Who am I?
My name is Mark Alexander and I am running for the Democratic nomination for the State Senate in New Jersey’s 34th Legislative District. I am a law professor at Seton Hall University, writing and teaching in the areas of Constitutional Law, Law & Politics, Criminal Procedure, and The First Amendment. In 2012-2013, I am serving as a Fellow at Princeton University Program in Law and Public Affairs.
Active in politics and government, I was Senior Advisor to Barack Obama, having joined his presidential campaign in January 2007. As Policy Director, I developed Senator Obama’s signature policies, built a network of policy experts and provided overall strategic guidance. I also served as New Jersey State Director in the primaries, running all operations in my home state of New Jersey. In addition, I worked on a wide variety of legal matters and political work and routinely appeared as a surrogate for the campaign.
I also served on the Presidential Transition Team, reviewing the Federal Election Commission, as part of the Justice and Civil Rights Team. I now serve on the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, as one of 12 presidential appointees.
I served as General Counsel to Cory Booker during his run for Mayor of Newark in 2006 and would later work on Mayor-elect Booker’s transition team. During the 2000 presidential campaign, I was Bill Bradley’s Issues Director. Moreover, early in my career I worked for U.S. Senators Edward Kennedy and Howard Metzenbaum, and served a two-year term as an elected official in the Washington, D.C. government.
I received my B.A. and J.D. from Yale and currently live in Montclair, NJ with my wife and school aged children.
Why am I running?
My inspiration to serve the public was instilled in me by my parents – both of whom were politically and civically engaged and worked to make their community and our nation a better place. Specifically, Dad came home with lots of stories from his long career in public service. As President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Civil Rights Attorney, he helped write and pass the Civil Rights Act and confirm Thurgood Marshall as our first African-American Supreme Court Justice. He also went on to serve as the first African American Secretary of the Army under President Carter. This is what I grew up with, and what has inspired me to dedicate my life to politics and public service. And it is what inspires me to run myself in my home state of New Jersey.
I felt compelled to jump into this race because I saw constituents being neglected of basic outreach and problem solving that every elected official should regard as an unbreakable vow to the people they serve. Our current State Senator isn’t solving problems for people, isn’t listening to people, and most importantly she is not an effective advocate for our district in the NJ State Senate. We need fresh leadership that can break up the status quo in Trenton and start solving problems for working class families.
Being in the State Senate keeps an elected official close enough to his constituents where he can really keep the pulse of the people and solve problems directly. I want to reach out to folks on an individual basis, and figure out what their problems are, and how the NJ State Senate can address them. From big items like public works projects and passing marriage equality, to day-to-day issues like solving a problem with a State agency. You can make a real difference serving as a State Senator, and I want to use this platform to move New Jersey in a better direction for all of our residents.
The New Jersey State Senate needs to remain committed to passing legislation that will spur our economy and protect working class families. The New Jersey State Senate needs to re-commit itself to passing legislation that will spur economic growth and protect working class families. New Jersey needs to remain competitive with our neighboring states and pass a minimum wage that is tied to a cost of living increase. This year, Governor Christie vetoed that exact legislation and the State Legislature moved to put the issue on the ballot. I will fight on day one to strengthen economic security for all New Jersey workers to ensure people who put in a hard days work receive the fair pay they've earned.
We also need public investment to spur economic development, protect and make our environment and communities more sustainable, and create jobs. One way to accomplish this would be to recommit state funding to investment in mass transit infrastructure and upgrades. Expansion of NJ Transit lines in New Jersey, adding and developing new light rail systems, and implementing rapid bus systems produces a threefold benefit for New Jersey: more jobs, less pollution, and renewed economic development. To me, it’s a no brainer. Study after study shows us that people are moving away from cars as their primary source of transportation and looking for alternative means to get around. Private developers are even going as far as offering to pay to add light rail stops near their developments, as was the case in Jersey City, NJ this past year. We need to recognize this as a State and work with private entities to capitalize on this opportunity to get people off the roads and into mass transit.
In my hometown of Montclair, a lot of folks use one of our five NJ Transit stops to commute to Newark, Hoboken and New York City. Property values are higher because of this mass transit access. But we can do more. We need to make commuter times shorter, upgrade an infrastructure that has been neglected since the New Deal programs, and add new options where possible. One proposal I would like to look into is expanding the Newark Light Rail to serve more parts of Essex County and open up the Newark Penn Station Hub to direct access from more parts of New Jersey. We also need to make mass transit easier and more efficient. I want to spearhead an effort to offer mass transit users utilizing more than one mode of mass transit the ability to purchase a monthly pass that is accepted on the PATH, on all NJ Transit lines (including train, bus, and light rail), and the NYC subway system so there is a seamless transition when transferring. We not only need to invest in infrastructure, but also initiatives like this implementing technological advancements that can make our mass transit system more efficient and effective.
My DFA Values
As a veteran of President Obama’s first campaign in 2008, we built an operation from the bottom up. All of our decisions were driven by the grassroots. It was never about folks from DC dictating to people on the ground. It was listening to the farmer in Iowa, the carpenter in Ohio, the rancher in Texas, and finding out what they needed and how we could solve those problems on a federal level. I am building a campaign based on that same model. We need to empower people, work together, and build a grassroots movement to topple entrenched powers and get our State government working for normal folks again, not just the politically connected.
I am not going around to folks and saying “X” is the answer to any specific issue. I am asking questions, starting a dialogue, and seeing what people need from their State Senator to make their lives easier. That is the only way our government is truly going to be responsive to the needs of the populace. Now, I hold certain progressive convictions about fairness, equality, and justice, but I am always listening and learning to do my best addressing the core issues facing normal folks on a day-to-day basis.
As a member of the NJ State Senate, I will work to uphold all of the basic tenets of DFA – community, security, and liberty – to maintain an open dialogue with my residents, get more people involved in the political process, and create a more fair and equal society for everyone living in New Jersey.
My Campaign is People Powered!
First, I am bringing in volunteers every day who are standing at train stations with me collecting signatures for my petitions, knocking on doors, and building a campaign from the bottom up. As a former Senior Advisor to President Obama I am applying the same playbook we put together for a presidential campaign into my State Senate race. Recruiting volunteers day-by-day, we are building a network of grassroots folks we can help me overcome the political machine here in New Jersey on Election Day.
Second, I am meeting with every local elected official and hearing directly from them, finding out what they need, and figuring out ways we can work together once I am in the State Senate to serve our shared constituents. Right now there is no outreach or dialogue with the State Senator representing these four communities in the 34th District. As a State Senator, I will hold daily town halls with constituents, meetings with elected officials, and annual conferences with our four Mayors so I am fully informed about the problems they are facing and addressing these issues in Trenton. I continue to meet with grassroots organizations, community leaders, and normal folks to learn their issues and build a platform that can address these problems if I’m elected to the State Senate.
Finally, I’m not waiting to be given permission by the party bosses about whether or not it is my turn to run. I am giving the voters in the 34th District a real alternative to the status quo. I am not being anointed by the powers to be in North Jersey, I am pushing back as an insurgent candidate and bringing my case directly to the people. My campaign isn’t about back room deals cut by the politically connected, it’s about empowering normal people and running a grassroots operation that can win without normal machine politics.