I submitted a Letter to the Editor, originally published on 6/30, that included the following statement made by me: “Tom Kean Jr. (State Senator running for Congress in our district) is always polite and pleasant to me, and I’ve often heard the refrain “but he’s so nice” echoed by friends. Yet, his recent voting record shows he’s a homophobe who would strip us of our rights tomorrow.”

On the same day and in response to my statement, Senator Kean issued a statement in the New Jersey Globe offering regret for his 2010 vote against same-sex marriage. (Editor's note: the Globe article was based on a podcast recorded several days prior.) Because Senator Kean claims to have changed his mind during an election year, and because I used the word “homophobe” to describe him, TAPinto Westfield asked that I expand on my original, above statement. The letter is as follows:

Senator Kean, who’s been Minority Leader since 2008, voted against domestic partnerships (2004), voted against pensions & health benefits for same-sex couples (2005), vowed to overturn NJ Supreme Court decision recognizing same-sex unions (2006), voted against same-sex marriage in New Jersey (2010), voted against same-sex marriage legislation sent to Gov. Christie (2012) and successfully encouraged Republicans to uphold Christie’s veto of that legislation (2013). And as of today, Kean’s Senate website includes a 2012 statement he made equating same-sex marriage to pumping gas.

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If Senator Kean isn’t a homophobe, then why does he vote like one?

Because Republican leaders like him, who’ve had decades-long careers working against basic rights, even after public opinion shifted on issues like same-sex marriage, know they're in danger of losing power — and they’re grabbing at straws to hold on to it.

During these years of Senator Kean’s homophobic voting, I’ve had plenty of conversations with local Republican leadership, who claim national politics is separate from local politics. Fact remains: the local-level is *precisely* where the roots of the now Trump tree grow from. These leaders know it, and they don’t care because it’s worked to their benefit. It enables a “they’re one of the good ones” narrative. Often, like Kean, they’re not.

Too many in Westfield still vote for bigoted and misogynistic council candidates because they coach your kids, belong to your club, took a picture donating food or seem harmless in casual conversation. They know this works to their benefit, and it’s specifically why they do some of these things — for cover.

They know open-air bigotry troubles decent people. Which is why, when the President of the United States shared a video of his supporters yelling “White Power!” — saying the quiet part out loud — every decent person recoiled in horror; because if you’re not racist, your alarm bells rang off the walls.  

Maybe this was his attempt to distract us from Russia allegedly paying bounties for American soldiers, or the surging COVID-19 death rates in Republican-governed states, or the uprising from fed-up Black, brown, working-class, young, immigrant and anti-racist white people. Or, it’s him simply telling us more of who he is and who he expects his supporters to be.

Time after time, Trump shows us he doesn’t actually care about soldiers’ or police lives, solving the opioid crisis, or any person or cause that doesn’t feed his thirst for power. He’s a malevolent opportunist, a homophobe, a xenophobe, a misogynist and a racist, and he’s everything we tolerate, look past, and excuse in our local politicians.

Trump not cloaking his hate with a warm demeanor doesn’t mean he’s not the standard-bearer of the Republican Party — they are one and the same. Period.

So we have to stop being part of the problem, which at present includes: (1) Democrats who vote for local Republicans, (2) Republicans who disagree with the Party but still vote for the Republican candidate, and (3) continuing to support currently elected Republicans when they do not openly buck the Party (like the Maryland & Mississippi governors have done).

Equivocating and supporting a Party that’s so bigoted and craven at this point makes you *precisely* part of the problem — and you can stop today.

Editor's Note: The writer is a Westfield native and Democratic campaign strategist.