In many primary elections nationwide, progressive challengers are running to kick out ineffective, centrist Democrats who have failed to meet their constituents’ needs.
For Dr. Arati Kreibich — who is challenging Rep. Josh Gottheimer in New Jersey’s 5th Congressional District in today’s primary — it’s personal: She volunteered to reelect her opponent two years ago. But after he voted to give funding to Trump’s border wall, Kreibich decided she had had enough of “Trump’s favorite Democrat,” as she labeled him. (Check out joshgottheimer.republican, a website her campaign set up.)
Dr. Kreibich, who came to the U.S. from India at age 11, is a neuroscientist whose research focuses on opiate addiction. She became politically active after Trump was elected in 2016, when she successfully ran for the Glen Rock, NJ, borough council, and became its first South Asian member. Unlike Gottheimer, she supports policies like Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, and she says her district has changed a lot in the past few years and is ready for a progressive in Congress.
Ahead, we spoke with Kreibich about why she believes North Jersey needs new leadership, Trump’s response to COVID-19, her children, and more.
Why do you believe Rep. Josh Gottheimer needs to be replaced?
“When my opponent voted to fund Trump’s border wall, voted against the Iran War Powers resolution, and fought to bail out predatory lenders in the midst of this pandemic crisis, he betrayed the real Democratic values of my community. North Jersey needs a leader who will fight for universal healthcare and paid family leave, who will advocate for a Green New Deal, and who will stand up to Trump, not side with him 76.7% of the time. We need a leader to stay true to our values, to lead by example, and to govern as a real Democrat.”
You’ve been backed by progressive figures such as Sen. Bernie Sanders. Why do you believe that it’s time for a new type of Democrat to step up and lead? What has been the biggest challenge about being a primary challenger?
“In these unprecedented times, we need representatives who are willing to take bold action. Young people in NJ-5 and across our nation are calling for leaders who will protect their future on this planet and advocate for equity and justice. As a primary challenger, I’ve faced obstacle after obstacle since the day that I announced my campaign, but far more noteworthy is the support our movement has garnered from Rep. Ayanna Pressley, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Indivisible, Sunrise Movement, Working Families Party, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, and dozens of other groups who know it’s worth electing a real Democrat in NJ-5.”
— Dr. Arati Kreibich for Congress (@Arati4Congress) July 7, 2020
You’ve said that you decided to run for Congress when Josh Gottheimer backed Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda. What immigration policies would you support?
“When my opponent sided with Trump to oppose protections for kids in cages, I knew I needed to step up and run myself. Welcoming immigrants is central to America’s core values, and our immigration policy should reflect that. I support creating a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in our country. As an immigrant myself, I know what it’s like to migrate to our country looking to build a better life for yourself and your family. America has room for all of us, but we must fight to ensure we all truly belong.”
What is the hardest thing about raising your sons in this era of crisis?
“Raising my sons in this time of near-constant crisis is difficult. I worry about them and their future on this planet. While I worry about their emotional resilience and about their mental health, I also worry about the children who do not have the support systems and opportunities that my children have. When my children ask me what I am doing to make a difference, I want to be able to say honestly that I am doing everything in my power to protect them, our planet, and every community that is under attack by our current administration.”
As a scientist and medical researcher, where do you believe the U.S. has failed the most in responding to COVID-19? What are our biggest opportunities in terms of solving the crisis?
“We have failed to heed the warnings of scientists and public health experts. Had the Trump administration listened to scientists and experts, instead of ignoring them, acted sooner, and made decisions based on data, we could have saved thousands of lives. New Jersey has picked up the slack where the federal government has failed us, but we have already seen in other parts of the country what will happen if we reopen too quickly. Moving forward, we can save lives and livelihoods if we increase testing, provide direct cash payments of $2,000 a month for the duration of the crisis, and institute a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures.”
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