Alex Law will be running for Congress, representing the First District in 2016. Following an interview about his intentions, it appears that he is very aware of what will and what won’t work for Camden, as well as all of the 52 towns that the First District embodies. Check out what he had to say about Camden, Marijuana and opiate drug reform, the minimum wage, the environment, LGBTQ rights, student loan reform, and the South Jersey political machine.
Alex, why are you running for Congress in New Jersey?
“I’ve always had an interest in politics. I’ve watched what has gone on in our district, in South Jersey with Machine Politics, with not a single bill being written in our Congressional District since I’ve been alive, and I said I need to do something about that. So, I saw how state level and local elections would be very difficult to run in and make a difference due to the grasp of the machine. By going after the congressional seat, all of a sudden, it becomes a much more exiting story and possibility. A young person, running for a Congressional seat, is much more likely to gain allies across the state and country. I didn’t want to wait around and pad my resume, and then run when I’m older, because people need help now; Camden needs help now. The surrounding communities have been stagnant for a while, and in some instances, our district is getting worse.”
In what ways do you see Camden City getting worse?
“In some ways, for the fact that over the past 30 years, the city has remained in the bottom tier of the socio-economic status, all while this democratic machine has supposedly been governing it. Tax dollars have been sent there for decades, and again the same strategy is being implemented, but we don’t really have anything to show that has worked before. The current approach has not stimulated the citizens who live there. The privatization of public schools in Camden also troubles me, since the majority of the people writing these laws are the same people who will end up benefiting from their own laws. I see a lot of people who feel disenfranchised in Camden, and they have a right to feel that way since they no longer have control over their schools, nor police department. We have to find a way to return the power back to the citizens, which should allow the city to experience the growth it needs.”
What is your stance on marijuana?
“It’s just good policy to legalize marijuana. We are currently bankrupting states in order to house people in prisons because of petty marijuana offenses. I think Colorado and Washington State are both showing how great the legalization of marijuana is for the economy. They’ve had the most new millionaires in the country, and they’ve collected so much tax money that they’ve needed to give some of it back! We have also seen how legal marijuana in the US has weakened parts of the Mexican drug cartel. This will give the Mexican government a better opportunity to deal with its own internal issues, which in turn, could end up helping the US with our immigration issues. This is an opportunity for our country to change the lives of millions of Americans, by no longer breaking up families for petty drug charges due to marijuana possession. Theres no reason why legal marijuana should be treated differently than alcohol or tobacco in the United States. We need to have adults making the decision to use marijuana by taxing it at a high rate, and imposing similar age restrictions. We don’t need children and teenagers getting their hands on it.”
South Jersey has one of the worst issues with opiate drug abuse and heroin addiction as a result. What should be done on the federal level to help this epidemic?
“I think you’ll see that a legalization of marijuana will have ripple effects into the use of opiate drugs. We should consider treatment of addiction much more attentively rather than punishing them for being an addict. We would end up putting an opiate addict in jail at the tax payers’ expense, only for them to return to the streets and use again. That is not treatment. Here in South Jersey, we have seen politicians approach this problem by allowing the use of narcan, but I think that is the wrong lens to look through. Narcan can save someone’s life who is overdosing, but then that person likely gets carted to jail right afterwards, and we’ve done nothing to prevent nor treat the addiction at all.”
New Jersey has been rated to be the 5th most expensive state to live in. What should America’s minimum wage be?
“To me, I think that the federal minimum wage needs to be $15 an hour, and the wage needs to be tagged to inflation. The minimum wage has actually gone down over the past several decades since it has not kept up with inflation, and this has hurt working class families. This will better support the buying power of working families who are trying to support themselves and their families. This will help New Jersey, a place with some of the highest property taxes in the nation, especially those who struggle the most already with just trying to get by.”
What would you tell Washington about the needs of New Jersey’s environment?
“I think we are seeing a couple of things going on in New Jersey’s environmental theater right now. Washington needs to send more relief dollars for Sandy recovery, and that has largely been stalled because of the legislators under the governor’s administration. I think our shore still needs a lot of support in order to recover in order to be the robust economic area is has always been. New Jersey, on the other hand, is in a very exciting position by which the federal government can invest, heavily, in alternative energy. We are capable of exporting our alternative energies, all of which can easily be attain in New Jersey. We have plenty of rivers in which we can make use of the currents, plenty of open spaces for solar energy, and coastal areas for wind energy. One of the biggest things that I can do for New Jersey in Washington is advocate for jobs to protect the environment and jobs that will come from producing these alternative energy. I see South Jersey as potentially being a national example as being completely self sufficient with alternative energy. At the federal level, I’ll work very hard in order to make that case.”
Where do you stand on LGBTQ rights?
“It isn’t something that we should even be debating anymore. This is about civil and human rights, and hopefully the Supreme Court will rule in favor in legalizing gay marriage throughout the country. One things that we need to fight for, though, is protection of the LGBTQ community in the workplace and elsewhere. We need to make sure that someone’s sexuality cannot get them fired, and we need to make sure that crimes against someone because of their sexuality will lead to harsher punishments, much like what Pennsylvania has done. We need to do that on the federal level. We need to encourage members of the LGBTQ community to run for office too, and to feel comfortable about speaking out for their rights.”
You’re running against Donald Norcross in 2016, who is largely considered to be a big factor in the South Jersey political machine. Considering that and other factors, what will be the most challenging part of your campaign?
“First, I have to say there are a lot of things to be excited about in this campaign. South Jersey, as a political theater, has not had much excitement in a long time. Rob Andrews was there for two decades and didn’t pass a single bill, and the Norcross machine controls most local and state elections. There hasn’t been excitement, youth, or passion in South Jersey politics in a long time. We are running this campaign in order to restore those aspects for the people of South Jersey. Last time in the supposedly challenged primary, Donald won with just 18,000 votes out of 200,000, just 7% of the vote. To me that says that the people of South Jersey have not given this Norcross machine their stamp of approval. This machine has sort of taken it, all while there hasn’t been anyone available as an alternative. Our number one challenge and goal will be convincing everyone that we are a legitimate campaign. In order to do so, we hold fundraisers and community events, I’ve quit my job in order to run this campaign full time. People will get behind us once they see that we are for real. I’ve already talked to thousands of people about this campaign, and no one, not a single person has said that they prefer Norcross, no one has said, “Hey Alex you’re a nice kid and all but I prefer Norcross”. That hasn’t happened. What that leads me to believe is that we simply need to get our message out to everyone in all of these 52 towns, Camden, Gloucester, Burlington County, we need to make it so that people cannot ignore this campaign. They need to know that a vote for us, is a votee for progress, youth, and change, in order to give people a true democratic alternative to the Norcross machine.”
I asked my Twitter followers to tweet me some questions for you. Dr. Danley from Rutgers- Camden and Joseph Russell want to know more about your take on Camden, such as policy overall, and accomplishments so far.
“Professor Danley, thank you for the question. My ideas on economic development for Camden come from successful policies implemented elsewhere as well as my personal thoughts on how to create jobs. Policy like subsidizing home ownership has been shown to be incredibly effective in growing property value as homeowners not only care more about their property but also care more about what happens in their area. Investing in small businesses rather than throwing tons of money at big corporations, to me, is a better policy because every successful small business owner I know hires local and is more efficient with their dollars. My career before politics had me working in some of the biggest companies in America. What I learned from that experience as well as my experience in NYC was that big companies are often incredibly inefficient. Giving dollars to them will not go as far as dollars given to small business owners. We are seeing this proven true in Camden: big investments in urban development with corporate partners did not work in the 90s and it will not work now. Sure, there will be more jobs in Camden, but barely any of them will go to actual residents. That isn’t to say having big corporations come into a struggling area is always bad, but the model currently being used is wrong. Grassroots investment in small business will improve the ratio of dollars given per job created as the area will be more attractive for the big companies. Look at Alabama where Google is hiring hundreds of local residents or Baton Rouge where IBM did the same a few years ago. In the case of IBM, they received 29 million to create over 1000 jobs. In our case, Holtec received 250 million to create less than 100 new jobs for residents in camden. That’s the difference. It can be done so much better, but the machine isn’t interested in good deals like that because they cannot profit off of it. This is why we need new leadership.”
Any other issues you want the voters to know about?
“A huge issue for me is student loan reform. We are turning our banks into charities and our students into profit centers, and that’s just fundamentally wrong. Banks borrow at .01% but students at 9% or more. Students should be able to borrow at the same rate that banks can. There is no reason we should be profiting off of the education of our workforce, and making students leave college with more than $250,000 at 9%, it is reasonable to say that someone may never pay that back. That is a policy that we can change immediately at the federal level. The reason that banks can borrow at that level but students cannot is because the banks have a very powerful lobby in congress, and the students don’t. I want to speak for the students and reform the rate by which students can borrow money for college.”
Check out Alex’s campaign website.