On September 28th, locals of Hunterdon County gathered at the Flemington Arts Space, also known as 90 Main, to attend a public forum with Peter Jacob. Jacob is running for Congress representing the Democratic Party. The event was held with the intention of allowing citizens the ability to learn more about the candidate’s background, and what his stances are on certain political issues. Republican candidate/congressman Leonard Lance was also invited, but was unable to attend due to being in Washington D.C. Lance’s campaign manager tried having the event cancelled due to Lance’s inability to attend, but since this was not a debate, 90 Main was in the right.
After Peter Jacob’s public forum, I was able to get a comment from him for those of us here at RVCC. I asked him, “What would you say to college students specifically to go out and vote?” to which he replied, “My whole thing is you have to get out and get active. You know, like, in our parent’s generations, they fought for civil rights, they fought for jobs and opportunities…our generation, this is a very pivotal time in human history where you can see what’s happening between Trump and Hillary, and those decisions in Congress directly affect us. We’re at a turning point in not just a matter of history but world history – you see the challenges of climate change. It’s gonna be our generation – we are the generation. You know, they always say, other generations say, you’re entitled, you’re the entitled generation. In reality we’re the generation that’s starting to occupy and speak about making economic progress. We’re the generation that led the black lives matter movement. We will be the generation that addresses climate change…Our whole future depends on it, therefore we have to get out, get active in our democratic process to ensure that we have a democracy and economy that should work for each and every one of us.”
The following is what was discussed throughout evening: Peter Jacob began by going around the room warmly greeting everyone he met. He soon became comfortable, and was able to tell us a bit about himself. Jacob was born in Kerala, India, in 1986. That same year, his parents came to the United States with twenty dollars in their pockets, and Jacob, a six month-old infant. They settled in Union County, New Jersey. In his adulthood, Jacob received a bachelor’s degree in sociology at Kean University and a master’s degree in social work from Washington University.
Through his experience as a social worker, this 31 year old has anointed himself as one who is concerned for humanity, and specifically for his home state of New Jersey. “This was my community,” Jacob said after recounting the struggles the people of New Jersey faced, such as crumbling bridges and roads, unclean water, and outdated transit systems.
Questions were then opened to the public, starting with his stance on protecting land. Believing natural gas pipelines to be dangerous to our water, Jacob is not in support of the PennEast pipeline, which runs through some of Pennsylvania and the majority of New Jersey. He believes global warming is a real threat to not only New Jersey, or the United States, but to the world. He states, “Globally, we have to come together to fight global warming.”
His opinion on the 2016 presidential election was clear. When asked specifically how he felt about Hillary Clinton possibly running the country, he responded, “… not saying she’s a perfect person, I think something is possible … I see a great future for the United States but we need the right person [to lead it].” Jacob was previously for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
On the topic of terrorism, a gentleman in attendance claimed, “Isis does not recognize borders – we may have to put boots on the ground.” Jacob pondered for a moment before answering, “It would be very dangerous if we put boots on the ground … this is their jihad – it gives Isis reason to fight.” As far as drafts go, Jacob is not in support of them. Gun violence was also mentioned, and this seemed to strike a chord within the candidate. He proceeded to say, almost with a bit of irritation, “We have real issues in this country. We have gun violence and no new legislation to fix it”.
A common topic brought up regularly was brought to light as well – free college tuition. A mother asked, “How would you help make college tuition free for families who make less than 120 grand [a year] or for people over that?” Jacob continued to tell her that he believes all colleges should be free, and that even skilled workers who do not wish for a college education can still benefit from some classes particularly related to their skill. As for public education, Jacob says, “We should not be teaching towards the test … we should not be evaluating teachers based off the performance of their students.”
The area that sparked the most interest was when Jacob was asked if he was in support of the legalization of marijuana. He told us he supports the use of medical marijuana, and that it should be legalized in order to aid those suffering from certain illnesses. As for people with disabilities, Jacob believes that “…it’s about time to end the stigma. These are people and they need more opportunities…their dependence on meds decrease when they work.”
A woman in the crowd shared how she, and many other Americans, felt hopeless when it came to voting. Jacob told us, “We need the right leaders – we need you to get out and get involved.” Jacob then closed his talk and was cheered by the crowd.
For more information on Peter Jacob, visit www.peterforcongress.com