Opinion Piece by Assemblywoman Britnee N. Timberlake 

What’s on the line?

This election is not about who has the best commercials, the worst accusations, or the most money. This election is about protecting the interest of the families I represent each day. Those interests are health care for all. Equal pay for equal work. Responsible gun legislation. A woman’s rights to decide what happens to her own body. Fair housing options for all. Continuing the birthright laws that mandate citizenship if you are born on American soil. Safeguarding entitlements such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. All while protecting our constitutional rights including a free press and the right to peacefully protest. 

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Midterm elections are arguably the most important of all federal elections. They are called midterms because the Senate and Congressional candidates who win take office midway through the President's term. Let's assume for a second there is an entitled, racists, xenophobic, misogynist, treasonous elected as the President of the United States. Well, the midterms would be the time to vote for your Congress and Senators who would either support the agenda of that President or not. 

 

A reflection.

We must reflect on the past to help us make better decisions for our future. It was only the first two years of President Obama’s term that he was able to move forward a progressive agenda without a consensus to block him. Those who voted for President Obama did not have his back by showing up to the polls and casting their vote during the midterms to ensure Congressional and Senate members were elected to support him. 

What about now?

Fast forward to 2018, the same majority that worked against President Obama is still in power, only now they have a President to call their own. Donald Trump is the President of the United States. Yes, the cyberbullying reality television star who failed Atlantic City, who was endorsed by the Klu Klux Klan, who admitted to uninvitedly grabbing women by the private parts, and who is creating a scapegoat out of immigrants to distract citizens from various attempts of the majority to take away our rights as Americans. 

Most recently, President Trump secured a morally questionable person a seat on the supreme court. To understand the gravity of that, you must know the supreme court decides the fate of gun control, freedom of speech, civil rights, and countless other constitutional issues in need of clarity. The supreme court legally defines America and its freedoms. 

Why I am voting for Senator Menendez.

I am voting for Senator Bob Menendez because I refuse to give President Trump another supreme court nomination. I am also voting for Senator Menendez because his record on underserved communities is exemplary: 

Although many politicians shy away from tackling the intertwined issues of housing affordability and foreclosure rates, Sen. Menendez has been at the forefront of facing these issues head-on. He authored legislation to expand access to affordable rental housing, which was signed into law by President Obama. The law streamlined and reformed federal housing programs to expand affordable housing opportunities for low-income families in high opportunity neighborhoods. And more recently, in the face of President Trump’s attempt to triple rents on low-income families in public housing. Our Senator successfully fended off the proposal.

His work has not stopped there. After the 2008 financial crisis, Sen. Menendez ensured New Jersey’s most vulnerable homeowners gained new protections against predatory mortgage lenders. He also worked to help communities that suffer from high foreclosure rates. Specifically, he secured a principal reduction modification program for underwater borrowers who were seriously delinquent on their mortgage payments, and he passed the Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Act to help those who were underwater on their mortgage escape further financial hardship. 

For underserved communities areas to thrive, we need to attract new economic development and employment opportunities. Again, Sen. Menendez gets it. While he has successfully fought for federal programs that incentivize public-private investment in our cities and underserved communities that have led to billions in economic development and thousands of new jobs in New Jersey. He firmly believes that expansion of rail and bus service connecting people to work and family on spurs greater economic opportunity. As mayor of Union City and later in Congress, Menendez successfully pushed for the development and expansion of the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail system. He secured over $1 billion in federal funding and ensured stops were included in a diverse set of neighborhoods leading to revitalization, new businesses, and higher property values. He also delivered record federal highway and mass transit funding for our state and is leading the effort to expand the HBLR into Bergen and move the Gateway Project forward. 

But perhaps most importantly, he has made enormous strides in improving the health of our communities. He was a vigorous advocate of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, and he has been a champion of community health centers throughout New Jersey. These health centers are integral for underserved populations to gain access to primary care services. For cities to not only grow but to grow equitably, we need to follow the Senator’s lead and build services that benefit all citizens.

What about the other candidate? 

Senator Menendez’s Republican opponent, former Celgene CEO Bob Hugin, doubled the cost of the drug company’s cancer medication, Revlimid, to over $18,000 for one month’s supply. And just last year, after meeting with President Trump, he stood outside the White House and praised Trump’s health care plan which would have reversed the Affordable Care Act’s gains and could have cost nearly one million New Jerseyans their health insurance, while ending protections for pre-existing conditions like diabetes, heart disease, even pregnancy. 

Hugin’s company settled a federal lawsuit on charges he misled cancer patients for $280 million. To keep profits high – and thus keep patients down – Hugin and Celgene aggressively marketed the drug for uses beyond what the FDA permitted. Despite two warnings by the FDA, it took a whistleblower lawsuit for the company to reform their practices. While that mindset might have worked for Celgene’s investors, it doesn’t work for our underserved communities who are prioritizing health initiatives and who support strong consumer protection laws. Public officials need to work for the common good, but Bob Hugin has failed to show us he is capable of such a positive worldview. Furthermore, Hugin served as President Trump's finance chair for New Jersey and donated over $100,000.00 to Donald Trump's campaign fund. 

We must head to the polls.

No one should doubt this election has never mattered more. As we head to the polls, let us keep in mind how vital the midterms elections are, the past policy successes of Senator Menendez, and the previous callousness and current Trump allegiance of Bob Hugin. We need a leader who will continue working for the future of our children and inclusion of all our communities, not someone who will undermine them by working with President Trump. Senator Menendez is the leader we need.