Election Day, November 2nd, is almost upon us and voting has already begun via mail in ballots. There is a lot at stake in this election and the contrast between the candidates in the Governor’s race and the 16th Legislative District (LD-16) race couldn’t be starker.
New Jersey has not re-elected a Democratic Governor since 1977. Governor Phil Murphy is the most progressive Governor New Jersey has ever had and has led New Jersey through the pandemic with a science and facts-based approach advocating for masks and vaccines. This is in line with the national message from the CDC, and states like New Jersey that have followed the national guidance are seeing better numbers. While the national death toll is at over 700,000 people who have lost their lives to COVID-19, Jack Ciattarelli would not require masks in schools and would do away with the vaccine requirement as well. Ciattarelli is a staunch Trump supporter who would turn back the clock on racial justice, an inclusive school curriculum, and gun control measures to name a few issues to demonstrate the stark contrast between Governor Murphy and Jack Ciatarelli. Like President Biden, these are issues that most New Jerseyans have shown support for.
As a Princeton Democrat, I applaud that diversity and equity has been at the forefront of Governor Murphy’s agenda – he has the most diverse cabinet in the history of New Jersey and has made some historic appointments with the first Muslim cabinet member, Shereef Elnahal, and the first Sikh Attorney General, Gurbir Grewal.
Governor Murphy has also been on the forefront of addressing longstanding inequities in our educational system, an effort Princeton Public Schools is pushing as well. Early childhood education has been shown to close the opportunity gap and Governor Murphy has committed to making universal pre-K a reality for all families. He is starting out by funding pre-K in 19 school districts. Governor Murphy has also signed into law an LGBTQ inclusive curriculum. These measures will go a long way in addressing the inequities in our educational system and also in ensuring that our schools and children are inclusive of all communities. In contrast, Ciattarelli, as per his website, would reform requirements for sexual and social education to make content less dogmatic.
According to the Gun Violence Archive, nearly 20,000 people died across the country due to gun violence last year. Our Democratic-led Congress has fought for tougher background checks, in line with what we’ve seen here at home. Governor Murphy has been a strong advocate for gun control and has strengthened background checks and limited large-capacity magazines among other gun safety measures that he has taken. Ciattarelli has publicly bashed New Jersey’s gun laws for years, claiming they’ve gone “too far.”
There is a lot at stake in this election including in the LD-16 race. LD-16 has never had a Democratic Senator before, the seat has always been held by Republicans. This year, Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker, a Democrat who has a track record of advancing progressive values in the Assembly, is a strong contender for the LD-16 Senate seat. Assemblyman Roy Freiman who has used his business and financial background to help families, senior citizens, and our community navigate through the challenges of COVID-19 is seeking re-election. LD-16 also has the opportunity to elect the first Muslim and Asian woman to the Assembly with Dr. Sadaf Jaffer, who has used her leadership platform as Mayor of Montgomery to advance social justice.
This is what many in New Jersey have wanted and continue to want. Princeton Public School parents have been extremely supportive of school mask mandates. As Republicans nationwide fight against mask and vaccine mandates, Zwicker, Freiman and Jaffer are advocating to use science to work to safely reopen schools and drive a COVID economic recovery that puts working families first. They are committed to fighting for fair pay for frontline workers, keeping our communities safe from gun violence, and eliminating barriers to services for seniors, veterans, women, and people of all races and religions. They also want to relieve our tax burden by expanding the senior property tax freeze and by helping restaurants and small businesses with tax relief.
This November, New Jersey and LD-16 residents have a chance to advance science, an economic recovery that focuses on all, social justice, environmental justice and much more. Your vote is your voice – let it be heard!
Afsheen A. Shamsi is President of the Princeton Community Democratic Organization. She is a former Princeton School Board Member and Princeton Civil Rights Commissioner. She wrote this in her personal capacity and not as a representative of any organization.