A Montclair resident will challenge a longtime Democratic incumbent for her New Jersey Senate seat this year.
Mark Alexander will go head to head against Nia Gill (D-Montclair) in June’s Democratic primary for the state’s 34th District Senate seat. Alexander, a Seton Hall University law professor, said he will be looking to inject a new and independent voice on property taxes, transportation and equality issues -- such as same-sex marriage.
“You can’t ask the same people to fix the problem when they haven’t done it year after year,” said Alexander. “The entrenched incumbency is not moving things forward.”
Alexander moved to Montclair in 1995 when he began teaching law at Seton Hall University. His four of his five children currently attend Montclair schools.
He grew up in Washington, D.C., and his father was a civil rights lawyer for President Lyndon Johnson, and then the first African American army secretary under President Jimmy Carter. He said that growing up Inside the Beltway help shape his viewpoints and positions.
“[During] my upbringing in Washington,” said Alexander, “everyday I heard stories about the kind of progressive leadership the president provided on civil rights."
Alexander began forming campaign in the summer and recently announced his candidacy. On Wednesday morning, he could be seen at the Upper Montclair Train Station talking with voters.
“Now is campaign season,” said Alexander.
Alexander will face Gill in for the Democratic endorsement in the summer. Gill, the Senate President Pro Tempore, is a 10 year veteran in the New Jersey Senate -- first elected in 2001 -- and before that served four terms in the Assembly.
But Alexander will have plenty of experience to rely on during his campaign. He served on President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign as the national policy director, then New Jersey campaign director, and then as a senior adviser. After the election, he served on the transition team as well.
Alexander also has experience in state politics. He worked as a general council for Newark Mayor Cory Booker on his 2006 mayoral campaign and then on his transition team.
Alexander said he sees Democrats in Trenton as failing to push back against Gov. Chris Christie on progressive issues and pointing the state in the wrong direction.
He said that Christie’s decision to cancel the Access to the Region’s Core tunnel, or ARC, was a mistake; the governor’s “chastising and demonizing” of school teachers was misguided; and Christie’s veto of a same-sex marriage bill in February was against the state’s progressive views.
“I see things that happen everyday in state government that effect people’s lives,” said Alexander, “and I see a governor that is pushing one direction and an entrenched incumbency in Trenton on the Democratic side ... that is not pushing back against him enough.”