Friday, December 14, 2018

Teaneck—Even as many New Jersey voters continue to process the outcome of the presidential election this past November, the New Jersey gubernatorial primary coming up this Tuesday has the potential to influence more from the ground up than even Donald Trump.

Eleven candidates—six Democrats and five Republicans—are seeking the two top spots on their parties’ ballots for the November election, to replace term-limited Governor Chris Christie.

Atlantic City-born, and Linwood (Atlantic County) resident Hirsh Singh visited The Jewish Link offices in Teaneck on Tuesday, poised to explain why he, as a 32-year-old aerospace engineer and defense contractor, should have our vote for governor. He explained that though he is a political neophyte, his primary skill set is problem solving, and no current candidates in the race, either Republican or Democrat, have the necessary tools to help improve New Jersey’s infrastructure and establish a strong school choice program, both of which he thinks are key to New Jersey’s long-term vitality.

“I did not feel the Republican party could win in November,” said Singh, who noted his view that while Christie-deputy Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno is currently leading in the polls, she has no shot against Democratic poll leader and former Goldman Sachs executive and former U.S. Ambassador to Germany Phil Murphy, who has spent $19 million already and shows no signs of spending any less on the general election.

Singh said that Phil Murphy’s candidacy is the reason why he decided to run for governor, because he felt that New Jersey can’t afford “another Corzine,” a wealthy Goldman Sachs executive who can buy the race and garner support from everywhere except New Jersey.

Singh disputed our claim that he is currently polling toward the bottom of the race, saying that the voters he is targeting are engaged with and excited for his candidacy.

Speaking to Singh during the last whirlwind seven days of the primary also helped us understand the model he has chosen to bid for votes, which is targeted in two distinct ways: on minority groups with a strong interest in education, like the observant Jewish community who send their children to private schools; and on individuals who voted in the last primary election for Donald Trump. Likely due to voter fatigue and the lack of name recognition of all the candidates, a historically low voter turnout is expected. Singh told us he believes that his targeting, and that the people likely to vote in this primary will be looking for a candidate who is not going to conduct business as usual, will help him win the primary.

Singh explained his perspective—that every ethnic group is present in New Jersey in many family- and community-oriented enclaves, who share different characteristics and cultures yet also have extremely similar wills and wants. “My ethnic group, the South Asian minority demographic (his parents were born in India), is a community that is family-oriented and focused on education for the children,” he said, and added that he is pro-life but in favor of the 20/20 legislation bill, which bans choice only after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The property taxes in New Jersey are the highest in the country, but the schools are not performing based on the tax rate, he added.

“My view is that each school should be allotted $5,500 per student across the state (annually), and that money should follow the student, whether they go to charter schools, public schools, parochial or private schools,” Singh said. “Choices make for higher standards.”

Aside from school choice, the other main reason he is running for governor is he feels that power corrupts, and as a non-politician he can and will work with others and actually solve problems, Singh shared. “So long as they don’t repair the road, they can ask for more money,” referring to career politicians. “We need a reset button for our state,” he said.

“I am an engineer, a problem-solver. For me, it is worthless to become a career politician. My whole goal is to make this state affordable,” he said.

Singh shared that he went to public school because his parents believed it was key to his education for him to learn to get along with everyone. “If I hadn’t gone there (to Egg Harbor Township High School), I would not have learned to get along with every kind of person. I was the only Indian in my grade. But I would then never have played football (as wide receiver), and never would have understood that family determines one’s ability to succeed,” not public schools, he said. “Coming from the public school system I had bad teachers and good teachers. The good ones were those who helped me succeed and become who I am. The bad ones are why there should be school choice,” he said.

Learn more about Hirsh Singh at http://singhfornewjersey.com/.

By Elizabeth Kratz