Who am I?
I’m a single mother, artist, art teacher, public education activist, liberal/progressive Democrat, and now I’m a candidate for State Assembly in NJ LD16. I was born and raised in urban Kearny, New Jersey about 10 miles outside of Manhattan, and now live in Flemington in rural, bucolic Hunterdon County along the Delaware River.
I graduated summa cum laude from Montclair State University with a BFA in commercial art/illustration, and I have a Masters in Teaching from Marygrove College in Detroit.
After graduation I worked as a graphic designer and illustrator for about 15 years; was a New Jersey State Arts Council Fellowship recipient; took a couple of years off with the birth of each of my two children; and eventually realized that I needed and wanted to get back to my roots: fine art. I now teach elementary art and I love it.
In September 2010 I questioned Governor Chris Christie at a town hall meeting about his drastic cuts to public education, and his derisive rhetoric about teachers. He posted the exchange on his You Tube channel and it went viral. Shortly after that I was on the front page of the NY Times, and also appeared on The Ed Show, Politics Nation, Fox and Friends, CBS Evening News, and many other local and international media outlets.
In 2011 I ran for State Assembly in LD-16 against a very entrenched Republican incumbent. In one of the closest races in the state, I came within about 3% of beating him. He passed away 2 days after the election. Last year I ran in the special election to fill his unexpired term. I came within about 1 point of beating the appointed incumbent despite having been outspent almost 3:1. I was a DFA endorsed candidate and was also the number one race on the DLCC’s list of emerging races. I decided to run again this year to finish the work I started back in 2011. This is definitely a winnable district.
Why am I running?
1. As a teacher, the fight against corporate education 'reform' is near and dear to my heart. New Jersey has one of the best public education systems in the country, and I want to keep it free, open and accessible to every child; to help schools in high poverty areas succeed through adequate funding, resources and management; and work to make teachers part of the solution instead of part of the problem.
2. I want to be a voice for people who have been disenfranchised by the governor’s fiscal policies, namely the middle class, seniors, children, minorities, the LGBT community, and the poor on issues of health care, affordable housing, minimum wages, jobs, and other quality of life/social justice issues. As a society, we are only as good as the least of our citizens.
3. And of course, I want to help stabilize our economy through job creation, and policies that will help to ease the crushing burden of property taxes on our citizens.
My top two goals are:
1. I would help to pass a bill that would allow local citizens to have a say in whether or not a charter school opens in their community. Currently, the burden of funding our public schools falls mainly on the backs of homeowners in the form of property taxes, and they have no say in whether or not a charter school opens in their community. However a charter takes about 90% of the per pupil funding away from the public schools for every child that enrolls. This has a devastating affect on the fixed costs of running a public school. If taxpayers must pay for this new—and often unwanted—school, they should have a say in whether or not it opens in the first place. The bill passed in the Assembly, but is stuck in the Senate.
2. Communicate. A big part of my job as a teacher is communicating with parents. As an elected official, I feel obligated to communicate with my constituents as much as possible. I look forward to keeping an open dialog through whatever means are available. I’ve built a respectable following on Facebook and Twitter, and I anticipate expanding that base to more concerned citizens living within New Jersey’s 16th legislative district.
My DFA Values
Here are my top 10 DFA values:
• A strong middle class
• A living minimum wage
• Government programs that give people a hand up—not a hand out
• Marriage equality
• Fair taxation
• Free, open and accessible high quality public education, and quality, affordable secondary education
• In the richest nation on earth, no one should go hungry
• Respect for the environment, including the development of alternative energy
• Affordable, high quality medical care for everyone
• Affordable housing
My Campaign is People Powered!
I’ve always said this campaign is not for me; it’s for everyone who supports me, including many hard working middle class people. It’s about giving them a seat at the table.
1. During the 2011 assembly race I ran the ‘$20 from Teachers’ campaign as a way to raise money during the slow fundraising summer months. Many teachers don’t work during the summer, and money is tight. Many feel they can’t donate to a campaign because they don’t have hundreds of dollars of disposable income. By giving them a reasonable amount to donate, they were able to feel connected. At the NEA Convention in Washington, DC last summer, we passed iPads around the convention floor for people to donate online. We raised about $5000!
2. Last year I earned the number 1 spot on the DLCC’s list of emerging races. We accomplished this through a grass-roots media blitz on Facebook, Twitter and temail blasts. We got support from all over the country! I had a lot of field support from NJ’s labor groups including CWA, AFL-CIO and NJEA.
3. This campaign will be about engaging all those volunteers—and more—to help finish what we started two years ago. Life has gotten more difficult in New Jersey, not easier. Many more people are feeling disenfranchised by our governor’s policies. I plan to reach out to as many as possible in my district to get them involved.