Politics makes estranged bedfellows in Hugin’s hometown

The house next to the Senate candidate was being used as a Menendez-Malinowski canvassing center

Bob Hugin’s house in Summit was dark and quiet on Election Day, and the drenching rain made the all-brick Tudor mansion seem even more still and fortress-like.

The only evidence that the Republican Senate candidate lived there were two Bob HUGIN U.S. Senate signs in blue, and a yellow sign that said FIRE corrupt Menendez.

At the house next door, a Dutch Colonial, just a few square-feet shy of mansion status, the walkway and sidewalks were lined with about 50 blue Malinowski Congress signs and the signs with STOP TRUMP in the top red half, and VOTE MENENDEZ on the blue lower half.

Clearly, the people living there wanted everyone to know they weren’t starstruck living next to the potential senator. In fact, in this normally quiet neighborhood of some of Summit’s most stately homes, the display could have been viewed as a finger-in-the-eye — or just plain finger — statement.   

There was another sign in this yard, this one handwritten, telling volunteer canvassers they were in the right place, and directing them to the part of the house to pick up the door knob hangers and other literature to promote Tom Malinowski and Sen. Bob Menendez. 

In the pouring rain, about 100 people came and went, huddled under umbrellas or half-hidden by rain jacket hoods. They were evidence of the passions this mid-term election has elicited.

Just a few blocks away, at Summit’s Lincoln School, the voters came as steady as the rain splashing through the puddles in the parking lot.

They, too, were evidence of how this midterm election has mobilized people on both sides, red or blue. The scene in Hugin’s neighborhood is an microcosm of the neighbor vs. neighbor civil war going throughout America, especially in purple towns like Summit.  

While the importance galvanized people along political battle lines, there seemed to be agreement on one issue.

Politics seems more sleazy than ever and the negativity of the Hugin-Menendez campaign has reached new lows.

“I just think all the negativity is unnecessary,” said Glenys Hardy, 74. “They can get their points across without going for the jugular. It’s not civil. It diminishes everybody.”

hugin house.jpgBob Hugin’s home in Summit. His neighbors posted dozens of signs supporting Democrats Bob Menendez and congressional candidate Tom Malinowski (Mark Di Ionno | NJ Advance Media) 

For mom Carolyn Sheiman, 41, who was at the polling place with her daughter, Anna, 10, the campaign violated the Golden Rule.

“We tell our children, ‘Be nice to people’ and ‘don’t call names,'” she said.

Abigail Falls says both sides need to settle down.

“There’s a reason God gave us two ears and one mouth,” she said.

“But everybody’s yelling. It is incredibly ugly. The mudslinging has to stop.”

Falls says this and then revealed she doesn’t even have “live TV” in the house.

For Sheiman, some of the ads on TV required parental controls.

“Then you turn on the TV and you hear the most outrageous things. It deflects from the important issues,” she said. “There are things going on, at the core level, that require our attention. These negative ads are inefficient and wasteful. They should be talking about the core issues.”

James Eng, 65, said the “negativity really turned me off. I want to know what they believe in. I want to know what they’re going to do for me.”

At the home next to Hugin’s, Malinowski spoke of maintaining dignity in campaign advertising.

We ran negative ads on his (Lance’s) healthcare votes, which I think were perfectly fair,” Malinowski said. “But you can make a case for yourself without demonizing them.”

One ad aimed at Malinowki said he “supported terrorists” when he lobbied, with John McCain, on laws to ban torture during the Iraq war. Malinowski was the advocacy director of the Human Rights Watch at the time.

“One woman came up to me and said, ‘I’m voting for you because of the negative ads (directed at him),” Malinowski said.

At my home voting place this morning, I saw a volunteer I’ve known for years. The best way to identify voting districts is by what day your neighborhood has the trash picked up.

“That’s appropriate, especially for this election,” Art Muti, Sr., said.

The real danger here, and it’s been escalating for years, is that people not willing to lower their own dignity bar, will decide to forego character assassination and not run.

“I just hope good people aren’t driven out by lowlife politics,” Malinowski said. “Politics matter because elections have consequences for the character of the country.”

Read more Mark Di Ionno

Inside the life of a Essex homicide detective

The other side of the story in superintendent public defecation case 

Mark Di Ionno may be reached at mdiionno@njadvancemedia.comFollow him on Twitter @MarkDiIonno. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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