Everyone is talking about the poorly-kept-secret that Sean Spiller, mayor of Montclair and president of the New Jersey Education Association, is planning a 2025 bid to succeed Gov. Phil Murphy This week David Wildstein of the NJ Globe, Max Pizarro of InsiderNJ, and Mike Lilley of Sunlight Policy Center commented on the October launch of a 501(c)(4) issue advocacy group called “Protecting our Democracy,” which promises “a robust campaign to defend against attacks on personal freedoms, restore confidence in government and unity in our country, and serve as a bulwark against attempts to undermine the institutions that underpin our democracy at all levels of government.”
The chatter was instigated by this postcard:
“Protecting our democracy doesn’t end on Election Day. We’ll continue to organize to safeguard our personal freedoms, preserve voting rights and create an economy that works for everyone,” Spiller is quoted as saying on the mailer, which includes his photograph. “People all over New Jersey have already joined Protecting Our Democracy and I hope you will too.”
For what it’s worth, says Lilley, NJEA is the “founding donor” of the Super PAC, almost certainly via the NJEA’s own Super PAC, Garden State Forward.
Pizarro wonders whether Spiller’s entry into the race will “chop up the North Jersey field,” complicating the election strategies of Essex County heavy-hitters and serve as a spoiler, drawing votes from potential gubernatorial candidates Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and U.S. Representative Mikie Sherrill, or will he succeed, building “on the strength of his positioning, relationship-building power perch as NJEA prez.”
Lilley focuses on how New Jersey teachers feel about their highest-in-the-country union dues going to pay for Spiller’s campaign:
How is this fair to New Jersey teachers, who have no say in the matter? What if a teacher is not a Democrat or doesn’t want to play politics or doesn’t want to fund the personal political ambitions of Sean Spiller? Too bad for them: The NJEA leadership, led by President Spiller, has decided to spend their dues on Spiller’s personal political ambitions.
Once again, as in his Montclair political career, Spiller’s conflict of interest is manifest. As NJEA president, Spiller has a fiduciary duty to represent the interests of his members, but how is funding his own political ambitions in the interest of New Jersey teachers?
Clearly, Spiller doesn’t care, but New Jersey citizens should be asking themselves if they want this walking conflict of interest in a statewide office.