Will The Real Anna Little Please Stand Up

220px-to_tell_the_truth_1956-1968By Art Gallagher

Has anybody seen the real Anna Little lately?   I haven’t seen her in months.

I’ve been intentionally restraining myself from writing about Anna Little since election day.  We have a long history.  Given that history, I offered her inner circle, which despite perceptions to the contrary I am not a member of, a private critique of what worked and what didn’t work about her congressional campaign.  If not for our relationship, I just would have written my observations as I have after every election since I started this blog.

Little’s recent actions as Mayor of Highlands, my hometown, and the decision she will have to make next week over a labor agreement with the Highlands PBA compel me to treat her as I would any other public figure and write my observations with the candor I’ve been known for, yet have been withholding in her case.

When I started preparing this piece, it reminded me of the long running TV game show To Tell The Truth which ran in various forms from 1956 through 2002.  The show featured a panel of four celebrities who were charged with correctly identifying a described contestant with an unusual occupation or experience.  The “real” contestant and two impostors won the game if they fooled the panel.  The real contestant was sworn to tell the truth when answering panelists’ questions.  The impostors could lie. The game was over when the host said “Will the real X please stand up?”

220px-sybil_dvdThe more I worked on the piece, the more I realized that To Tell The Truth didn’t fit.  There were more than two impostors and they all inhabited the same body.  Maybe Sybil is a more appropriate analogy.  I don’t know that the psycho drama fits, but the multiple personalities and characters may be the majority of Little’s remaining supporters. Her Army is quickly becoming a figment of her imagination.

I think the real Anna Little is the woman I’ve known for almost 10 years.  She’s been a principled public servant who would fight to do the right thing.  She would fight for an ideal, regardless of the power and resources of her foes, winning and losing political battles, with scars.  Often she produced improbable results.  She always landed on her feet and emerged from battle with a smile.  She was uncompromising to the point of being a pain the ass, but she was usually right.

The real Anna Little started the year as a Tea Party mama grizzly with charm.  Tri-City News publisher Dan Jacobson called her “Sarah Palin with brains.”  Her stump speech for the CD-6 congressional primary was musical and inspiring. It hit all the patriotic notes and inspired the best in her audiences.  While she was challenging the establishment, she positioned herself as a uniter, promising the local and state party leadership that win or lose the primary she would rally her Tea Party supporters behind the Republican ticket. 

Little delivered on her unity promise, partially, when she supported Joe Oxley for reelection as Monmouth County GOP Chairman hours after her stunning and improbable primary victory over Diane Gooch was official.  However, she only went so far in uniting the troops.  She never healed the primary wounds with the Gooch camp.  There was griping and sniping from the Little camp throughout the general election campaign that the local GOP was not doing enough for her. She let that fester.  While there was public unity with the Monmouth and Middlesex leadership, Little repeatedly snubbed the Union County GOP leadership.  For now, let’s just say that Little’s horrendous showing in Plainfield was not solely the result of Frank Pallone’s superior ground game in the city.

The “real” Anna Little would not let those wounds fester.

Once she got her bearings in place for the general election, Little positioned herself as a “Chris Christie Republican” rather than a “Mama Grizzly.”  This was not a Sybilesque malady, but smart political strategy.   Christie had won the 6th congressional district in the previous election and his popularity was strong among the constituencies Little would have to win over in her quest to unseat Pallone.

When Little is on her game, her communications skills rival Christie’s and Palin’s.   However, as the campaign progressed the inspiring stump speech she consistently delivered during the primary was often replaced with a defensive justification of her candidacy that fell flat.  At home she would tell her audiences how much the national GOP and PACs in Washington loved her, as if the campaign was about her and as if her audiences cared.   In Washington, she would tell her audiences how loved she was at home.

She was on her game and at her very best when among her enthusiastic supporters.  Her performances at the debate at Temple Shalom in Aberdeen and at the health care forum in Red Bank were extraordinary.  However, when in the presence of those who challenged her and without her “Army” to back her up, Little was often strident and argumentative. Her appearances with NJN’s Michael Aron, before the editorial boards of the Star Ledger and Asbury Park Press and one on one versus Pallone on News 12 are examples of when she was not at her best and needed to be.

Where was the “real” Anna Little?

Behind the scenes, Little actively alienated herself from long term supporters who would frankly tell her the truth about what was working and not working.  It was as if she took constructive criticism from team members as personal attacks.  The “real” Anna Little wouldn’t do that.  She would argue and debate with trusted team members and then make a decision.  The Anna Little that showed up during the general election campaign turned her back on her best local advisers and surrounded herself with “yes” men and women and people who did not know the district.  She’d gone from a Palinesque Tea Partier, to a Christie Republican, to a Nixonian paranoid.

As the campaign reached its critical peak in mid-October, Little introduced yet another personality.  She took a hard right turn and morphed into a Mike Huckabee Republican, only without the cornball charm.  The fair tax, abortion and strict Ron Paulesque constitutionalist philosophy were not issues to emphasize during the last weeks of a general election campaign. Not when she had polling data that indicated a moderate Republican could defeat Pallone.  She was pandering to her Right to Life supporters who were upset with how she handled the life question during her NJN appearance with Aron.

Despite these problems which were grumbled about behind the scenes among Tea Partiers and Regular Republicans alike, Little’s political stock was flying sky high, even after the polls closed and she lost by double digits when most observers were expecting a nail biter.  In the final days of the election Monmouth County politicos were rooting for her victory because they didn’t want to have to compete with her in the event of a vacancy in the State Legislature after redistricting.   Win or lose, she was expected to be a force to be reckoned with in Monmouth County politics.  

In perhaps the fastest fall from grace since the Howard Dean scream, Little squandered torched that hard fought for political capitol before she got off the stage at her Shore Casino headquarters on election night.  Apparently concerned about insulting either her Tea Party supporters or Regular Republicans who she never truly united, Little insulted both in her concession speech which was short on humility and gratitude and included an announcement of her 2012 candidacy for congress in a district that hasn’t been drawn yet, and the formation of three new political organizations, including one called “Anna’s Army” which she apparently presumed all of her hardworking supporters would just sign on for without any acknowledgement of what they had just finished doing and sacrificing.   Did she expect to lose?  How else could she have planned and even named these three new organizations within two hours of the polls closing?   One television reporter commented on the air that Anna Little just wants the limelight. 

Was this the “real” Anna Little?  Did she have me fooled all these years?  Was I the one who misunderstood her when I argued with others that they didn’t really know who she was?  Maybe so.

This brings me to the present and why I’m writing this piece that has been eating me up inside since November 2.

I can support the Tea Party Mama Grizzly, the Christie Republican or the Huckabee Republican.  The Nixonian paranoid is tough to deal with, but I’m Irish too and have dealt with such passive aggression for 52 years.   I could forgive the election night performance and help her recover some of the political capitol she squandered.  But I can’t support a Republican Mayor who is turning into a Corzine style Democrat as her latest character.

On December 1st Little sandbagged her Republican colleagues on the Highlands Council.  She showed up unexpectedly and joined the Democrats on the council in approving a hastily drawn labor agreement that will either needlessly increase the costs of Highlands government or handcuff her successor in managing Highlands budget like Jon Corzine did when he made a hasty deal with the state workers unions on primary day in 2009 so that Vice President Joe Biden would join him on the stage for his campaign kickoff. Corzine’s deal prevented Governor Christie from laying off state workers during the first year of his administration.   Little’s deal probably won’t prevent layoffs in the Highlands Police Department.  More likely the deal will end up costing Highlands taxpayers between $60,000 and $150,000 over the next two fiscal years.  Little knows this.

The payoff for Corzine’s expensive sellout was clear. What Little thinks she accomplishing, after assuring her Republican colleagues that she was with them, is a mystery.  Maybe she’s delusional enough to think that her actions will win her union support in her hypothetical rematch with Pallone in 2012.  Hopefully she just had a bad night and didn’t realize the consequences of her actions, despite her words to the contrary that evening and since.

Fortunately Little has a second chance with this one.  The PBA agreement has to be voted on again on Wednesday December 15th.  Little could miss the meeting, which means the agreement would not carry on a 2-2 vote. Or one of the Republican Littles could show up.  For the sake of Highlands taxpayers, I hope the Little Corzine does not show up.

Posted: December 11th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Anna Little, Highlands, Highlands PBA | Tags: , , | 13 Comments »

13 Comments on “Will The Real Anna Little Please Stand Up”

  1. Joe said at 11:31 pm on December 11th, 2010:

    I can tell you she did not think she was going to lose!

  2. Charles M said at 11:38 pm on December 11th, 2010:

    A fake I don’t think so. Too many different people telling her to do different things maybe.

  3. Kelly said at 12:40 am on December 12th, 2010:

    I don’t blame Anna for her current tactics, not a big fan of hers, but she seems to be looking for some camaraderie. Obviously her ‘inner circle’ wasn’t really with her when she started to ‘Sybil’ if they were, they would have been able to talk her out of looking like someone who couldn’t take the heat. If I was compared to that dolt Sarah Palin, I would flip sides faster than a pancake.

  4. Ray Goddard said at 2:38 am on December 12th, 2010:

    As a close friend of Anna and the entire family, I do not believe she forgot her inner circle. She was swayed by the Washington people who showed up in the 11th hour to “help her”. Larry, the DC. campaign manager took charge in the last weeks, and she listened to everything he said. I watched it up close and personal including the night before the election. In fact, Larry suggested that she vote with the democratcs because ” we don’t want the PBA to be unhappy”. In fairness to Anna, I never ran for Congress, so I don’t blame her for taking outside advice. I do not agree that she should just not show up on 12/15. Show up and vote to support Mr. Nolan and vote for his agenda. He has been working on this for 6 months. The hard fact is that we will have to lay off officers in the near future. It may be in the best interests of the officers and the town to do it now. Cowards hid, Anna is not one of those. Tell Larry, you know what is best for Highlands, and we do not need his help or advice on this one.

  5. Gonzervative said at 11:10 am on December 12th, 2010:

    I gave my full support to Anna and do not regret doing so. I do agree with much of that article, being one of the people “sort of” in the middle of the whole thing. When I say “sort of” I mean that along with many, many others, was a large part of the success of the campaign, but were left out of too much of the behind the scenes activities, and it created confusion and caused opinions to be formed. I agree with the election night fiasco, I must say. There were people there that were devastated and just got left there on the dance floor like a wallflower without a date. Maybe thats just the way it goes in politics, so that’s why I will never be in it. Leave me here on the sidelines to do my homework and research and one baby step at a time, try to fix my damn state and country. I know I have lots of folks right there with me on that, anyway.

  6. Tweets that mention MoreMonmouthMusings » Blog Archive » Will The Real Anna Little Please Stand Up -- Topsy.com said at 11:24 am on December 12th, 2010:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by James DuBois, Art Gallagher. Art Gallagher said: Will the real Anna Little please stand up: http://www.moremonmouthmusings.net/2010/12/11/will-the-real-anna-little-please-stand-up/ […]

  7. Insider said at 5:31 pm on December 12th, 2010:

    about three quarters of the way through her campaign Anna stopped comunicating to her staff. All communications went through a recent college graduate that was her aide. No one could speak directly to her. Apparently this was because she did not like the advice she was getting from her staff. BTW her staff was united in the advice they were giving her and they were starting to revolt whaen Larry showed up. He moved into one of the bungalows behind her house and started yesing her to death.
    If she had listened to her staff instead of thinking she knew more then everyone else she might have done better.
    I regretted supporting her after seeing how she ran a campaign and how she reacted to the pressures of a campaign. Anna was right on all the issues but it takes more then just being right.Many of the people who were closest to her in the beginning would never work for her again.

  8. Proud Republican said at 9:57 pm on December 12th, 2010:

    Why on God’s green earth would Anna want to keep the PBA happy? These damn unions are destroying the state and the country – she should be fighting them tooth and nail. Everyone hates the unions and everyone wants them broken. Get with it Anna, and start looking out for the taxpayers, not the effing unions.

  9. Gretel said at 11:58 pm on December 12th, 2010:

    I suggest you ask Anna the reason for her decision on the contract and then publish her answer. You may be surprised at what you learn.

  10. ArtGallagher said at 12:59 am on December 13th, 2010:


    Anna offered her explanation last week. I published it then and linked it to this story. I am happy to link it again here: http://www.moremonmouthmusings.net/2010/12/04/little-addresses-the-highlands-pba-deal/

  11. Middletown Republican said at 4:44 am on December 13th, 2010:

    Very good analysis. While not on the inside, I sensed there were problems. Anna loves being on stage. Don’t forget her drama background. To me, she seemed more into the applause and audience approval then driving home her message. She lost focus along the way.

  12. it's Christmas.. said at 5:40 pm on December 13th, 2010:

    so, emphasizing the positive the most,never have I honestly seen such a successful, against-all-odds, seat-of-the-pants effort!..thinkmof it: she went from assured underdog/loser, to winner, to gotta- get- it- going fast, to running to the groups and DC and dialing for dollars, to door-knocking, to debating, to media, to maybe- she- can- do it, to hometown- betrayal, to some missteps, to now- what- to -emphasize, to how to manage newcomers, to how to pacify and work with the org. that didn’t want her in the first place, to statewide focus with the Gov., to people dropping out and coming in, on and on-I can fully understand how disjointed and out of control it can get, and, for the most part, they really all tried hard with good intentions, and did a commendable job!..it’s not easy at all to be at your best, every day at every appearance, while all that’s swirling around in the background….in the end, as many of us feared, despite the best intentions of many, the “green machine” needed only to paint her as a radical on tv and radio at the end, and to do what he does best: use the huge kitty to pay!!.. hope to see the district vastly changed, and, why can’t she announce she’s running again on election night?.. it’s still America, and that’s her dream, and who knows what two yrs. will bring for any of us?….I think, deservedly so, she was crushed by the numbers,after so much physical and mental effort..also, do not blame her for the bravado, it’s how one stops the tears of frustration and disappointment, and I thought her attitude, spunk and words were quite inspiring, with the main focus on her family, and I did hear her gratitude for all the work of the volunteers, and it was great tv,with the number of folks there, the personal photos and touches the staff had around, the upbeat music and spirit, compared to dopey ol’ Flatfoot and a few paid union goons at his nearly-empty HQ!..yes, they were flawed in some ways, but sure caused the oldsters and establishment to take serious notice, and show up, and that’s a good thing!..if it means they all pay more attention in succeeding years, bravo, and we will benefit..ok, she’s a dramatic personality, but still principled and tough, and I still hope she meets a race in the future she can win, because she was probably born to do that crazy running-thing, and I still would rather have her votes, than three quarters of the other lib-wackos down there in DC’s votes, any day!..as for her town, they will have to face someday what many of our favorite small towns will face sooner than later, and, remember some of her folks there have switched from one side to the other at whim, and some were obviously jealous of her notoriety, and they’ll do what they think they gotta do, and it’ll likely cost more like it always does, for all of us!.. so, cut her some slack, and wish her well, wherever she goes and whatever she decides to do..unless you’ve “fought the good fight” in a big race, you just can’t/don’t get all that it entails:if you care, and commit so much of your body and soul to a cause to not succeed, it’s just life-changing, and never quite leaves ya!..

  13. ArtGallagher said at 9:46 pm on December 13th, 2010:

    Lots of people have cut her loads of slack.

    I’m drawing the line at this PBA deal. Its nonsense and she’s digging her self deep into a hole she likely won’t recover from.