In advance of the June 3 primary election in New Jersey, on Mondays in May, The Inquirer's South Jersey Commentary page will run short op-eds on the issues by candidates in the First Congressional District race. Candidates who have not yet submitted essays should contact commentary editor Kevin Ferris at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My campaign is about restoring democracy to South Jersey. For too long, we have lived in the shadow of those who count for more than all the rest of us do. This political machine has subverted the process and put a stranglehold on the economy. The machine knows no party, no ideology, no principles. It exists to grow its power, to feed off taxes, and to make people dependent on it.
I am one man, but I reflect the concerns of many. A fair, honest, and open process is what we seek.
Democracy is about free men and women confronting problems together and - regardless of perspective or ideology - finding a way forward together. Democracy requires humility, patience, and a level playing field. We haven't had that in South Jersey for some time.
South Jersey needs jobs, and we need to understand who creates jobs. They don't come from some political boss - they come from the dreams and aspirations of people with ideas. Working men and women create opportunities for other working men and women, and they should be given the freedom to do so. I know that a job is hope - a hand up and a way out.
Education must engage our children, must make them want to learn. Communities must be free to try new things, to be engines of creativity and reinvention. That's why I reject the cookie-cutter approach to education. Children are as different as there are ways of exciting their minds to learn, and to succeed, we need local, community control over schools, dedicated teachers, and involved parents.
Freedom is a sacred word to Americans. People have fought for it in different ways - on battlefields far from home, and on streets and in city halls here at home. The Bill of Rights is the guarantor of every American's civil rights. I will defend the rights of a free people to be governed by their consent and not bullied or coerced by a political machine.
I am running to represent the First Congressional District because South Jersey needs to have an effective advocate in Washington who understands the issues that matter most to our families. As a lifelong South Jersey resident raised in a middle-class household, and as an electrician with IBEW Local 351 advocating on behalf of working men and women for the past quarter-century, I know firsthand the struggles and aspirations of our local residents.
Since I was elected to the New Jersey Legislature in 2010, my focus has been on creating well-paying jobs for workers, providing affordable, world-class higher-education opportunities for students and families, and fighting for our region's fair share of resources from the state and federal governments. As a member of Congress, I will continue these efforts to provide opportunity and affordability for all and to stand up for South Jersey in our nation's capital.
As a state senator, I have worked hard to reach across the aisle and craft solutions to the problems facing our residents. I have focused on strengthening our region's core industries, including our colleges and universities, hospitals, and ports; and I sponsored the Economic Opportunity Act, one of the most aggressive business-growth and job-creation initiatives in our state's history. The new programs have already started to bring additional job opportunities to our area because I fought hard to ensure that they focused on South Jersey's specific needs and strengths.
With New Jersey on the road to economic recovery, it is critical that our residents have the education and training they need to take full advantage of these opportunities. A quality education is a right, not just another luxury for the wealthy. We must strive to provide access to affordable higher education and vocational training close to home to ensure a prosperous future for our state and our nation.
To accomplish this and other priorities, like keeping our communities clean and safe, honoring our commitments to seniors, and repaying the sacrifices of our veterans, we must have a representative in Washington who will fight tirelessly for our fair share of federal resources. South Jersey is a great place to live, and I'm proud to call it home. If I am given the honor to serve as your congressman, I'll make sure that our region's interests are respected and our voices are heard.