Rutgers student campaigns in hopes of becoming youngest member of Democratic State Committee
Rutgers student Dan Chulak has recently declared candidacy for the Democratic State Committee.
The School of Environmental and Biological Sciences junior will partake in the primary election, which is set for June 6.
“I think it's important that, if we want to see legitimate change within our community, within the county, within the state and within the party, we have to get involved,” Chulak said. “We have to be willing to take risks and we have to be willing to put ourselves out there so that we can facilitate the change that we want to see.”
The committee meets every other week in Trenton, New Jersey, but Chulak said that he does not anticipate his school-related time commitments conflicting with his political work. The committee does not pay its members, so most of the people on the committee have full-time jobs.
Chulak is the only Rutgers student running for the Democratic State Committee. School of Arts and Sciences sophomores Adeel Ahmed and Ben Silva are running in Middlesex and Sussex county, respectively.
Chulak said that most people on the committee are middle-aged or older, but that there are members in their twenties. Even so, as a college student, he would likely be the youngest member of the committee.
“People our age should be willing to get involved in politics, and I don't think age should (discredit) someone who wants to get involved in politics,” Chulak said.
This is Chulak's first time running for a political committee, but he has worked on congressional campaigns before and is currently working for a gubernatorial campaign.
He said that his experience in student government has also prepared him for political work. Chulak's positions on campus include electoral action director of RU Progressive, and chair of the sustainability task force of Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA).
He is also a co-founder of the Rutgers Student Environmental Coalition, which is a group of environmentally conscious student organizations.
Chulak said that the issues that are most important to him are economic inequality, political corruption and proper care for the environment.
“Right now we have a climate emergency,” Chulak said. “We need to act as fast as possible so that we can mitigate the effects of climate change. If we don't have a healthy sustainable planet to live on, what are we gonna do? Where are we gonna go? I think it's important for us to leave a planet for our children, our grandchildren, our great-grandchildren, that is habitable and safe to live on.”
Chulak said that he is a progressive Democrat, and is further to the left than a typical moderate Democrat would be. He said that he was inspired to get involved in politics by Sen. Bernie Sanders's (I-Vt.) presidential campaign.
Chulak said that the Sanders campaign was proof that grassroots canvassing can potentially be successful, and that large corporate donors are not necessary.
“Right now there's a divide in the party,” Chulak said. “We need to unite the party together. I think the only way to do that is to reconnect to the party's roots of working-class people and return back to the fundraising model of grassroots campaigning.”
But if he is elected, Chulak will not be determining policy directly. He said that the Democratic State Committee serves to manage the party at the level of the state. It is responsible for apportioning funds to New Jersey Democrats, and also votes to determine which candidates will receive the official endorsement of the Democratic Party.
“At the end of the day, it's the voters who decide who wins elected office,” Chulak said. “But the committee has a role in which candidates have better opportunities to get that nomination. If a candidate is endorsed by the Democratic Committee within their county, it does mean something to those voters.”
Chulak said that although he lacks the experience or time to run for public office, he hopes that he can make a difference in the State Committee.
“I'm a Democrat and I'm a member of the party,” Chulak said. “The reason I want to run is because it's my responsibility as a Democrat that if I want to make the county and the state a better place, I have to run and get involved.”
Maxwell Marcus is a School of Arts and Sciences senior. He is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum.