STAFFORD and LONG BEACH ISLAND — Deputy Mayor John J. Novak moves up to become Barnegat’s mayor in 2020. However, when his term runs out at the end of next year, Novak’s ready for a more prominent role in government. He believes that all signs point to him replacing Democrat Andy Kim as the U.S. Representative from New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District.
Novak, a Republican, speaks openly about his strong Christian faith. Next year will be his second time leading the Township as its mayor. When he was sworn in as Barnegat mayor in 2016, the Asbury Park Press reported that Novak quoted Scripture and made political comparisons to biblical figures.
Most recently, Novak spoke out in support of Mayor Al Cirulli’s objection to a state mandate requiring curriculum changes to include the accomplishments of those in the LGBTQ community. In expressing his opinion, the Deputy Mayor cited what he considered relevant biblical passages.
Meanwhile, this isn’t the first time that Novak put his name out there for a higher office. In 2010, he requested an appearance before the Screening Committee of the Ocean County Republican Organization. Ultimately, Jon Runyan won the endorsement of the Ocean County Republicans and the congressional election.
In 2016, Novak attempted to unseat longstanding Republican Freeholder incumbents. He didn’t get the party line and ran as an Independent. That run earned him the nickname as “Rogue Republican” from WOBM radio host Tom Mongelli.
This time around, Novak relied on some divine inspiration, which he believes came to him in July of this year. Novak hopped on his Harley to meet up with one of his sons at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota. During his over 1800-mile journey, he had plenty of time to think about his “wanderlust to be a congressman.”
After he arrived in South Dakota, Novak received a call from his son saying he would be a day late. “I don’t normally go to church when I’m on vacation,” shared Novak. “But I had some time to myself, and I googled an Assembly of God Church in Rapid City.”
Novak listened to the story of Moses, which rang familiar and touched a nerve. Back home, Pastor Glenn Swank of Barnegat Bay Assembly of God had also shared how God sent Moses signs. He recalled Moses getting lost in the desert and the series of miracles he encountered.
As Novak left the church, he decided to ask God to send him signs as he did to Moses. He took his motorcycle out of a special space reserved for first time guests to the church in Rapid City. Novak then intentionally set off to get lost in the Black Hills.
The first sign came to Novak exactly 58 minutes later. Novak is born in 1958, which could seem inconsequential. However, the next sign seemed more than coincidental. It was a sign announcing entry into a town with a population of 3. The name of the town? Novak. Could the number 3 possibly represent the trinity?
Meanwhile, there was more. Novak discovered he was on Nemo Road. Apparently, Nemo translates to a road with no name. “Here I was on an iron horse on a road with no name,” he said.
For a moment, Novak wondered if he was reading into things. He couldn’t help but think about the song called a “Horse with No Name.” Sung by the rock band, America, its lyrics talk about riding through the desert. Was this yet another sign?
When Novak returned home, he still wondered if he was reading too much into what seemed like so many signs. Although four or five other local Republicans had expressed an interest in the congressional seat, none had declared.
“I like to read non-fiction books and was reading in bed,” Novak said. “I don’t remember the name of the book I was reading at the time, but it was a biography about David Stirling, a British SAS officer.”
Novak put the book down on his belly for a few minutes. Again, he questioned whether he was conjuring up the signs to mean more than they did. Novak then asked God to send him another sign.
When he picked his book back up to continue reading, Novak noticed that it was open to a page that had some photographs. One, in particular, caught Novak’s eye. It was a crest of sorts with a motto that read “Who Dares Wins.”
As far as Novak was concerned, this had to be another sign. He began discussing his plans with others. In September, Novak gathered a brain trust of his early advisors at the Captain’s Inn in Lacey Township.
“There were a couple of ordained ministers present at our meeting,” shared Novak. “I asked them if I was conjuring up the signs. They suggested I keep a journal of them to see if it was really God speaking to me.”
It was less than sixty seconds after that conversation that confirmation came to Novak. The waitress came and handed him the check. She’d drawn a little smiley face with a note that said, “Thank you Kim.”
On November 7, 2019, NOVAK for Congress filed a Statement of Organization with the Federal Election Commission. Although former Burlington County Freeholder Kate Gibbs has announced the formation of an Exploratory Committee, Novak is the first Republican to formally file in opposition to incumbent Congressman Andy Kim.
“We welcome Deputy Mayor Novak to the race,” said Kim campaign spokesperson, Anthony DeAngelo. “Voters will decide next year based on who is cutting through the partisanship to get real things done for families in Burlington and Ocean counties.”
“Andy has been a leader in holding the VA accountable for a new clinic in Ocean County, standing up on the Armed Services Committee for our military families at our Joint Base and seeking bipartisan solutions to lower prescription drug costs.” DeAngelo continued. “We’re confident that voters will see Andy Kim on their side, and not the side of big corporate interests and partisan politics.”
Gibbs did not return a request for commentary or further information regarding the status of her candidacy.
Look for our follow up story on Novak’s background and his thoughts on everything from the separation of church and state, abortion, veteran’s benefits, and more.
Stephanie A. Faughnan is a local journalist and Director of Writefully Inspired, a professional writing and resume service. Feel free to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.