University professor runs for State Senate
Candidate hopes to reform higher education, facilitate healthier economy
Spray-painting the Berlin Wall and avoiding KGB spies by going through two different subway systems and a bus are a few memories that William Field believes built his interest in politics.
Furthering that interest, University Professor William Field will run for state Senate of New Jersey’s 33rd district this fall, representing the Democratic Party.
“These little snippets of experience built my interest in politics,” he said. “I had this experience of what a different culture was like, what a different living experience was like, what a different political experience was like.”
Observing New Jersey politics, Field, a professor in the Department of Political Science, feels the need to run for state senator because he believes New Jersey needs decent legislators to fill seats in Trenton.
When he lost the seat for mayor of Lakewood last fall, he recognized the layers of corruption that plague the state.
“The real reason for politics is how to you translate public opinion into public policy,” he said. “How do the people in power shape public opinion to shape policy? Who is in office matters, how they respond to the public matters, how the public communicates matters.”
Field sees many problems in the way New Jersey politics function, especially in regards to higher education.
“Two thirds of the running cost of Rutgers came from state allocations [in 1980]. Today its about 25 to 27 percent,” he said. “The cost of student tuition is getting out of reach. … The legislature does not seem to understand that Rutgers and higher education really are the future of New Jersey.”
Although it is the richest state, Field believes New Jersey has no economic backbone. The agricultural, telecommunications and pharmaceutical industries once thrived, but high property taxes forced businesses to relocate to other states.
Due to the lack of business opportunities, the state loses 90,000 high school graduates to out-of-state colleges and universities. Field believes higher education must leverage the engineering and medical fields and the state must harbor an entrepreneurial climate.
“Businesses are leaving the state whenever they can. We have the fourth highest unemployment in the country, but I just don’t see anybody really focusing on how to shape the state to move us forward,” he said. “The politicians really do create the culture and environment in which the economy flourishes.”
Even though he runs for the Democratic ticket, Field said he wants to take a more conservative approach on fixing the economy by cutting back on spending.
Since his district spans from Bradley Beach to Point Pleasant, Field wants to prepare the state for the next storm, fix the energy grid and work to stop climate change.
His opponent, N.J. State Sen. Robert Singer, R-30, has done very little for the district, said Field, and even failed to visit the shore damage.
“He’s just not being out their representing the people as far as we can tell,” he said. “We are a Democratic state — Republicans don’t get listened to. If you have a good idea, doesn’t matter. No one gives him attention.”
Field was born in Chicago, and moved to Bridgeton, New Jersey in the ‘60s. By watching his parents actively involve themselves in the Civil Rights Movement, seven-year-old Field began to immerse himself into the world of politics.
“My very first political memory is marching the day after Martin Luther King was shot,” he said. “We were singing ‘We Shall Overcome.’ Very, very early that sparked some sort of focus, curiosity, involvement with people and politics.”
Field received a PhD in Political Science from Brandeis University, where he conducted research on British voting behavior. He taught at Temple University and Georgian Court University, and helped run the congressional campaign for the John Anderson in the 1980 presidential primaries.
But Field believes his experiences working and traveling aboard marked pivotal moments that influence his desire to work as a political innovator.
He observed the French elections as an exchange student, while casting his first vote via absentee ballot.
In 1982, he interned for the German government during massive anti-nuclear protests and the overturning of Chancellor Helmut Schmidt’s existing government. He recalls spray-painting the Berlin Wall with his friend, and a Soviet helicopter flew over and chased the two away.
Years later he worked in Moscow trying to open up American-Soviet trade relations. He believes these experiences gave him a taste for international politics and economics.
Field worked at the University since 2007, an experience he believes helps him stand out. He teaches a course on New Jersey politics and runs the internship program for the Department of Political Science.
Since the program requires him to connect students with state legislatures, Field has become very familiar with the inner-workings of the state. With Field’s help, eight of these interns wrote proposals that passed as state laws.
“One of my students wrote a proposal to save Barnegat Bay, which mirrors surprisingly close to what Governor Christie put into effect last year,” he said. “I don’t think I can claim credit for that but clearly the minds were thinking along the same path.”
John Connelly, president of the Rutgers University Student Assembly, took Field’s class on New Jersey politics, and is confident he will make a successful state senator.
“He dealt extensively with the New Jersey legislative process, and to say that he’s overly knowledgeable with how that process works is an understatement,” he said. “He’s also someone who has shown himself time and time again to be incredibly fair-minded.”
Connelly appreciates Field’s stance on higher education.
“It’s definitely reassuring to hear folks in politics taking higher education seriously. We used to have a really good tradition in this state with folks like Tom Keene taking a stance for higher [education]. It’s good to see someone taking up that mantle again.”
Sherif Ibrahim, vice president of RUSA, ran the social media account for Field’s mayoral race and appreciates his ambition.
“His aspirations for a political audience are different in the way that he’s seen the things that are wrong with his district and his city first had and he just couldn’t tolerate it anymore and wanted to do something about it,” he said.
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