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July 16 Primary Election for District 10 Congressional Seat Offers Opportunity for Jewish Community

The unexpected death on April 24 of Donald Payne Jr., U.S. Congressman from the 10th District of New Jersey, created a vacancy that must be filled by a special Democratic primary election on July 16, followed by a special general election in September. The winner of the September election will fill the three remaining months of Payne’s unexpired term while also running for reelection in the regular election in November.

 

As the 10th District Congressional seat includes Newark, half of Jersey City, and other areas of Essex (including West Orange), Hudson and Union (including Hillside and part of Linden) counties, the two special elections allow the Jewish community to help select the candidate who best represents their interests and priorities.

 

The challenge is that there are currently 11 candidates running in the Democratic special primary election on July 16, and all of them have a very limited track record with Jewish voters outside their home towns.

 

In an effort to demystify this congressional race, The Jewish Link sought information on the leading candidates and their views on issues of concern to the Jewish community.

 

NJSpotlightNews.org identified four top candidates—Derek Armstead, mayor of Linden; LaMonica McIver, council president of Newark; John J. Flora, a music educator, athletics coach and environmental activist in Jersey City; and Sheila Montague, a community leader in Newark. Ballotpedia.com identified Armstead and McIver as the two top candidates, stating that they “lead in endorsements and have received the most media attention.”

Linden Mayor Derek Armstead

The Jewish Link reached out to the campaigns of Armstead, McIver, Flora and Montague and asked them to respond to five questions about concerns in the Jewish community. Only Armstead responded.

 

Here are the five questions from The Jewish Link and Armstead’s responses (edited for space constraints).

 

What are your thoughts on the troubling rise of antisemitism in New Jersey and across the U.S.? What steps do you propose and/or support to counter the growth of antisemitic activities?

 

The rise of antisemitism both in New Jersey and across the United States is incredibly disturbing to me. While I am not a Jew, as an African American in the United States, I know firsthand how bigotry can affect our lives and the lives of our families, creating numerous concerns that affect us both physically and mentally. … 

 

Section 130 of the German criminal code criminalizes certain types of hate speech, including antisemitic speech. Chapter 14 of German law prohibits a range of personal insults, from malicious gossip against private citizens to defamation against politicians. There are serious consequences for violating these and other laws, which include hefty fines and/or incarceration. Germany has tough laws for social media companies, requiring them to remove hate speech and threats. In Germany, it is against the law to spread lies about the Holocaust.

 

I am encouraged how Germany now takes proactive efforts to ensure that history does not ever repeat itself. The United States can learn from these mistakes, too. As the congressman of CD10, I will champion the United States adopting similar hate-speech criminalization.

 

Do you support the U.S. Homeland Security Department grant program for houses of worship? Would you support an increase in funding for this program?

 

I wholeheartedly support the U.S. Homeland Security Department grant program for houses of worship. This grant program has, and will hopefully continue to provide the necessary funding so that the people of the United States can feel safe when they perform religious functions in their chosen house of worship. As the mayor of Linden, I know how budgetary constraints can unfortunately slow down progress for critical projects. As the congressman of CD10, I will support increasing the funds available through the U.S. Homeland Security Department grant program for houses of worship.

 

What are your thoughts on the value of the State of Israel as a strategic partner of the United States?

 

The U.S. and Israel are both strong democracies with a commitment to human rights and economic prosperity, which makes them natural allies. Because both countries possess a powerful military and advanced intelligence capabilities, cooperation strengthens both nations’ ability to counter regional threats, such as terrorism and missile proliferation. A strong Israel can deter aggression and promote regional dialogue. I completely and entirely support providing financial and military aid to Israel, and am grateful that the United States has Israel as a strategic partner and ally.

 

How would you advise President Biden to approach Israel regarding the continuing conflict in Gaza?

 

America must do whatever we can to assist Israel in eradicating the terrorist regime that currently controls Gaza, so that we help Israel establish peace. If a neighboring country were to lob missiles at the United States, one can be sure that the United States’ response would be immediate and swift. America’s goal would be to eradicate the threat, and completely dismantle any infrastructure used to attack our country, to prevent the enemy from repeating such an attack. Can you imagine trying to raise a family in the United States in constant fear from a neighboring country shooting missiles and organizing terrorist activities on a constant basis?

 

Israel is a sovereign and democratic nation that must be able to defend itself the way it deems fit. As a congressman, I would advise President Biden to stop telling Israel what we think Israel should or should not do, and instead ask Israel: “How can we help?”

 

What would be your top three legislative priorities as U.S. representative?

 

There is a lot of work to do in the United States. Constituents of Congressional District 10 struggle with high property taxes, inflation, high food costs and more. We have a failing health care system, poor national security policies, attacks on our personal liberties and freedoms, and a woefully inadequate (but very costly) education system. Some of these challenges are intertwined, and I know that there are no easy or quick fixes. I strongly believe that economics can be a meaningful and powerful vehicle to bring about the end of many injustices.

 

As a United States congressman, my top three legislative priorities would be to: 1) champion tuition-free college education for all Americans, 2) to ensure that women’s reproductive rights are controlled by women, and 3) to have America help bring peace to Israel, Haiti and Ukraine.

 

***

 

Concurrent with The Jewish Link’s research into the candidates, the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey and the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest held a Jewish Community Listening Session on July 2 with CD10 Congressional candidate LaMonica McIver. The Jewish Link attended the virtual meeting and listened intently as McIver responded to questions from Community Relations Council leaders at the Jewish Federations. 

Newark Council President LaMonica McIver speaks in the virtual Jewish Community Listening Session on July 2.

As the Federation leaders stated, they had reached out to the other candidates and invited them to hold similar listen sessions. On July 10 the two Jewish Federations, along with the American Jewish Committee, will host a forum with former East Orange Councilwoman Brittany Claybrooks.

 

In the July 2 virtual meeting, Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest JCRC Chairperson Jodi Herwitz Kaplan posed the following questions and McIver shared these answers (edited for space constraints).

Former East Orange Councilwoman Brittany Claybrooks

What are your feelings on the current Israel/Hamas war?

 

War is awful, it always is, and it needs to end. This conflict has been going on too long. The hostages need to be returned. Israel has a right to defend itself. But I am also concerned about all the innocent people killed or hurt by this war.

 

How can we expect you to vote on Israel?

 

I will support aid to Israel.

 

How would you combat antisemitism in New Jersey?

 

After the Trump era, people feel more comfortable showing hatred in public. We should have all top officials clearly condemning hate. We need more education for young people on what are hate crimes. We should also monitor hatred on social media and create education campaigns against hatred.

 

How would you respond to antisemitism on college campuses and in protests in those places?

 

I have seen some of this activity on the Rutgers-Newark campus. I know that some of the protests were not students. I think we need to create a dialogue with campus leaders on what are healthy protests. We should allow peaceful protests, as long as they encourage healthy and respectful debate. I do not have a specific plan yet but I am looking into this.

 

Do you support the adoption of the IRHA definition of antisemitism?

 

I don’t have enough information on this yet.

 

What is your view of the federal nonprofit security grant program?

 

I’m not really clear on that piece. I don’t have enough information on it yet.

 

What is your view on immigration policy?

 

We need more resources for cities to support them. We also need guardrails and capabilities to handle the situation in the best way.

 

The NAACP and Jewish organizations are supporting mask bans at protests. Do you support this?

 

Yes, I do. For safety reasons.

 

What are your thoughts on school choice?

 

We need reforms. Parents should have options as to where to send their children. Equities in funding is a concern.

 

What are your top three issues?

 

I am very concerned about affordability (child care, education, student debt, housing, etc.), protecting our democracy, preserving women’s reproductive rights, and increasing access to health care.

 

Who are your political role models?

 

I’m myself and I work for the people I represent. I’m a mom and a wife. I want to do what’s best for people.

 

***

 

After the virtual discussion, the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey offered the following statement to The Jewish Link: “As a 501(c)(3), Jewish Federation does not endorse candidates,” said Jason Shames, CEO of JFNNJ. “Our concern is that the needs of the Jewish community are being met by all candidates, and that candidates understand that antisemitism and anti-Jewish rhetoric have no place in elected offices. We are deeply concerned about recent statements that some candidates have made and look forward to providing our community with an opportunity to vet and connect with candidates and officials in our area. This is why we are holding these listening sessions. Federation hopes to continue to have these for other elections, as well.”

 

For more information on Linden Mayor Derek Armstead’s campaign, please see:

https://derekarmstead.com

 

For more information on Newark Council President LaMonica McIver’s campaign, please see:

www.lamonicaforcongress.com

 

For more information on former East Orange Councilwoman Brittany Claybrooks’ campaign, please see: https://www.claybrooksforcongress.com/

 

Harry Glazer is the Middlesex County Editor of The Jewish Link. He can be reached at [email protected] and he welcomes reader feedback.

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