
This is how politics should be in America.
He, perhaps better than anyone else in politics at the moment, represents the ideal of the American citizen legislator. He saw what he thought were injustices and mismanagement in his community, and he acted on it.
He didn’t need to beg for the backing of giant corporations or shadowy super PACS. He didn’t need to orchestrate an ad blitz that prioritized style over substance and demonized half of the electorate. And he didn’t need to run a media gauntlet full of activists pretending to be journalists to get his voice heard.
He went out there and connected with the voters, with real people, and listened to their concerns one-on-one. His simple campaign ad, which cost less than a hundred bucks to produce, went viral — largely due to the earnestness of his message and presentation. That might be impractical for a statewide or a national race, but politicians running for those kinds of positions can still take a note from Durr’s win. Voters want authenticity.
It’s taken for granted that only highly educated elites can successfully run for office because of their money and connections. Well, Durr blasted that assumption right out of the water on Tuesday.
Some outlets have reported that Durr actually spent around $10,000 on the campaign, but even then, that’s nothing in the scope of political campaigns. A single organization, the New Jersey Education Association, spent over $5 million in 2017 trying to get Sweeney out of office. He won by 18 points, according to Politico.
Glenn Youngkin’s victory in Virginia was a big deal, a Republican hasn’t won statewide office there since 2009, but it was still a tight race. Both sides spent over $115 million during the race, making it by far the most expensive gubernatorial election campaign in Virginia’s history. Youngkin’s campaign spent over $27 million on campaign ads alone.
Durr, meanwhile, received no help from the state Republican Party. Again, Sweeney won reelection in 2017 by 18 points even after he was targeted by an organization that spent $5.4 million to oust him.
The American people want to be spoken with, not talked down to, about the issues facing our country, and hopefully Mr. Durr will maintain that attitude while he is serving the people of New Jersey.
He’s indicated he’s got a lot to learn, but at least, unlike most politicians, he has the humility to admit it and reassure his constituents that he will work hard for their interests.
“I don’t know what I don’t know. So, I will learn what I need to know,” Durr said during an interview with Fox News. “I’m going to guarantee you one thing, I will be the voice and people will hear me because if there’s one thing people will learn about me I got a big mouth and I don’t shut up when I want to be heard.”
Instead of electing more performance artists masquerading as champions of the downtrodden, let’s elect down-to-earth, blue collar folks to represent the American people. If we do, we might be surprised at how much gets done and how much we begin to recapture what America is all about.
If Ed Durr can beat one of the most powerful state politicians in reliably blue New Jersey with $153 and a little grit, then what’s everyone else’s excuse?
Hayden Daniel is the opinion editor at the Daily Caller.