In September 2018, the JCCP launched the Student Political Engagement Fund to support students to do political campaign work over Fall Break. Grantees were given up to $500 to do work locally, in their home communities, or beyond. Read other reflections here, and visit the JCCP website to learn more about our other programs.
Pauline Jaffe ’21
Hometown: Lebanon, NJ
Location of Political Action: Hunterdon County, NJ
Campaign/Organization: Clinton Township Democratic Committee and The Clinton Township Democratic Club of NJ
So my journey to being involved with this organization is one that is quite comical but probably reigns true for many young people engaged in politics. I got involved by accident. I voted for the first time in the primaries this past spring. On the ballot there are a bunch of different positions at the local level you have probably never even heard of or knew existed. There was a position for the “Clinton Township Democratic Committee” that had no candidates listed and the options were “write-in 1” or “write-in 2.” For the fun of it I wrote myself into the position. Now, I can assure you I have taken multiple government classes, but for some reason in mind I thought there’s no way I would be elected. I was adamant that there was got to be a threshold write-in candidates have to meet to be elected or something similar to that. Anyways, two months pass – I had a mail-in absentee ballot so I voted in April when the primary voting date was in June – in the meantime I had completed my finals and, I play lacrosse here at Wesleyan, we had made it to the NCAA tournament. Needless to say I forgot all about this. At the end of June, my dad received a letter from the committee chairwoman that says “my name is Vicki Fresolone, please call my cell so we can discuss your election to the Clinton Township Democratic Committee.” My dad texts me with the picture of this note and the caption “did you run for something I didn’t know about?” I was dumbfounded and confused. I had absolutely no idea what they were talking about. I kept thinking about this and I really thought one of my friends or my parents had written me in as a joke. Then, about three hours later, I had an epiphany – OMG I wrote myself in.
Now, I tell you my story because since my election I’ve become super involved in the local issues that affect my town and I’ve learned more about running as a Democrat in my Republican town than I ever thought possible. The Committee itself works on local and state level campaigns – we choose which candidates we want to support and host events to get the rest of the town involved in the campaigns. My town is in NJ-District 7 which is one of the districts to watch for the “Blue Wave” this November. Since I have been elected we have been fighting to get Tom Malinowski, school board candidates, and township council members elected this November. We have also hosted multiple events and created the Clinton Township Democratic Club. I have been one of the founding members of the Club which works as a more informal entity that gets people involved in the local issues and campaigns, and serves as a fundraising body for the Committee. The Committee is not allowed to raise funds by itself, it needs permission of the County Committee to use money, and it is very complicated to receive money from that account.
Over the break we had our first ever Club meeting and I participated in canvassing for school board candidates and the township council members. Canvassing has gotten a lot more savvy with the techniques it uses to record who has been canvassed. There is an app called “MiniVan” which is available on all smartphones. Each candidate can get this information provided on the service (data collected from the state) and make “lists” for people to record who they spoke to.
At our Club meeting just under twenty of my community members gathered to talk about their interests and how they wanted to get involved in local events. I am proud that we were able to provide a space for Democrats in my town to come together and feel unity. My town is predominately Republican, and as such many of my community members who are Democrats (which has grown greatly in the past few years) feel isolated and disappointed by the current administration. I think it was a great opportunity for some Democrats to come together and share their concerns and interests in a positive manner.
I also had a bunch of fun canvassing over the break. We used the tool I mentioned to talk to over 30 people about the upcoming local elections. This round of canvassing was geared towards people who were registered Democrat but had not voted in the past election. They were very interested to hear about the school board candidates, as they are non-partisan and they current contract for teachers has been up for the past two years. It was really great getting to know more people in my town, and meeting friendly faces. It’s always better to know you’re not alone.