By Matthew Gilson | The Save Jersey Blog
Save Jersey monitors races at both ends of the ballot. Typically, the ones the “bottom” are what matter most to you and your community.
I recently sat down with one of the youngest candidates seeking office this year, Save Jersey, seeking to represent Hightstown at age 23. Some of you will know the name. During my time as Seton Hall CR chair, while I would like to claim restoring the club as a dominant force was all my own doing, I had a lot of help from the state organization. The chairman of that organization was Connor Montferrat; he’s become one of my good friends and I am truly excited to see him running for council in his hometown this year.
We discussed a wide-range of issues:
Q: As someone who has been involved in politics for quite some time, what made you feel this was the year to finally put your own name on the ballot?
- It’s definitely different behind on the other side of the desk. But, I think I made up my mind when I saw Hightstown in trouble. Year after year the council has given no real solutions to the families that call Hightstown their home. I love my hometown and was lucky enough to grow up in a community that cared about its neighbors and their families. Now, I want to help and give back to the community that gave me the opportunities to succeed.
Q: For our readers who may not know, you are a former chairman of the New Jersey College Republicans; how do you think that experience will help you in your campaign? Are you going to be counting on your former CR colleagues like myself to build a volunteer army?
- Yes, I was fortunate enough to be elected as chair for the College Republican volunteer organization in the state. During my time, each chapter had its on local mayor, council, or freeholder race to work on, and additionally helped on the Congressional races that year. That experience helped me become a better leader and taught me that working together is vital to any organization. I developed and maintained relationships with students, party leaders, and candidates throughout that year and still do today.
Q: Your town voted nearly 2-1 for Barack Obama but voted twice for Chris Christie. Why do you think that is and how can you tap into that same formula for success?
- I strongly believe the voters of Hightstown and New Jersey alike enjoy seeing both sides of the party working together and finding solutions. More specifically, electing Democrats in the state legislature and a Republican governor; and nationally, electing Republicans in the House, Democrats in the Senate and for the Presidency. However, in Hightstown we have always been divided on town issues, not political parties. I am dedicated to walking door to door across town and giving voters an alternative to yearly tax increases and out of control spending. My community and neighbors are priority number one.
Q: Do you think the labels of “Republican” and “Democrat” have a big impact on a local race or do you think voter contact is the predominant factor?
- Not at all. In Hightstown, it’s about issues not party. My father is the planning board chairman as well as municipal chairman of the Democrats. I have seen him dedicate his time to the town’s well-being, and now I have been inspired to do the same. My passion and optimism for our town is something most residents haven’t seen in a long time.
Q: If you are to be elected you will, at least for one year, serve in a minority capacity on the currently an all-Democratic council. What do you think your role would be as a minority member of council? What do you think you can accomplish?
- Right, but the majority may not stay very long. This year there are two council seats and the mayoral seat open. However, there are two Democrat councilman running for mayor, one Democrat and one Independent. Hightstown is interesting because there’s an election every year. I’m looking to fast track redevelopment downtown, bring real savings to taxpayers through shared services, and make Hightstown affordable again. We need a mayor and council that will cooperate and work with the community for the good of Hightstown.
Q: As cliche as it may be, what advice can you offer to your younger peers on when the time is right is to make the leap from volunteer to candidate?
- You can make a difference. You don’t have to be a candidate. You can always get involved in other ways such as working as staff on a campaign or get an internship in a government office or nonprofit. The big leap from volunteer to candidate was graduating Rutgers and having numerous conversations with mentors, community leaders, and family and friends. Getting advice and guidance from those people in your life is the most important thing you can do.
Q: How can people contact you and get involved with your campaign?
- Always feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or reach out in other ways through Facebook or Twitter @CMontferrat. Currently, I’m a dual master’s student in Public Policy and City and Regional Planning at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers. During the week, I work at the Rutgers Department of External Affairs and on the weekends, I am a server at the retirement community, Meadow Lakes, located in Hightstown.