Editor’s Note: Mike Smith (seated) is a 38-year-old resident of East Orange. Like a lot of voters in New Jersey, he’s skeptical about the two candidates running to replace outgoing Governor Chris Christie. He says the two contenders – Republican Kim Guadagno and Democrat Phil Murphy – don’t represent the concerns of his community.
Do you plan to vote in the upcoming gubernatorial election?
I do plan to vote but I’m not happy with the two major party candidates and neither will receive my vote. I believe the Democratic and Republican establishments have foisted these candidates upon the voters simply because they have moneyed donors and Party backing. In the 2016 Presidential election I voted for Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary and Jill Stein, the Green Party nominee in the General. I can no longer support establishment candidates unless they renounce campaign contributions from rich donors. This is the death knell to democracy.
What are you looking for in a candidate?
I am looking for candidates that actually care about people and are not looking to take the next dollar from a politically connected donor. One who values average workers and minority rights; a candidate that wants to save our public school system instead of turning it over to those who want to abolish public education and turn our children into commodities to further their own self-serving profit motive. I want a candidate who will speak truth to power and speak out in favor of protection and preservation of the natural environment. I want to support a candidate that will take an active role in revitalizing NJ cities and making them livable and desirable for all. Lastly, I want a candidate who doesn’t take voters for granted by telling people what he or she thinks voters want to hear. Sometimes telling the truth can go a long way.
Education is a key issue for many voters. What do you want to hear from the candidates on this issue?
I do not have children but I am close with folks who do, including unionized public school teachers. I could not support a candidate that supports either vouchers and/or charter schools. Our children deserve the best public education available and that starts with taxing rich individuals and corporate interests at high rates to ensure our kids get the best education possible. It also helps our communities and the overall economy if these kids receive the best education New Jersey can offer.
How would you describe the mood of voters this election?
I think a generational gap, as well as a racial gap has opened up. Young people and minorities either want a truth teller or don’t want to participate in elections anymore due to understandable apathy. We as the adults have to restore faith in government if we want these future voters to help us out of the morass in which we seem to be hopelessly stuck.
This story was produced as part of the Voting Block collaborative project in New Jersey, funded by the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.