How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

Mission Possible: How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

Thoughts on Mercer's political families

If I resided in the United Kingdom I'd be among the minority of the population who would favor abolishing the monarchy for a republic; I don't have the same negativism towards American hereditary political families - the Roosevelts, the Rockefellers, the Kennedys, the Bushes, the Gores, the Cheneys, the Udalls, the Cuomos and the Keans, etc.

While the progenies of American political royalty have a clear leg up on their opponents because of their family connections, they are not guaranteed a cradle-to-grave office and huge salaries, in fact, in various cases the American progeny are defeated when they seek election. In the United States, their inherited status is an advantage but not a guarantee of a position.

While Americans profess to reject dynasties, over the years they tended to gravitate to names that are familiar. Up until recently, the majority of voters were looking for elected officials who could steer the ship of state through murky waters, not just drain the swamp.

In Mercer County we have a number of Democrats who belong to royal families. Tony Carabelli, Skip Cimino, Brian Hughes, Paul Sollami and Bonnie Watson-Coleman are all familiar names to Mercer County Democrats. With the exception of Bonnie Watson-Coleman, all have served on the Board of Freeholders. Skip Cimino also served in the Assembly, Brian Hughes is our County Executive and Bonnie Watson-Coleman is a member of Congress. If you follow politics today you've heard of Skip Cinino's son, John, who is a freeholder currently running for re-election, Tony's son Anthony Jr., who is running for council in Hamilton Township, and Paula Sollami Covello, Paul's daughter, who is the county clerk. If you are an old-timer like me, you revered Brian's father, Governor Richard J. Hughes, and reveled at the aplomb of Assemblyman John Watson, who was Bonnie's father.

Is hereditary politics a good thing or a bad thing for our citizenry? On balance, I think it is good thing. From the perspective of the Democratic Party, it is probably one of the reasons they have been the dominant party over the past few decades in Mercer County. When the progeny of well-known Mercer County elected officials run they have a leg up over their opponents in three ways: support base, name recognition and financial resources.

I think the residents of Mercer County benefit from heredity politics; we get candidates who are savvy with regard to what it takes to be successful in politics. In my family my wife and I both have worked at the intersection of government and the nonprofit sector for decades. Invariably the talk around our dining room table was either about politics, government or the charitable sector. Through osmosis my daughter absorbed a great deal about these subjects. It is not at all surprising that all of her jobs have been in those areas.

The progeny of Mercer County political families have spent their lives listening to war stories about the most controversial political issues that have arisen in Mercer County over the past decades, e.g., the decision not to build an incinerator plant on Duck Island. As a result they have learned what kinds of issues are more likely to stir up controversy in the community and what needs to be done behind the scenes to maximize the likelihood of forging a political consensus on potentially divisive issues.

Further, hereditary candidates understand, based on their firsthand childhood experiences, that a political office is not a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. first or second job. To be successful in politics means you must be willing to respond to constituent calls whenever they occur and attend committee meetings, a plethora of nightly and weekend public events and parades, political club meetings and funerals (longtime Mercer County Sheriff Gil Lugossey set the standard here). The surest way to lose the support of the rank and file is to give the impression that you're above or too busy to press the flesh at local political gatherings.

The sons and daughters of Mercer County's political royalty have been educated on what it takes to succeed in politics - to know when you can take a stand and when you have no real choice but to toe the party line on an issue. Politics is not nuclear physics, but there is an art to it and the progeny of elected officials have been schooled in the art form. They know where the political bodies are buried and whom you can trust.

It is important for the children of elected officials not to overreach as they attempt to forge their own political careers. They need to realize that Rome was not built in a day as they try and move up in the political hierarchy. Slow and steady should be their mantra as they seek to build on their family legacy.

If the presidency to date of Donald Trump has taught us anything it is that government experience matters. It's pretty hard to drain the swamp if you do not understand how the government you are leading works. President Trump's ignorance about the basics of government and politics is one of the primary reasons his administration is a dysfunctional failure.