Congressional candidate Alex Law speaks to Rutgers community on grassroots campaign
A district clerk refused to tell Alex Law the process by which candidates on a ballot are listed, resulting in volunteer lawyers in a grassroots campaign taking government officials to court to ensure a fair election.
Law, a progressive candidate running for Congress from New Jersey’s 1st District, spoke to the Rutgers community on Saturday at the Livingston Student Center about his platform, his campaign to date and the work required to be elected to office.
Law is running on the Democratic ticket, challenging Democratic Rep. Donald Norcross of New Jersey's 1st Congressional District in the primary. This is the only contested Democratic race in the 2016 election in New Jersey.
“(Law) was the first candidate in New Jersey to endorse Bernie Sanders,” said Ben Silva, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student. “It’s important we support each other as progressives. I really want to make sure we can get the student vote.”
Silva runs Rutgers for Bernie, an organization he said started in August to support Sen. Bernie Sanders's (I-Vt.) candidacy for President of the United States.
Part of Rutgers for Bernie’s goal in 2016 is encouraging students and people who typically do not vote to do so, Silva said.
“Fundamentally it’s all about changing mentality, changing the way people think (of Congress) — ‘Oh, Congress doesn’t matter, I’m not going to vote’ — that’s how Republicans win,” Silva said.
Law believes New Jersey does not encourage large voter turnouts, with restrictive voter ID laws and odd election dates.
“We have off-year elections — we have one in 2017. Only (a few) other states do that,” he said. “In my town, Newton, we have elections in May.”
Voter involvement before primaries was critical to effecting change, Law said. To encourage registered citizens to turn out, he began a campaign heavily dependent on door-to-door visits and phone banking.
Law's campaign has a website allowing residents from around the country to make calls for him, he said. They have volunteers from multiple states campaigning for him as well.
His district typically has less than 40,000 people out of nearly 175,000 registered Democrats that are allowed to vote in a primary, Law said.
Just having 20,000 votes for him would ensure he is the nominee for the state legislature, he said.
“Whoever wins the Democrat primary essentially wins the general election,” he said. “So if you’re a Democrat and you only vote in the general election, you’re not having your voice heard.”
This applies equally to presidential elections and more local ones, Law said.
“Whether it’s the school board or freeholder or assemblyman or Congressman, I think it’s very important (to vote), because oftentimes the policies of these people affect lives more than the President of the United States does,” he said.
Law also said he agrees with Sanders’s view on the Citizens United v. FEC ruling, which allows groups to donate as much money to political campaigns as they want. Sanders wants the ruling overturned, so that there are caps on donations.
While presidential candidates may not be significantly disadvantaged by the ruling, those running for lesser-known offices are, he said.
“If you’re running for state assembly, if you’re running for Congress, if you’re running for something else, the person with the most money has an overwhelming advantage, and that’s something that isn’t okay,” he said.
Rutgers College Republicans did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
Nikhilesh De is a School of Engineering junior. He is the news editor of The Daily Targum. Follow him on Twitter @nikhileshde for more.