It is interesting to note how some individuals who have shown no interest in running for public office suddenly feel compelled to do so. At times, that motivation is spurred on by personal tragedy. Such is the case with Jill Lazare, an attorney who suffered such a tragedy and is hoping that others will benefit from her experience.
As an attorney, she has spent years protecting and defending people in situations that are difficult for them. Jill has also demonstrated a specialty in empowering women who are dealing with legal issues. This experience has well-equipped her to fight for the people of her legislative district by running for an Assembly seat. Jill had no intention of running for office until a few months ago. But tragedy intervened; her only daughter, Brooke, died from a drug overdose on May 8, 2012, and Jill was trying to deal with that loss by involving herself with the Drug Policy Alliance. Jill started going to Trenton to testify on drug bills that would help prevent deaths by overdose. In February she appeared before the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee. The bill provided wider education and access to Naloxone, an antidote to opiates.
She was a bit nervous about testifying, but felt much better when she saw what she thought was a friendly face on the committee: Jill’s neighbor: Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz. Before the Naloxone bill was heard, the Assemblywoman packed up and left the room. Since she is Jill’s neighbor, Jill felt comfortable in trying to catch up with her in the hall to talk to her about the bill. Jill introduced herself and reminded the Assemblywoman that she had the awful experience of losing her daughter, Brooke, to a drug overdose last year. Jill also mentioned that she was there to testify on the Naloxone bill because it was her position that if it had been in effect when Brooke was alive , she may very well be here today.t
As Jill remembers the incident, “Nancy Munoz looked at me like I had three heads and asked, ‘why ever would you think that?’”
I explained that Brooke might have survived if Naloxone had been available and Assemblywoman Munoz replied, ‘you don’t mean you would have us distribute it to the addicts, do you?’ Following the brief conversation, Assemblywoman Munoz boarded an elevator and left”.
After returning to the hearing and testifying, Jill reflected on what transpired and became convinced that she was not being represented in her Legislative District. At this point, Jill wanted to work n the campaign to support someone who would truly represent people in need. However, there was no one running from her political party, and she was asked to do so. Jill became a candidate for the Assembly in the 21st Legislative District.
Jill suggests that the number-one issue for most people in her legislative district is property taxes. Throughout New Jersey they have continued to rise, despite the two-percent increase cap, because municipalities are circumventing the cap by imposing user fees for services. Many of the towns in her district provide these services to their residents independently of one another. Nevertheless, JilI plans on encouraging municipalities to share services, to pool their resources and consolidate many of their public programs to help save money and reduce property taxes.
The second issue, Jill suggests, deals with the number-one cause of accidental death in New Jersey: drug overdose. “It has reached epidemic proportions, of which most people are unaware”, says Jill. She firmly believes that the drug overdose bill should be signed by the Governor at the earliest possible moment.
Jill also pinpoints what she sees as the biggest difference voters should consider between her and her opponent(s). As Jill states:
“Unlike the incumbent, I care deeply about the people of our district. I offer compassionate representation to the people of my district. Nancy Munoz is a mother who voted against reasonable gun bills. She is a nurse who voted against women’s health bills. She voted against marriage equality and against raising the minimum wage thereby making it difficult for hardworking families to support their children”.
Jill LaZare is a private citizen, devoid of political ambitions, who has felt compelled to throw her hat into the ring. As an underdog (a Democrat running in a Republican District), she is a person who will not be deterred by overwhelming odds. Jill does not see the campaign as being about her, but about the people of the 21st Legislative District.
Regardless of the outcome of the election, Jill Lazare will be heard from.