07/30/2013 11:42 am ET Updated Sep 29, 2013

Milly Silva Should Help Progressives to Unite and Defeat Christie

Gov. Chris Christie has become a national media celebrity, but here in NJ he's vulnerable to defeat in November if progressives can unite and focus voter attention on the issues.

Yesterday when Barbara Buono announced Milly Silva, the Executive Vice President of 1199 SEIU, as her choice for lieutenant governor, she gave Democrats a shot at making Christie a one-term governor. Silva, 43, has been has been a warrior for working families organizing workers, women, minorities and low-income wage earners since she was 20 and is responsible for ensuring that 7,000 workers in the healthcare industry earn a living wage and that businesses have a high quality workforce.

Raised by a single mother in the Bronx, she was awarded a scholarship to attend a prestigious middle school -- an opportunity that enabled her to pursue a quality education. She later graduated from Columbia University, becoming the first member of her family to obtain a college degree -- on the back of loans, grants and a work-study program.

Silva, who's of Puerto Rican descent, is a great choice since she symbolizes Buono's potential majority coalition of women, minorities and working families. Whether she wins will depend on the activist groups that focus more on issues than party labels.

Her potential winning coalition should also include white social liberals, union members and progressive groups like Blue Wave, NJ Citizen Action, the Main Stream Alliance and the Working Families Alliance.

She also has been endorsed by New Jersey Education Association, the trial lawyers, environmental groups like the New Jersey Sierra Club and Garden State Equality perhaps the state's largest civil rights organization but certainly the state's largest organization advocating for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality.
With all that support, you would think Buono was in a competitive race with her popular GOP opponent Chris Christie.

Yet polls show Christie leading by 30 percent. This kind of landslide would be a disaster for these progressive groups who operate independently from the Democratic Party, but need the support of Democrats to gain the legislation they push for and which most New Jerseyans support.

This race is a test of their power. Christie's lead has already raised serious questions about their ability to steer the state's legislative agenda. A Christie landslide would dramatically diminish their reputation as effective grassroots power brokers capable of winning victories. Moderate Democrats, who are in the pockets of wealthy donors and big business, will ignore their proposals to create jobs, improve the environment, reduce gun violence, and promote women, labor, and civil rights. It will be a disaster for New Jersey's residents as well.