By Chris Stone
Campaigning for Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar in Escondido’s Grape Day Park, Cohen laid out his recipe for helping first-time progressive candidates who he thinks have a chance to win in GOP districts.
“We need to find some way to stop Trump, and the only way to do it is to turn Congress from red to blue,” said the 67-year-old businessman two days after fellow Vermonter Bernie Sanders came to the county (for a Mike Levin rally).
“Essentially, people need to dig deep and do more than they’ve ever done before,” he said. “And for Jerry and I, we make ice cream, so that’s what digging deep is for us.”
The ice cream icons selected seven Democratic candidates across the nation to support. (Their 40-year-old company, sold in 2000 to Unilever, doesn’t endorse candidates.)
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On their own, they developed ice cream flavors for Campa-Najjar — Ammar-etto American Dream — and the six other House hopefuls. Later the pair will raffle off the treats as a fund-raiser.
Campa-Najjar’s custom blend has biscotti from Italy, coffee from Mexico and amaretto fudge swirl “from wherever the heck amaretto comes from,” Cohen told Times of San Diego.
The label on his ice cream reads: “Like Ammar himself, the ingredients in this container come from many far away countries. It’s a celebration of diversity in America, a nation of immigrants. The caffeine symbolizes a wake-up call for economic and social justice that Ammar will bring to Congress.”
It continued: “His opponent — indicted Congressman Hunter — is barred from eating this ice cream. Not just because he’s going to end up behind bars, but also because he’s been propped up by big money campaign donations that Ammar is working to ban.”
Speaking of Campa-Najjar’s 50th District opponent Duncan D. Hunter, Cohen said: “I just can’t believe the absurdity that this guy … is indicted and, according to the polls, he’s still got 50 percent of the vote.”
“It’s not a matter of politics,” Cohen said. “It’s a matter of common decency. And when you got a guy in the White House without common decency, it’s time for everybody to stand up — Republicans, Democrats, independents, everybody — and say, ‘No, this is not us. This guy does not represent us.’ And we’ve gotta stop him.”
Cohen’s stop in Escondido, in association with MoveOn, was his last of the campaign. Now he’s headed home to churn up 40 pints in his home freezer for each candidate.
Cohen also supported Stephany Rose Spaulding in Colorado, James Thompson in Kansas, J.D. Scholten in Iowa, Lauren Underwood in Illinois, Aftab Pureval in Ohio and Jess King in Pennsylvania. (Their own flavors were also suggested in an online contest.)
“Hopefully, we can shine a national light on this race,” he said on a warm day.
Cohen and Campa-Najjar hadn’t met earlier but together urged the crowd of about 75 people to vote next week.
Campa-Najjar predicted that his race may be the last one called nationally because of the time zone and tightness.
“The whole country could be watching with bated breath if we flip this seat and take back the House,” said the 29-year-old candidate. “Or we could fall one seat short. That’s what’s at stake.”
Campa-Najjar said it was “pretty darn American” to have an ice cream named after him. “I love it.”
“Our (Cohen and Campa-Najjar’s) platforms are not 100 percent in line,” the rookie candidate said. “My policies, my platform is tailored uniquely to my district, (but) we share the same values of equality and universal dignity.”
Campa-Najjar hurried from one event to the next Sunday with the election nine days away. But he turned his attention to Saturday’s killing of 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue.
Campa-Najjar had released a statement, expressing his sadness and horror over the tragedy.
“Congressman Hunter said nothing about this. Not even condolence. Nothing,” he said in a brief interview Sunday. “That highlights our contrast in this district.
“We have someone who will speak up against injustice and heinous acts of violence. Congressman Hunter’s silence is deafening on this issue and many others.”
Cohen had strong words for Trump and Saturday’s attack.
“I think the increase in violence … and hate in the country is a result of the president’s support of tactics like that,” he said. “(Trump) speaks from his podium about ‘roughin’ them up.”
Cohen says the president doesn’t condemn white supremacists.
“You know, he makes fun of people with disabilities,” he added. “Yeah, I think the issue is about hate and indifference vs. love and compassion.”
Saying Trump has a “me-first, screw-you” attitude that people take to an extreme, Cohen said, “I think he adds to it. I think he empowers. It used to be that people who were anti-Semitic or anti-black didn’t feel comfortable about coming out and expressing those thoughts, and … were restrained by common decency.”
Campa-Najjar, after his speech to volunteers and supporters, looked around for the free scoops of Chocolate Fudge Brownie, Stephen Colbert’s AmeriCone Dream and Cherry Garcia.
“I’m fired up and need to cool down,” said the former aide to President Obama.
He chose the fudge brownie.
Two supporters of President Trump arrived late to the event, garnered a scoop of ice cream. They ate under a tree before leaving.
Sean Colgan of Oceanside, one of the Trump fans, requested Stephen Colbert’s AmeriCone Dream, although he might like the ice cream more than he agrees with the late-night host’s opinions.
Cohen lingered in the park, talking until most people left and then helped a local Ben & Jerry’s employee take the remaining ice cream back to the truck.
Campa-Najjar mentioned the heat of the day and long hours his volunteers have donated.
“They deserve a little treat. A little sample of a treat. The biggest treat’s going to be on Nov. 6 when we win.”
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