P.O.Box 113 Cranbury, New Jersey 08512 (609) 466-7344
Dubbing her campaign "Mrs. Kidder for Congress," a member of the Reform Party from Princeton Township declared her candidacy Thursday for the 12th Congressional District seat held by Rep. Michael Pappas.
The Reform Party of New Jersey is the self-described "Ross Perot-inspired" independent party which has advocated campaign finance reform, legislative term limits, ending the North American Free Trade Agreement and preserving the Second Amendment's right to own guns.
The 12th Congressional district consists of all of Hunterdon County, and portions of Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, and Somerset counties.
Beverly Kidder, 50, lives on The Great Road and owns a furniture consignment shop. She has not held elective office before. Mrs. Kidder was an active volunteer for the Perot campaign and acted as Perot's New Jersey press secretary in both 1992 and 1996.
She holds a bachelor of science degree from the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh, and was president of Advance Marketing Group, an advertising agency.
"I am running because there is a vacuum in the 12th District — and all vacuums are filled," Mrs. Kidder said.
Mrs. Kidder said she hopes to siphon off Republican votes from incumbent Rep. Pappas, who is seeking re-election. Mr. Pappas also is being challenged by Democrat Rush Holt.
"I have a lot of Republican women signing my petition that don't want to vote for Mr. Pappas because of his position on social issues," Mrs. Kidder said.
Also, she noted, the growing number of registered Independent voters in New Jersey means that residents don't like the choices offered by either the Democratic or Republican party, Mrs. Kidder said.
"There are more Independents than Republicans or Democrats combined," she declared. "Clearly, the two major parties have failed."
In the six communities served by The Princeton Packet, there are 8,996 Democrats, 7,113 Republicans and 140 Independents. There are 31,616 undeclared registered voters.
If elected, Mrs. Kidder said she would serve no more than three terms in the House. "I certainly subscribe to term limits." Attacking Mr. Pappas for his "extreme views," Mrs. Kidder said he is not representative of the "socially moderate and fiscally conservative" 12th Congressional District.
By contrast, Mrs. Kidder said she would protect a woman's right to an abortion, and see that all insurance plans covering prescription drugs also cover birth control pills. Mrs. Kidder said she also supports campaign finance reform.
Mrs. Kidder disagreed with the House of Representatives recent passing of a bill that denied approval of RU-486 and other "morning after" pills, despite the Food and Drug Administration deeming the drugs safe.
"I don't even have to look up how Mr. Pappas voted on this one," she said. "I would have voted against this bill." Calls to Mr. Pappas' office in Washington, D.C., were not returned Thursday. But Mr. Holt said he is not concerned about the entry of another candidate in the race.
"It doesn't change my strategy to campaign against Michael Pappas," he said. "I'm still going to all the five counties talking about the kitchen table issues."
A successful campaign could net an independent, like Mrs. Kidder, 5 or 6 percent of the vote, said David Rebovich, professor of political science at Rider University. "The trick is, if she's able to get the voters motivated to go out to the polls and vote," he said.
However, he said, the name recognition of Ross Perot might have faded since his 1992 heyday.
Mr. Rebovich, who teaches a class on third parties in American politics, found his 20-something students knew very little about Mr. Perot. "When I asked 'who is Ross Perot,' the response was that he's the guy with big ears," Mr. Rebovich said. Until a federal court decision earlier this year, New Jersey laws had required Independents to declare their candidacy in mid-April, at the same time Democrats and Republicans candidates filed for their respective June primaries. The Independents countered that unlike the major parties, they don't have primaries, and that the earlier filing date was a hardship — and the courts agreed.
The new decision, which is being appealed by the state, allows independents until July 27 to file their petitions.
Democratic plans to take out freshman Republican Congressman Michael Pappas got a bit complicated yesterday when third-party activist Beverly Kidder, an early supporter of independent presidential candidate Ross Perot, declared her candidacy for Congress in the 12th District.
Kidder, a founding state vice chairwoman of the Perot-inspired Reform Party, said she intends to aim her candidacy at some of the same voters who would be key to any Democrat bent on upsetting the conservative Pappas in the Republican-leaning district.
"A pro-choice female would have a large chance in the district," she said.
She said she also plans to appeal to workers upset with the loss of jobs overseas, and to fiscal conservatives who don't buy either the Republican or Democratic line that the current federal budget is balanced.
"They have used the Social Security trust fund to cover the true deficit," she said.
Pappas is the Democratic Party's No.1 New Jersey target in House races this fall. The 12th District stretches across the middle of the state from Hunterdon County through parts of Mercer, Somerset, Middlesex and Monmouth counties.
Rush Holt, the Democratic candidate in the race, said he did not believe Kidder's candidacy would complicate his own campaign plans.
"It doesn't change anything I'm doing," he said. "I remain very optimistic about this race."
But Rick Thigpen, executive director of the Democratic State Committee, said the possibility of losing anti-Pappas votes to a third candidate would hurt.
Pappas could not be reached for comment yesterday, but GOP State Chairman Garabed "Chuck" Haytaian said he was not sure how an independent candidate would affect the race.
"If her views are the same as Ross Perot, it could have an impact," he said. "But I can't say if it hurts Pappas or Holt."
Perot staged a big rally in the 1992 presidential race in Flemington, which is in the 12th District. He received 17 percent of the presidential vote in the district in 1992, but only 8 percent in 1996.
Former President George Bush carried the district in 1992 by 3 percentage points, while President Clinton ran 6 points ahead of Republican Bob Dole in 1996.
Kidder, 50, has been associated with Perot since the Texas billionaire launched his first campaign for president in 1992. She served as a state spokewoman for that campaign, and later went on to leadership roles in United We Stand America and the Reform Party.
Her campaign announcement was considered significant enough to bring Russell Verney, the national chairman of the Reform Party, up to Trenton from Dallas headquarters.
Verney said Reform Party leaders viewed Pappas as vulnerable because he won his first term in 1996 by just 3 percentage points.
"There are strong independent-minded voters in the distrtict," he added. "Bev can be competitive and win. The third party is not the wasted vote here. It's the Democratic vote which is wasted."
The Reform Party is running candidates for Congress in at least 13 other states, although the filing deadlines have not passed in many states. The filing deadline for New Jersey independent candidates is July 27 this year. Richard Rivera, 28, a former West New York police officer, said yesterday he plans to file as a Reform Party candidate in the heavily Democratic 13th District.
Kidder grew up in Illinois and Wisconsin and moved to New Jersey in 1990. She lives in Princeton Township and with her husband owns a furniture gallery and consignment store.
With a background in advertising and marketing, she said she purposely chose "Mrs. Kidder" for her campaign literature, believing it would separate herself from her two male rivals and not lead anyone to conclude she was "a radical feminist."
Township resident Beverly Kidder, 50, last week declared her candidacy for the 12th Congressional District at a press conference in Trenton.
On Monday, the Great Road resident walked into the offices of TOWN TOPICS to announce, "I'm running against Michael Pappas."
She is, of course, also running against Democrat Rush Holt; but it is the policies of Pappas, the Republican, that she cites as her reasons for running as an independent candidate.
A founding member of the Reform Party of New Jersey, inspired by 1992 Presidential candidate Ross Perot, Ms. Kidder describes herself as "pro-choice and a tightwad." She points out, "Nothing has really changed since '92, except that everything has gotten worse."
A member of the Reform Party Corporation of New Jersey's board of directors, Ms. Kidder served as press secretary for "New Jersey for Perot" in both 1992 and 1996. She also filled leadership roles in "United We Stand America" and the Reform Party.
She says she will appeal to workers upset about the migration of their jobs overseas and to fiscal conservatives who subscribe to neither Republican nor Democratic assurances that the federal budget is balanced.
"Everyone in Washington knows that they've used the Social Security Trust Fund to cover the true deficit," the candidate charges.
Another primary focus of her campaign is the availability of birth control to all women. "I think that all insurance plans that cover prescription drugs should also cover birth control," she states.
She also blasts the House of Representatives for its recent vote against U.S. approval of RU-486 and similar morning-after pills. "The FDA declared this drug safe and effective two years ago. I don't even have to look up how Mr. Pappas voted on this one. I would have voted [for approval]," she says.
Ms. Kidder believes that low-voter turnout is a "message from the people that they don't like the choices." More voters are registered in New Jersey as independents than as Democrats and Republicans combined, she says. "Clearly the two major parties have failed."
Ms. Kidder has never before held any public office, although she has been a political organizer since her college days, when she was campus coordinator for the National Organization for Women at the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh. She holds a B.S. degree from that university.
With her husband Jason, the candidate owns Decorators Consignment Gallery, a furniture gallery and consignment store in Blawenburg. She was formerly president of Advance Marketing Group, an advertising agency.
"Our furniture business is closed for the month of August; I have told my husband that he is going to have to run it alone for September and October," she noted at the press conference.
"I am running because there is a vacuum in the 12th District - and all vacuums are filled," Ms. Kidder says.
"I want to say that with the scandals in our nation's capital, there is an extra reason to vote for me," she adds, tongue in cheek. "When I am elected, there will be less testosterone in Washington!"