The Last Are First: A response from Gubernatorial Candidate Seth Kaper-Dale as Assemblyman Wisniewski enters the race for Governor

The last are first. This is the very best way to sum up my campaign. It is the way I have operated as a pastor and I believe that the same approach to governance could completely reverse the negative direction that this state finds itself going in. As much as I love New Jersey, and I believe that it is a place that is thriving in many ways, the disparity between rich and poor is nothing short of grotesque. So too is the disparity between the rich and middle class.

I watched with interest as Assemblyman John Wisniewski entered the race last week. I like the Assemblyman, and I’m thankful for the ways he helped expose Bridgegate and the way he led the charge for Bernie in NJ. He’s got great ideas for single payer health care as well. But here’s the problem. In New Jersey, Democrats have no leg to stand on when it comes to claiming their ability to fix the state’s biggest problems.

When it comes to our money problems, despite years of Democrats having control of both chambers of the legislature - and frequently having control of the executive branch as well - we continue to be mired in dramatic fiscal deficits that are the result of Democrat and Republic unwillingness to raise revenue (Gosh it’s hard to bite the hand that feeds your campaigns). This broken economy is hard for those in the middle, but it’s near impossible, hardly an on-ramp to be found, into the economy (or into community, for that matter) for people who are really last here. In my own life as a pastor, I know hundreds of people who, in this most expensive world, are living at a point of desperation, and there is no way to move up at all. Over the past 15 years, as I’ve talked to pastors, Imams, Rabbis, community leaders statewide, they are seeing the same thing.

Every Democrat who comes along immediately focuses on the “middle class” and tries to suggest that everyone who isn’t in the top 1% of the top 1% percent is sort-of in the same boat here in New Jersey. But that isn’t true. We are not all in the same boat. Many of us, though frustrated with the high cost of living, are living in better boats than others. We see that some around us are nearly sinking. Some of the holes could be easily plugged if there were legitimate political will to do so.

We are not transforming our prison system fast enough. The broken system (with its broken laws) ruins the work future of thousands of black and brown men in this state. And we are not making changes in laws that help their families financially while they are inside. We are not changing our voting laws to undo the restrictions against felons. We are not making changes to help undocumented workers get driver’s licenses—which they need to do important work that serves our economy. We are not increasing our voucher pool near fast enough to keep up with the number of families who are living in hunger and near complete destitution. We are not doing nearly enough to listen to Black Lives Matter and take the guidance of their leadership to prioritize changes in police-community relations.

Assemblyman Wisniewski wants the vote of the middle class, and he and Ambassador Murphy will appeal to what they believe are your personal, vested interests. That is NOT where I will start. I want to believe that wealthy people (including the top 1% of 1%), and upper middle class, and middle class, and lower-middle class, can see the value of voting, firstly, for the interest of their neighbors who are suffering most in New Jersey. And I believe that even those who are suffering can look firstly at the suffering of their neighbors too. If we all look upon ‘the other,’ those who are last, and build a coalition that seeks first love, safety, assets, respect and human rights for our neighbor, we’ll all benefit.

The way to build a better world is not to seek one’s own self-interest, it is to seek the interests of ‘all’—but unless we start with the last—‘all’ will almost naturally exclude them, or give them the dregs of our creativity.

Assemblyman Wisniewski came out this week with the classic middle-class pitch: “In New Jersey, we have a middle class that’s under siege and leadership that simply doesn’t care. We’ve seen time and time again policies pursued for the benefit of the top one-tenth of one percent at the expense of hard-working New Jerseyans…Please make a $3 contribution to our campaign for governor to say you want New Jersey to start working for all of us.”

I want to say to you, friends, that I’m going to need a lot more than $3 per supporter in order to pull off an upset and win this election. And, to be honest, having a different voice in Trenton, who can take on the basic human rights issues that need to be top priority with a Trump president, is worth more than $3. Middle Class, don’t hear me wrong,I will be a governor who works for you too,but I believe the best way to get to the middle isn’t to increase the trickle from above you—that trickle that gets dangled like a baited hook before your eyes every four years, and that usually gets pulled away before you see any benefit.

Instead, middle class, I’m NOT going to start with you. I’m going to start with the poor, and I’m going to tackle human rights and basic needs issues first. Then, I’m going to attack the revenue problem head on, once those at the bottom are on board with my approach. Once those at the bottom actually believe that they and those in the middle have a shared need—the need for more revenue to be generated in this state—there will be a movement from below. I fully expect that the middle class will get swept up in that movement upward. If we start at the bottom, instead of at the middle, we have the numbers to change this state for all of us.

Assemblyman Wisniewski, take your $3. Ambassador Murphy, you don’t need anybody’s bucks. You two, however, you want to, can fight for the votes of the middle.

I’m starting with the Last, and with those whose eyes are firstly on the Last. It’s going to take dollars. Tomorrow, Tuesday, November 22nd, I’ll be sharing how my campaign strategy aligns with my platform. I’d welcome your generous contributions. You can make them through my website at kaperdaleforgovernor.com/donate.

Peace to you,

Seth Kaper-Dale