EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - There's his name, sitting out there all by itself in the far-right field of your 2017 election day ballot. He's running against incumbent Democrats Nancy J. Pinkin and Robert J. Karabinchak and Republican challengers April Bengivenga and Zhiyu "Jimmy" Hu for Member of the General Assembly for NJ District 18. He is Sean A. Stratton, the Green Party candidate and a 2011 graduate of East Brunswick High School.
Sean Stratton also graduated Rutgers University in 2015 with a degree in Environmental Science, and he currently works as a consultant helping design remediation strategies for contaminated sites that may have spoiled soil and ground water. Appropriately for a member of his party, Stratton is indeed very concerned about water and its quality and sees it as an important issue for voters.
"Regulations do not necessarily protect us, " says Stratton, noting that lead pipes were acceptable for construction in New Jersey until 1986. "Now, up to 8% of lead in construction materials is allowable, but lead has been recognized as unsafe at any level." The issue, according to Stratton, does not only concern older homes but the newer ones as well. "Lead is a powerful neurotoxin that primarily affects children, leading to learning disabilities and low IQ scores.
"Water comes to us clean, " says the environmentalist, "and then gets contaminated going through the pipes. This is a man-made problem. Within District 18, any home is at risk, especially those built before 1986. Before that, people did not keep track of lead piping." Stratton expressed concern for urban areas like District 18's Edison that are "disproportionately affected" by poor water quality.
Stratton echoes the statements from the American Academy of Pediatrics which called for stricter regulations of water in 2016.
Following an evaluation of water quality in East Brunswick by the Water and Sewerage Utility last year, letters were issued to participants to let them know that East Brunswick had been evaluated by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. Although East Brunswick met the level of compliance with the state standard, Stratton remains concerned about the possibility of contamination. The consumer has the illusion that things are lead-free. We also need to protect our surface water."
Above the water level, Stratton is interested in the "wide scope" of information and possibilities open to an Assembly member. He looks to affirm universal healthcare; raising the hourly minimum wage to $15 ; increased environmental regulations; and making election day a public holiday. "I want to help people, "says Stratton. "I am interested in quality of life issues. Environmental health is human health."
Stratton is also displeased with Scott Pruitt, whom President Trump appointed as Director of the Environmental Protection Agency. "The head of the EPA does not believe in climate change. That's unbelievable. We have to get out and vote."
As a millennial himself, Stratton encourages more young people to get involved with politics: "We need people to get more excited and involved with politics or there will be no change."
Stratton is on the ticket with gubernatorial candidate Seth Kaper-Dale, a minister from District 18's Highland Park. "Hey," says Stratton of the Green Party, "We are not hated. We are maintaining a focus on social justice."