Stuart Meissner is on a mission and believes he has the life experiences and common sense ideas to make it a reality. “I want to make New Jersey residents proud of their senator. I won’t appeal to extremes on the left or right,” he promised.
Meissner is one of several candidates vying for the Republican nomination for Senate in New Jersey, with the goal of unseating Cory Booker. He has assembled a strong team and is confident he will represent his party. His hope is to become the state’s first Republican senator in over four decades.
The irony is that Meissner had been a lifelong Democrat until 2015. He explained that as a Jew growing up in Brooklyn during the 1960s and 1970s, it was simply the default position. When Democrats began moving further left in recent years, Meissner became disillusioned. As the 2016 presidential elections approached, he gravitated towards Donald Trump, volunteering for his campaign in September 2015. He offered that he liked the president’s independence, and felt it was refreshing to hear someone tell Wall Street he doesn’t need their money.
Although a latecomer to politics, Meissner has been involved in Jewish causes throughout his life. He was a teen tour leader in Israel and later joined the Soviet Jewry movement. His family background likely led to his strong feelings. His father had left Nazi Germany the day before Kristallnacht.
Regarding the current rise in anti-Semitism, Meissner said “It’s personal to me.” He related that his daughter goes to Syracuse University and was unnerved by anti-Semitic incidents there that led to a lockdown. He commented that the entire Homeland Security budget for protection of houses of worship across the country had recently been raised to just $70 million. “And, none of those funds are permitted to be used for security guards without significant red tape and at least a year of waiting for government approval, even for unarmed guards. I would work to change that if I were in the Senate,” he added.
Professionally, Meissner has always found himself defending those who had been wronged, or, as he puts it, “fighting for the little guy.” He studied criminal law and became a prosecutor and an assistant DA in New York while still in his 20s. Later, he developed an interest in securities fraud and worked in the Investor Protection Bureau of the Attorney General before moving on to his own firm. He represented investors who were defrauded during the dot com market collapse. His most notable win was when he represented a major whistleblower before the SEC. The case involved an $80 million sanction against Monsanto, with a $22.5 million award for his client.
Meissner recalled his personal involvement in the aftermath of 9/11, and how it shaped some of his political views. He had moved from Manhattan to West New York, New Jersey one year earlier, and was about to board a ferry to midtown when he witnessed the first of the towers to collapse. Four days later he volunteered as a leader of a bucket brigade. The task consisted of sifting through the rubble for signs of life or human remains. He spoke of the camaraderie at the time, noting how different it was from today’s constant polarization, as throngs of people lined the road by the West Side Highway, waving American flags and cheering the volunteers. Although given a hard hat, a mask and gloves, he was still among those who unfortunately paid the price years later. He developed a rare and aggressive form of cancer three years ago, but survived due to successful surgery just a week after the discovery.
He tied this personal experience to the “Medicare for all” debate, saying he is against socialized medicine, noting “Had I been under such a plan I wouldn’t be alive today.” He explained that among the flaws of such a system is the wait time for surgery, which can take months. As a small business owner, he also spoke of the large increase in healthcare premiums when the Affordable Care Act first went into effect because negotiated rates were taken off the table. His view, though, is that for any new plan, “pre existing conditions must be taken into consideration.”
Regarding the related issue of prescription drug costs, Meissner was animated. “I want a law enacted where U.S. citizens cannot be charged higher prices for drugs than what citizens of other countries pay. We need to level the playing field.” He explained that although many large pharmaceutical companies are U.S.-based, we pay considerably more for the same medications than Canada and Mexico. His belief is that the U.S. is subsidizing the world in this area, and he complained that Booker was beholden to the pharmaceutical industry.
Regarding other hot-button issues, Meissner said that “As a child of an immigrant, I’m in favor of legal immigration as the backbone of our country, but I also feel strongly about law and order.’ He added “It isn’t fair for illegal immigrants to cut the line in front of legal ones.”
He had much to say about climate change, offering “I believe it’s real based on science, but we shouldn’t cut emissions while China is spewing pollutants into the air. It needs to be a joint effort.” However, he noted that “If we listened to the far left, we would be highly dependent on Iranian oil.” He noted that he had read the Green New Deal, and “much of it was not about environmental issues but identity politics.”
On gun control, he said that as a prosecutor he took illegal guns off the streets, “but law-abiding citizens should be allowed to defend themselves because we have a Second Amendment in our constitution.” He stressed that he is in favor of responsible gun ownership, though, including background checks.
Turning to Cory Booker, he described the senator as “an empty suit who is good at making speeches.” He contrasted that to himself, describing himself as a doer. He spoke of Booker’s outsized ambitions which have hindered his ability to fight for the people of New Jersey. He claimed that Booker “passed just nine pieces of legislation in six years, with three of them the renaming of post offices.”
Regarding Trump’s legislation limiting property tax deductions to $10,000, Meissner was against it. However, he placed the blame for its passage on Booker, saying “For all his talk of reaching across the aisle, when it came to it he actually burned the aisle.” He claimed that because of Booker’s animosity towards Trump, the bill went through. “We didn’t have a voice.” Meissner wants the deductible raised to $20,000.
Listening to Meissner’s views across the various topics, in some ways he seems a hybrid between a Republican and a Democrat. Given today’s political climate, that may not be such a bad thing.
Robert Isler is a market researcher and freelance writer who lives in Fair Lawn. He can be reached at [email protected]