ESSEX COUNTY, NJ — In the overwhelmingly Democratic Essex County, a group of women are working to bring together female Republican voters in the area with the Essex County NJ Republican Women.
“The mere existence of our group gives like-minded people a place to go,” co-founder and President Maureen Edelson said in a recent interview. “One of the circumstances that happens when you’re in such a minority position is that sometimes you just don’t feel that you have somewhere to talk about your ideas or express an opinion and our group provides a wonderful place, a wonderful space.”
The organization was created last year to bring together Republican women in support of GOP gubernatorial candidate Kim Guadagno. The group will celebrate its first anniversary this week.
“The mission of the group is to encourage Republican candidates in office and to support the U.S. Constitution — the concepts and the candidates who support the U.S. Constitution,” Edelson said. “We really strive to create a strong foundation.”
Each month the group hosts programs, including discussions on different topics, in various areas of the county for its 25 core members and guests. Key issues of concern that brought the founding leaders together are voter integrity, “protection of the unborn” and protection of Second Amendment rights, Edelson said.
“Many people come to us saying ‘you know, I haven’t been able to express this before because no one else around me, you know, has this point of view,’ and so that makes us attractive as a destination,” Edelson continued.
One such woman is new member Tammy Rossi, of Nutley, who said she was actively seeking a Republican organization because Essex County is “a very Democratic county.”
“I really needed to align myself with like-minded individuals,” Rossi said. “By joining this organization I hope to expand the organization through networking and talking to people, and educating them because I do believe that so many people are not getting all the facts straight; they’re listening to propaganda and they’re letting their heart strings be played by the media.”
However, group members do include women who have a variety of disparate opinions.
Candy Straight, of Bloomfield, who has considered herself as a Republican since she was 5 years old, nearly 65 years ago, was the first member of Essex County NJ Republican Women. She describes herself as a “moderate Republican” and “pro-choice.”
“There are going to be people, people of good faith, that are going to disagree, particularly on the issue of a woman’s right to choose,” Straight said. “What probably disappoints me most on this issue is that people who are pro-choice, such as myself and believe in a woman’s right to choose, and people who disagree with me on that issue is that we don’t work together. We seem to always be at odds. We don’t work together to reduce unwanted pregnancies.”
With one year complete, the organization is set to continue its work. Edelson said next on the group’s agenda is to encourage voting in the November general election.
“Well the emphasis of what’s next this fall is to make sure that people who are able to be touched and tapped get out to vote in November in the general election. It’s very important to mobilize people,” Edelson said. “Our second priority is, to the extent we can, encourage people to vote for Republican candidates and open people’s eyes to true information or events.”
For the rest of the year, Edelson said, the goal remains to “continue maintaining strong and interesting programming, and to grow our membership.”
To celebrate its work thus far, the Essex County NJ Republican Women will host “Candidates, Taxes, Dinner, New Friends & New Ideas,” a social dinner followed by programming Thursday, Sept. 27, from 6 to 9 p.m., at Jim Johnston’s Steakhouse, 58 Eisenhower Parkway in Roseland. For reservations, visit www.ecnjrw.wordpress.com.
Editor’s note: This story was updated to clarify some of the group’s views and positions.