As a member of a generation frequently criticized for its political apathy, 23-year-old Zack Schrieber is defying that stereotype and running for the New Jersey Assembly from District 38. The Fairlawn resident attended YNJ and MTA and is a soon-to-be graduate of Hunter College, where he is pursuing a degree in political science.
The New Jersey Assembly is a body of the state legislature that houses representatives from every district. On the ballot for state primaries this coming Tuesday, Schrieber is the youngest candidate for District 38, whose constituents are residents of Fairlawn, Paramus and Bergenfield. According toSchrieber, his youth has actually been advantageous. “Nearly all [the people] that I’ve met are excited to see someone so young actively involved in politics. I was nervous that people wouldn’t take me seriously, but, if anything, the opposite has been true.”
His reasons for running come from his interest in politics and his belief in good government. He hopes to inject new life into Trenton, recounting much of his frustration with the current lack of accessibility with some state politicians. “Personally, I have reached out, but they haven’t been responding to me.”
Schrieber has taken a different approach during the campaign, going door-to-door to discuss his policies, going to community events to meet voters, and putting his cell phone number out to the public. However, these are not just campaign tactics.
“If I were elected, I would be very interested in setting up something like weekly 20-minute meetings and have them locally for the convenience of the residents, so that anybody who wants can come and meet with me. The only way to be a good representative is to know what your constituents want.”
His policies focus on the economic and environmental issues facing New Jersey. He believes in raising the minimum wage, legalizing cannabis, and reforming prisons in order to ensure the financial wellbeing of citizens and the state. Schrieber explains that raising the minimum wage from $8 to $10 will hopefully help wean many families off of welfare programs.
“Legalizing cannabis,” Schrieber says, “would be another thing the state could tax and regulate. There is a stigma with [cannabis], but studies have shown it’s no worse than alcohol. And it can bring more money into our economy while increasing our ability to actually control its distribution.”
State regulation is also part of his prison reform proposal, which includes state-run as opposed to privately-owned prisons and job programs that help get prisoners back on the right track.
Schrieber’s environmental agenda includes an increased use of public transportation, and dam protection for the Passaic River.
When it comes to being a religiously observant candidate, Schrieber attributes his political ideology to his Jewish values. “You cannot ignore the moral implications of being Jewish, and helping those less fortunate. Like Shmita, the laws emphasize the point that we need to take care of people less fortunate than us. I try to take that to heart and implement that idea into policy.”
When asked if there is any specific aspect of his campaign that would attract observant voters, he responds, “I can say that in being an Orthodox Jew, [the Orthodox Jewish community] will have a voice in Trenton.”
For Schrieber, the highlight of his campaign was meeting the constituents of District 38. “When I see the excitement in people when I tell them my ideas and I see a little spark of hope in their eyes, that’s the highlight. Their enthusiasm gives me enthusiasm.”
His website, ZackforNJ.com, displays the slogan “We Can’t Outspend Them So We Outthink Them” on its main page. “I don’t have a lot of money, but as we saw in the last [presidential] election, money didn’t mean you were a better candidate,” Schrieber explains. “We need to put new and better ideas forward in order to win.”
Voters can learn more about Zack Schrieber’s policies and about the candidate at zackfornj.com and like his page on Facebook “Schrieber for Assembly.” Be sure to vote Tuesday, June 4th.
By Rachel Olshin