In the race for an open seat in New Jersey’s 8th congressional district this year, Democratic primary candidate David Ocampo Grajales said a progressive outlook is what the Hudson County-based district needs.
In an interview with the Hudson Reporterspeaking over a quick cup of espresso on a chilly day in the Heights neighborhood of Jersey City, he said a progressive representative would help voters, especially working people, call the Garden State a long-term home term, while refuting the county machine policy.
“I think fundamentally, if we can make New Jersey the working state for the working class, that’s also better for the community,” he said. “Because it allows people to tap into their roots, start a family here, stay long-term, and then stay multi-generational. But none of this will happen if we don’t address the challenges people face today.
This includes a number of progressive policies such as Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, and student debt cancellation. For him, there is also affordable housing, immigration reform and transportation that are important as he campaigns for the Democratic nomination and can potentially win the seat himself.
Lobbying for the Green New Deal, transportation and immigration
Grajales grew up in Ridgefield Park as a first generation American with his parents from Columbia and has been in Jersey City for about a year. He went to New York University and worked at a healthcare startup called Salute, which helps hospitals and universities improve accountability for environmental compliance and keep workers, students safe. and patients.
His bid for the 8th District, which was left open after Rep. Albio Sires’ impending retirement, is his first foray into politics, which he now devotes himself full-time to.
“I think our politics would be better if it consisted of more people who represent and resemble the lives of the people who live in the district, and fewer career politicians who come in, stay for 30 to 40 years and end up not change anything,” he said.
The 8th District is one of the most Democratic districts in all of New Jersey and the only Hispanic-majority district. Being on the campaign trail, Grajales argued that the district is more progressive than elected officials think.
One of the 8th Ward’s biggest challenges is affordable housing, noting that nearly 70% of Hudson County residents are renters and rent is rising more than people’s incomes. He also sees climate change as another challenge due to the increase in extreme weather each year, and supports a Green New Deal.
One of the issues Grajales is working on is transportation, where he says that for too many people there are no transportation options, too much traffic or no parking, a symptom of not having a system of connected transport like in New York.
“I think we need transportation that really connects our communities here at home,” he said. “Not just to ease the burden of rising gas prices, to alleviate the challenges caused by climate change and air quality, but it’s an economic boost to be able to connect to that and make the communities within walking distance.”
To that end, he sees the conversation about this changing in Congress, where he said he would advocate in the House and also connect and work with local authorities to push for these policies.
Grajales also considers immigration important to him, noting what it means to him to have an undocumented family, as well as other undocumented family members and friends.
“Immigration is broken in this country,” he said. “People talk about queuing, but the reality is that other than the lottery and a few other processes, there aren’t many options to get into the country and have a pathway to citizenship.”
He plans to push for immigration reform, go to immigration courts and advocate for the abolition of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
“Ready to face a machine”
As Grajales takes part in a now three-way primary race between Robert Menendez Jr., the son of U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, and Ana Roseborough-Eberhard, a Weehawken public school teacher, he believes he has a chance to win it.
He also rejected establishment support for Menendez Jr. to potentially succeed Sires. “I’m so confident in our message, it’s just a matter of having people to get it across to,” he said. “It’s absolutely an uphill battle, but it’s definitely a battle that can be won.”
When asked how he would handle the gridlock and polarization that Congress has become almost commonplace, Grajales acknowledged that Democrats could lose their majority in the House in November. In the meantime, he would focus on maintaining contact with the local community, establishing a voter services office in the district, and “innovating” the way voters would interact with their elected officials such as town halls, and the use of technology to collect feedback and respond. faster.
Regardless of who controls Congress after this year, Grajales plans to join the Congressional Progressive Caucus and would work to reform it due to what he says are a number of representatives who call themselves “progressive” and need to establish a standard for what the term means.
Grajales also wants to join committees such as Foreign Affairs, Transportation and Infrastructure, and Appropriations, where he would take the time to research and create questions he wants answered, as well as investigate the how decisions are made and whether companies are doing things to improve transparency.
He said he would try to work with the Republicans, but pointed out that with the recent infrastructure bill and the blocked Build Back Better program, they will sometimes face an opposing party that does not want to do anything for them. people.
He also said he would focus on stopping GOP moves to take away voting rights and abortion rights, and that he would not compromise on what he sees as principles. basic.
“I think if voters want a representative who truly represents them, understands the challenges they face because he’s been through them himself and is willing to fight anything, I’m ready to take on a machine and want to do much more to fight for the real change they deserve,” he said.
For updates on this story and others, check out hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Mark Koosau can be reached at [email protected] or on his Twitter @snivyTsutarja.