True Blue: Elizabeth Graner

July 24, 2023

Elizabeth Graner may no longer chair the BTDC, but she’s a powerhouse nonetheless. Graner, who helmed the committee from 2020 to 2022, is in the thick of a second bid to represent legislative district 21 in the New Jersey General Assembly. But while her foray into state campaigns is relatively recent, she’s no stranger to the political scene. 

“My first paying job was in Allegheny County (PA),” Graner, 53, said. “A county committee person lived a couple of doors down from us and got me a job with the county treasurer.” At age 16, Graner regularly took the public bus to downtown Pittsburgh for the position, cementing her interest in the workings of government. She joined her high school chapter of Amnesty International and found herself in the thrall of Live Aid, the 1985 multi-act concert that featured dozens of popular bands and raised millions for famine relief. “My politics were shaped by being a Clash fan,” she half-joked.

College found Graner involved with Women United for Justice and Peace, an organization at the University of Notre Dame, which Graner did not attend but whose classes and activities she was able to enjoy as a student at St. Mary’s, a nearby women’s college. After graduation, Graner joined her then-husband in New Jersey, where he worked for a state senator in Union County. “I was by default involved that way,” she said, recalling a literature drop for assembly member Jim Kennedy, who was at the time serving as mayor of Rahway. Graner also volunteered with ex-governor Jon Corzine’s first Senate campaign and served on the Union County Committee for many years.

In the wake of a divorce, Graner, who had pivoted to a career as an English teacher at Rahway High School, started pondering a move away from the neighborhood she’d called home for decades. Needing a good school district for her teenage son, Patrick, she ended up in Basking Ridge at the end of 2016. “A nice little townhouse just seemed like the right place for us,” she said. 

Graner’s move coincided with Donald Trump’s election, an event that spurred her to seek out a local Democratic contingent. “I was aghast at what I was seeing,” she recalled of the election and its aftermath. She discovered the BTDC, attended her first meeting, and quickly was immersed in the Democratic campaign for Bernards Township Committee. From there, it was an upward trajectory to becoming BTDC chair.

When not teaching, campaigning, or working for the BTDC, Graner enjoys spending time with Patrick, now a 20-year-old junior at Union College in Schenectady, New York, and her fiance, Mike. She’s also a fan of reading, writing, hiking, and lazing on her couch with one or more of her four pets, a pointer-mix pooch and three cats. 

But politics is never far from her mind, whether it’s her assembly campaign or more local goings-on. As for her goals for the BTDC? “I want them to keep up the momentum” she said, referring to the energy created when Joan Bannan was elected to the Township Committee in 2017, the first Democrat in years to do so. “I want to see them continue.”

 BY LAURIE SALOMAN

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