Rutgers alumni rank among top 100 figures in NJ politics
With a close to the 2017 political election season, PolitickerNJ and InsiderNJ released their power lists to rank who has the most momentum among New Jersey politicians and several people ranked were Rutgers alumni.
Both the PolitickerNJ Power List and InsiderNJ 100 Power aim to give readers a sense of who are the top party leaders and operatives, lobbyists and activists, lawyers and media figures, who play a major role in shaping politics within the state.
New additions to the lists include Rutgers alumnus Shariq Ahmad, former staffer for Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Marc Pfeiffer, senior policy fellow at Rutgers’ Bloustein Local Government Research Center.
InsiderNJ and PolitickerNJ are news publications that primarily focus on political news in New Jersey and are main sources of news information for those involved in state politics.
For Ahmad, a 2011 graduate, his introduction to the list as an up-and-coming politician in the state was cemented from his new chairmanship of the Edison Democratic Organization (EDO), which has the largest population of all cities in Middlesex County, almost double the number of people in New Brunswick.
One of his missions in his new role at the EDO includes keeping younger people and progressives active in the political process and to encourage new, diverse candidates to run for office who have not been involved before.
Building off the momentum from the 2016 presidential election among younger individuals, “I want to grow the party and make it more inclusive,” Ahmad said.
Ahmad, who also serves as chief of staff to Assemblyman of Middlesex County Robert J. Karabinchak (D-N.J.), said apart from being involved in Model U.N. to polish public speaking and critical-thinking skills, one of the most important values Rutgers taught him was a sense of idealism.
With the release of the power lists, there are other University alumni who have repeatedly made the list, one being Michael DuHaime, a 1995 graduate, who has made the PolitickerNJ Power List every year since 2001.
DuHaime, a Republican strategist and current partner at Mercury, a bipartisan public affairs firm, said that as a student, Eagleton opened his eyes to the practical nature of politics.
In Political Campaigning, a course he took as an undergraduate and which he now teaches as an adjunct professor, DuHaime learned that there are valued jobs in politics including being a pollster, campaign manager or a press release writer.
“It’s a way to have an impact on your community but also, make a living,” Duhaime said.
These are the same lessons he imparts to students in his class, which he teaches alongside Maggie Moran, a fellow power list member, Rutgers alumna and managing partner at the public affairs firm, Kivvit.
Apart from the industry behind politics, DuHaime, who was also been named by Time Magazine’s 40 under 40 rising stars of American politics, said the diversity at Rutgers, from the racial and socio-economic to religious and sexual orientation mixture, allowed him to value and understand differences in opinion early on in his political career.
“The people that I became very close with had different political opinions than me, and that was okay. It was all born from the same desire and passion to make the country a better place,” DuHaime said.
Along the campaign trail, DuHaime said that he has run into countless Rutgers alumni because of the vast network that Rutgers and the Eagleton Institute of Politics have.
Eagleton, a research, education and public service institute first formed in 1956, offers graduate fellowship programs and three-semester undergraduate certificate programs for those looking to study.
A policymaker who also made the InsiderNJ 100 Power list is, Marc Pfeiffer, who ranked No. 9 in the top 10 policymakers in the state.
After a 37-year career in local government administration in New Jersey, Pfeiffer retired in 2012 and is currently serving as the assistant director of the Bloustein Local Government Research Center.
His research interests include municipal governments, finance and property taxation, shared government services and technology. Right now, Pfeiffer is researching the use of technology in local government according to his Bloustein profile.
Other Rutgers alumni on either power list include John Currie, chairman of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee, Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-N.J.), a state legislator since 1983, Modia "Mo" Butler, former chief of staff to Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Susan McCue, former chief of staff to retired Sen. Harry Reid (D-N.V.).
Ruth Mandel, director of the Eagleton Institute of Politics, said despite the vast amount of Rutgers alumni on the power lists, the main purpose behind Eagleton was always to fulfill Eagleton’s founder’s bequest to educate young people in the practices of democracy. The institute was originally named after Florence Peshine Eagleton, founder of New Jersey’s League of Women Voters.
“That is a guiding vision for us,” Mandel said.