November 8, 2022
Liberty House, Jersey City, New Jersey
Thank you all so much for this evening. So many of you have been part of this journey from the very beginning and I wouldn’t be here without you.
Raj, you are an incredible friend and you are an incredible advocate for Jersey City.
I am so excited to see you elevate to the Senate next year and to continue to watch you serve this district that you love, that you grew up in, that you want to give back to.
Raj has been an incredible leader, and he is going to continue to be an incredible leader. My friend, Raj Mukherji.
I want to thank Chairman Vainieri for his leadership of the party here in Hudson County. You can never take anything for granted. This is a Democratic county, but you need to continue to work hard to build it up.
That is what he is doing. He is an incredible chairman, he will take this party in the right direction…our friend, Chairman Vainieri.
To a man who has given his life to public service. He was a schoolteacher, he was a Mayor, he was an Assemblyman, he was Speaker of the Assembly, and he was a Congressman. And I get the sense that his career in public service is not done yet.
I am stepping in very big shoes. Because Albio Sires has been a legend, a giant for this district. He has fought every day of his life for the betterment of the people of West New York, the people of Hudson County, and the people of the 8th Congressional District… my friend, my mentor, Albio Sires.
I had the chance to see the Chairman of our party, LeRoy Jones, who was here earlier. He was kind enough to come to Hudson and spend part of his night with us. I am thankful for his leadership of our party here in New Jersey and I am so humbled I get to call him a friend.
I understand Senator Ruiz is here. Senator Ruiz is a tireless advocate for the people she represents. When you think about the challenges people are facing in their lives and you think about what solutions might exist, she is looking to find them.
She constantly challenges her peers, she challenges her friends in the Legislature to do a better job, to show up for the people that she is representing. She is an incredible talent…my friend, Senator Ruiz.
Thank you to all the mayors, all the council people, all the commissioners, all the state senators, all the Assemblypeople who made this moment possible.
My two running mates, Junior Maldonado and Frank Schillari… they are incredible public servants. It was an honor as a first-time candidate to get to share a ticket with them, so I thank them both so much.
Our Governor is an incredible force for this state. No one asked for COVID, no one asked for the pandemic to be delivered to our doorstep. But the moment called for leadership, decisive leadership, to take action and to do what’s best for people in New Jersey.
That is what we ask our elected officials to do. And Governor Murphy has always done right by the people of New Jersey.
That is what makes him an incredible leader. My friend, my leader, Phil Murphy.
I’m thankful for my father being here.
I grew up in a house of public service. My father was already starting his political career when he was 18 years old.
And what really was instilled in both my sister and I was to care for your community. My mother was a public school educator for her entire career. And I always saw her concern for others, her empathy for the struggles that people have in their lives.
That was what was part of the house. It wasn’t the politics. It wasn’t how you win elections. It was about caring for people and understanding people’s struggles and what we can do if we give more of ourselves to the cause.
What can we do? That was the question that my father always asked and answered by giving himself to public service.
I am so incredibly honored that I have had the chance to learn alongside him for 37 years. I am so incredibly humbled by his support for 37 years. He’s my United States Senator, he’s my father, and I love him. Dad, thank you for coming tonight.
The thing that my father and I share the most is a lineage which starts with my grandmother, his mother, Evanglina Menendez. And what that means today is before my father was born, my grandmother and my grandfather left Cuba thinking they were always going to come back. But they never had that opportunity.
So what they had to do was to give up the only life they knew and start again. And as a father of two young children, I think about that all the time and what it means. What sacrifice, what grit that takes to start your life all over again in a country where you don’t speak the language, where you have few friends but that for the betterment of your family, you will make that sacrifice for them.
Whenever I have tough days on the campaign, whenever there are challenges in our community and in our country, I think about my grandmother’s determination and what that means in this moment for all of us – to find our inner grit, to find that tenacity to meet the moment that courses through our veins. And while they may not be here, I do want to just acknowledge my two grandmothers.
People thank their spouses at times like this, for support, for enabling them to run for public office. I want to thank Alex for so much more. She not just enabled me to do this from the logistics of having two young children, being out at events constantly but helping me become the person I am in this moment.
From the time that we met to this day, she has always pushed me to be the best version of myself that I could be. And for all the tools and gifts I may have been given over the course of my life, I guarantee you that I could not be here today if I did not marry this woman. So Alex, thank you for everything.
In terms of getting to this moment, I have to thank all of the folks who joined our leanly-staffed machine of a campaign. I believe in the adage that “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
Michael and Steph… I am thankful for both of them. They both made immense sacrifices to take this leap of faith with me, a first-time candidate. You guys have gotten us to this point, you guys have delivered, you have dealt with me on the most difficult days, on the best of days and I appreciate both of you, for being part of this journey. So thank you, Steph and Michael.
Mike Soliman has been there from day one. He has made sure that I thought about this and approached this in the most professional way possible. The fact that we have won so much of the vote is a testament to Mike. He has been incredible throughout this campaign. He’s given me countless hours. He’s given me his experience which I’ve had the opportunity to absorb. I’m so thankful for you.
Brad Lawrence and Juan Melli who helped me crystalize my vision of what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it and how I could absorb what I was hearing and say it back to people so they understood that I cared, that I was listening, that I was doing my best to absorb their challenges and do my best to meet those challenges with solutions, with ideas that would make their lives better. Brad, Juan, thank you both so much.
To the finance team – Sam, Gillian, Bryn, Rafi, you guys are the best.
Our volunteers are incredible. So many folks who have given their time to us and for our younger volunteers, who have given me a renewed hope that there is interest in this experiment that we started over 200 years ago, and that there is hope that if we pay it forward and teach them what we know, this country will be in better hands moving forward.
So to all those who volunteered – whether you took me to your place of worship, whether you held a community meet-and-greet – I am so thankful for all of you, it means the world to me.
One of the things that has always been a challenge and concern to me about this role is that sometimes people win elective office and they change who they are. That is not something that I will ever do. But it is helpful to have friends who keep you tethered to the ground.
Someone once asked me what the difference between being blessed and being lucky is. And when I didn’t have a good answer, she said “Rob, you are blessed to have such wonderful friends in your life that they care about you and you care about them.” She said “And you are lucky because they put up with you when they don’t have to.” So I am tonight, both very blessed, and very lucky.
There is one more group of people who have from day one meant the world to me. My mother and grandmother were NJEA members, my grandfather was a steelworker, my cousin was a tin-knocker. And once we were able to gather the political support to give us the momentum we needed, the first thing we did was reach out to our brothers and sisters in organized labor.
We have our friends Charlie and Laurel from the AFL-CIO here. We have Barry Kushnir who couldn’t be here because he just ran the New York City Marathon, we have the Hudson County CLC, the Hudson County Building Trades, they have all been incredible every single step of the way. We showed up every single Saturday for every single labor walk because showing up matters. And they were there throughout the entire process. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without them. And when you think about our economy, when you think about the struggles of working families, if you want to see people who believe in the future of this country, go to a union hall. And you will see people there who are paying it forward. They are thinking about the opportunities for the next generation of workers. That’s what we need in this country. So to my brothers and sisters in labor, thank you all so much.
I was speaking with the Teamsters when Al Rispoli said something that resonated with me…we were talking about the challenges that his particular union was facing and he said “Rob I have been fighting my entire life”… and I told him we’ll all be fighting our entire lives, that the work is never done. Because what I’ve come to realize is that in this country, there is no finish line, and that the work will always continue.
If you need evidence of this, you have to look no further than the Dobbs decision which took our country back 50 years and further restricted a woman’s right to reproductive choice.
You have to look no further than Buffalo where an 18 year-old drove two and a half hours to take as many black lives as he could.
You have to look no further than Uvalde, where 19 children and two teachers had their lives taken in a classroom that looks much like the one that my sister and I attended growing up in Union City.
But I have also been reminded that Rabbi Tarfon used to say, “It is not for you to finish the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.” We announced our candidacy on the first anniversary of the insurrection at the Capitol, because that day reflected the worst of what our country has become.
Being a father has given me greater clarity of purpose, because I have to ask myself each and every day, if this country, in this iteration, in this moment, is the country I am willing to have my children, your children, your grandchildren grow up in.
And you have to ask yourself are we going to continue to allow our children to be the victims of gun violence in their own classrooms?
Are we going to continue to allow our houses of worship to be scenes of hate-filled violence? We just had here in New Jersey a threat against synagogues, not just a week ago. If you think it doesn’t exist, here in our own backyard, it does.
Are we going to continue to allow our neighbors to live in the shadows because we refuse to fix our broken immigration system in a way that protects the dignity and humanity of those who have already contributed so much to the fabric of our communities?
Are we going to continue to allow race and gender to determine the quality of the healthcare that our families receive?
Are we going to continue to allow the state one lives in to determine a woman’s right to reproductive choice?
Are we going to continue to allow trans children to be targeted by the extreme right or are we going to speak up for them?
Are we going to continue to allow hate to be the architect of our future?
Or are we going to say that we’ve had enough.
Because it’s not enough to know that we are so much better as a country than we are today. The time has come when we have to prove it. We have to prove it to our neighbors, prove it to our families, prove it to our children, prove it to ourselves.
Because while it is not for us to finish the work, we can no longer wait for the work to begin.
It starts here tonight. It starts with each and everyone of us. We must bend the arc towards justice so that our children and grandchildren can one day realize the full potential that this great country has to offer.
And when you think that you cannot, remember your own grandmother, remember the person who in your family made the sacrifices so that you could have the opportunities you’ve been afforded in your life. When you think you can’t, think of them. And if we remember those who have come before us we can find the strength to forge the road ahead.
We can meet this moment. And together, we will.
I am so thankful for each and every one of you. This is just the beginning but the road… the work, lies ahead. And we will do it together.
Thank you all so much. Good night.