The Star-Ledger endorsement: Mikie Sherrill in the 11th District

Rep. Mikie Sherrill is the best candidate by far. (Aristide Economopoulos | NJ Advance Media)

Mikie Sherrill, a former Navy pilot, says her military service taught her to put our country — not politics — first.

That applies whether the centrist Democrat is focusing relentlessly on the issues that matter to her district, like funding the Gateway tunnel under the Hudson River, or living up to her oath to defend our Constitution, even if it means impeaching a president when he is steamrolling our democratic norms.

For her, it’s about patriotism and duty, not her career path. That’s a sharp contrast to her Republican challenger, Paul DeGroot, who has questioned the integrity of the 2020 election by sharing the posts of election-deniers on his Facebook page, and is trying to trick voters into thinking he’s a defender of abortion rights.

Last weekend, his operatives were handing out T-shirts and fliers at a rally in Montclair declaring him “pro-choice,” even though DeGroot, a former prosecutor, would allow abortion bans in any state, with no exceptions for rape or incest.

He believes this is “a states’ rights issue and that’s it,” which leaves millions of American women denied this basic right. Sorry, but you can’t call that pro-choice.

Sherrill would fight to restore this right to all women. On this, and other issues, she brings sincerity and substance. Her website is rife with detail on the issues; his is sparse and vague. And DeGroot has mostly refused to answer questions from reporters. What he offers, ultimately, is empty spin. He’s just willing to say whatever he thinks will win him this election.

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Sherrill is running on actual accomplishments. Start with her role on the House Armed Services Committee, and the bacon she’s brought home.

As a veteran, Picatinny Arsenal, one of the biggest employers in the area, is especially close to her heart. She helped secure about $200 million for the garrison in President Biden’s budget proposal, and has been pushing hard to include an additional $100 million for research and development of new weapons like the powerful M777 howitzer that’s helping turn the tide in Ukraine.

She also made two trips to the war-torn nation this year as part of a congressional delegation, to assure President Volodymyr Zelensky that we’ve got his back in his country’s fight for freedom in the face of Russia’s atrocities. In discussions with our allies, there was an “almost giddy sense of relief” that the U.S. had returned to the table, she reports. We can only imagine.

Recall that the previous administration turned away from our allies in NATO, cozied up to Russian President Vladimir Putin and infamously withheld military aid to Ukraine in an effort to strong-arm Zelensky into digging up dirt against President Trump’s political rival.

Sherrill, who’d been elected in a swing district and was determined to work closely with Republicans, was reluctant to vote for an impeachment inquiry. But like her fellow vets, she was genuinely offended that her president would compromise national security in a scheme to gain an advantage in an election at home.

So Sherrill, banding together with other veterans in Congress she often works with, wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post calling for Trump’s impeachment, a bold move that tipped the tide and caused party leaders to open impeachment hearings. It was a seminal act of political courage.

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DeGroot is following a different playbook entirely: Just say whatever is convenient. What else could explain all of his inconsistencies?

He rails about inflation, a serious issue, yet has no coherent response. He mainly blames the Federal Reserve for failing to raise interest rates until it was too late. Yet he also opposes the Fed’s recent hikes, saying they will harm the elderly. How do you square that?

On tax policy, he grumbles that we’ve not yet restored the full deduction for state and local taxes, now capped at $10,000 thanks to Trump’s ruinous 2017 tax overhaul. But he’s also said that he doesn’t fundamentally believe this deduction should exist.

“In 2018, the policies of Trump and the Republicans, they capped SALT at $10,000, and you know, I’m not in favor of the federal government paying New Jersey’s tax bills,” DeGroot maintained.

And of course, he says he’s pro-choice, but he would permit abortion bans in other states, should they choose that path.

Consider, too, his charge that Sherrill has done nothing to make this a more affordable place to live, and that “the infrastructure bill, the build back better bill, and all the other things that Joe Biden is asking for, led us to this point in time.”

The infrastructure bill that sent $12 billion to New Jersey to repair roads and bridges, remove lead pipes, and support NJ Transit; that will also fund the Gateway tunnel and allow Amtrak to double its capacity in the years ahead — is this what he considers government waste?

What about the reform that Biden just signed into law to contain costs by allowing Medicare to negotiate discounts from Big Pharma, to limit out-of-pocket expenses for seniors at $2,000 a year, and to cap the cost of insulin?

These are things that Sherrill supported, with real benefits for people in New Jersey.

On crime, DeGroot’s attacks are just as weak. He says taking guns off our streets doesn’t matter, but in New Jersey, a state with strict gun laws, the rate of gun deaths decreased 10% from 2011 to 2020, compared to a 33% increase nationwide.

And why didn’t DeGroot, a former prosecutor, make a peepabout the tragedies in Uvalde and Buffalo? That’s not leadership. People are shaken in the aftermath of violence like that, especially when children are the victims.

“Moms my age, who had kids the exact same age as the kids in Sandy Hook, can tell you exactly where they were when they heard that news,” Sherrill notes.

It’s also rich that he’s accused her of being soft on criminals. Sherrill is a former federal prosecutor who’s voted to increase funding for police. Her crew in Congress is made up of former military vets and intelligence agents.

And who does DeGroot keep as company? Last month, he held a fundraiser at the home of Elizabeth Nader, who helped organize a “Stop the Steal MAGA Bus Trip” to Washington on Jan. 6th and marched to the Capitol building with the mob, according to a since-deleted photo that the Sherrill campaign captured from her Facebook page.

The choice is obvious. Vote for the veteran who will defend our democracy, here and abroad: Mikie Sherrill.