Teaneck—Last Sunday at 4 p.m. on a blisteringly hot day, Congressman Rush Holt and his staff came to open his new Bergen/Passaic headquarters on Cedar Lane in Teaneck. Approximately 75 people came from far and near to meet the congressman, who has a well-established progressive record, and who is no slouch in the intellect department. He’s a five-time Jeopardy! winner who beat IBM’s computer Watson when it was being tested for the show.
Some people were shocked to find out that a Ph.d. physicist chose to become a politician and work for the public good. His life experience is such that when you read his resume, you cannot help but be impressed. He earned his Ph.D. degree in physics from New York University, and at Swarthmore College, he taught courses in physics, public policy, and religion. Yet he prefers that people call him Rush, and no one calls him Dr. Holt. That title is reserved for his wife, Margaret Lancefield, who is the director of the outpatient clinic at the University Medical Center at Princeton.
Among other things, Holt worked at the U.S. State Department, monitoring the nuclear programs of Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. And from 1989 to 1998, he served as assistant director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, Princeton University’s largest research facility and New Jersey’s largest center for alternative energy research. Considering how many committees and boards he was on as a private citizen, one could see his run for Congress as an extension of his civic leadership, to better help all those agencies he tried to serve. He consistently won his races, and in his first race, defeated an incumbent Republican against all odds. The Republicans thought that was a one-shot deal, and were surprised that he consistently regains his seat. He has won eight consecutive races. One of the intended consequences of this run, which opinionaters have already ceded to his opponent, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, is that the issues he raises will be brought to the forefront for substantive discussion.
Holt admits that Booker is a star, but also says he doesn’t see the big picture. Holt is big on long-term planning.
Holt came to Teaneck sans tie and jacket, and people who were looking for a “star,” found a fellow ready to greet them. He shook hands with everyone in the room, and everyone had a chance to introduce themselves. After he made his speech, he took questions, and after he took questions, he stayed until everyone who wanted to was able to chat with him.
His speech simply expressed where he stood on domestic issues, those most pressing to the middle class constituents who are now under severe economic pressure, while corporations wield enormous power and rake in huge profits. He said that the increase in student loan interest rates is an example of how the Republicans are raising revenues on the backs of the students and their parents—so that the rich wouldn’t have to be taxed. He told the group, “I know that investing in education, research and infrastructure are the keys to a stronger, more secure middle class—these are the things that kept the American dream live in the 20th century.”
One of the women in the room asked the senatorial candidate how he became a progressive. Holt told her, “When I was a youngster, I liked to ask questions and get answers that were verifiable.”
It seems from supporters the room, who know his record as a congressman from the Princeton area, that he thinks before he acts, and checks the facts before he makes decisions.
He told the crowd that he is very upset about the violation of the Fourth Amendment and an innocent citizen’s right to privacy. “If you are innocent of wrongdoing, the United States government should not spy on your phone calls and e-mails. This is a simple belief, rooted in the clear language of the Fourth Amendment: ‘The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.’ This is wrong-headed and unconstitutional, and it wastes law enforcement resources spying on innocent Americans rather than pursuing the guilty.”
In a phone call Holt made on Monday to JLBC editorial offices, seeking this reporter, he spoke to the editor who discussed a number of domestic issues with him. The editor noted that tuition relief was a major issue among JLBC readers and asked how he felt about tuition tax credits. He told JLBC that he was fine with that, but not with vouchers. He feels that the American public schools system should serve the broad public, and provide a broad education for every student. “We are not talking liberal arts in elementary school, we are talking basic education that allows a child to develop critical thinking. Education has the power to transform lives and the potential to provide the foundation for a person’s lasting economic growth. Vouchers drain resources from the public schools and it is a way of putting public education into private hands. I cannot support that, but I am fine with tuition tax credits.”
When asked how Sunday’s opening went, he said, “I was very pleased with the size of the crowd and the turnout of the people who were there. The mayor of Teaneck, Mohammed Hameeduddin was there, as was the State Senate majority leader, Loretta Weinberg, and State Assemblyman Gordon Johnson. There were people who came from some distance, and had looked me up or followed my career and decided to come to the opening. I found a enthusiastic gathering, and I learned that many, maybe not all, have signed up for subsequent events and have also volunteered.”
When asked how he would fare against Cory Booker, he told JLBC, “The rumors of Cory Booker’s coronation are greatly exaggerated. I am in this race to win—not to prove a point, not to build state-wide recognition or position myself for something else. I am doing this to be your senator, and I am in it to win it.”
To learn more about Congressman Rush Holt visit his campaign headquarters at 549 Cedar Lane or his website at www.rushholt.com.
The Teaneck Democratic Club is hosting a meet-and-greet with Rush this Sunday in from 3:00-5:30 PM at 344 Vandelinda Avenue (between Queen Anne Road & Palisades Avenue).
By Stephen Tencer