This fall, it's not just Trump vs. Biden. It's also Democrat Stephanie Schmid vs. Republican Chris Smith in the battle to be the congressperson for New Jersey's fourth congressional district.
The fourth congressional district covers nearly all of Monmouth County, including towns such as Holmdel, part of Middletown, Colts Neck, Rumson, Manalapan, Freehold, Red Bank and Wall Township. The fourth district also reaches into Jackson and Lakewood in Ocean County and Hamilton and Robbinsville in Mercer County.
Congressman Smith currently holds the seat; he has represented New Jersey's Fourth District for 20 terms, since 1981. Schmid is his Democratic challenger in 2020.
Patch asked both Smith and Schimd the same set of questions, and here are the Stephanie's answers:
Age (as of Election Day) 40
Town of Residence Little Silver
Congressional seat sought District 4
Party Affiliation Democrat
Does anyone in your family work in politics or government? No
Education B.A. Yale University J.D. (law degree) University of California at Berkeley School of Law
Occupation Attorney (15 years), Retired U.S. Foreign Service Officer and Diplomat (7 years)
Previous or Current Elected or Appointed Office n/a
Campaign website Stephaniefornewjersey.com
Why are you seeking elective office? I am running for Congress because our democracy is at a crisis point and we need a new generation of public service leaders to step up and strengthen our democracy by putting country over party and ensuring our government works on behalf of all of us.
I have worked to advance human rights at home and abroad as a Foreign Service Officer and diplomat for the U.S. Department of State and as a human rights attorney and advocate. As a United States Foreign Service Officer, I’ve been on the front lines of crumbling democracies and during times of crisis, and I worked with governments to increase access to healthcare and other critical public resources, and also to help rebuild their infrastructure and ensure they held free and fair elections to strengthen their democracies.
In 2018 I resigned my commission and went to the Center for Reproductive Rights where I led their U.S. Foreign Policy Program. I wrote a bill called the Reproductive Rights are Human Rights Act, which has over 180 co-sponsors from both chambers of Congress.
I will use both my voice and my vote to ensure that New Jersey is represented in Washington, and I put myself forward today as a Democratic candidate for Congress in NJ-04 because I believe that our district deserves a representative that will stand up and fight for our families.
The single most pressing issue facing our district is _______, and this is what I intend to do about it.
Healthcare. Every person in the United States should have access to affordable healthcare that does not force them to go bankrupt — no exceptions. People with pre-existing conditions should not live in fear of losing or being denied coverage because of their healthcare needs. I support legislation that automatically enrolls people who are uninsured or under-insured into a publicly-funded program such as Medicare, while maintaining the choice of private insurance for those who want it. I will also work to lower the cost of prescription drugs, as well as expand what is considered to be “healthcare.” Reproductive rights are healthcare; substance abuse treatment is healthcare; mental health services are healthcare too. We all do better as a society when we are healthy, and I will fight for that human right every day.
What are the critical differences between you and the other candidates seeking this post?
I’ve known Representative Chris Smith for 23 years — since I was a high school intern in his office in 1997 — and we do not agree on much. While he has spent the last 39 years working to ban abortion and birth control, and attacking the rights of LGBTQ+ communities around the world, I have spent my life working to protect human rights around the globe as a Foreign Service Officer and diplomat with the U.S. State Department and as a human rights advocate and attorney.
I served our country for seven years overseas in the Foreign Service, helping other countries strengthen their democracies and advancing human rights. I resigned my commission in 2018 in order to fight back against attacks on women’s rights and went to the Center for Reproductive Rights where I led their U.S. Foreign Policy Program on Capitol Hill. It was there that I conceived of, authored, and successfully lobbied for the introduction of the Reproductive Rights Are Human Rights Act of 2019, which has over 180 co-sponsors.
On May 15, Chris Smith voted against the HEROES Act, a bill that will provide critical resources for New Jersey families, and repeal the State and Local Tax (SALT) deduction cap. He has voted more than 50 times to take away healthcare from millions of Americans, voted for a healthcare plan that guts protections for pre-existing conditions and increases healthcare premiums for elderly Americans, and he voted against lowering the cost of prescription drugs.
I’ll work to address the critical policy gaps this crisis has laid bare: quality affordable healthcare for every American, paid medical and family leave, support for police and firefighters, and American leadership that prevents pandemics. Now, more than ever, we need strong leaders who will put people before partisanship, country before party, and lead us forward. That’s why I’m running for Congress — to help New Jersey not only recover from the COVID-19 crisis but to rebuild stronger going forward. We have an opportunity this year to reject politics as usual and elect new leaders, like me, who are dedicated to public service and who will always put our communities before special interests. Every day, I’ll fight tirelessly for our families and our future. It’s the kind of leadership Central New Jersey deserves.
If you are a challenger, in what way has the current officeholder failed the district?
Rep. Chris Smith consistently votes against the best interests of New Jersey. He has voted repeatedly to strip healthcare away from millions of Americans. He voted against the HEROES Act, which included a repeal of the SALT cap. He voted against lowering prescription drug costs, and he consistently votes against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act. Rep. Smith is one of the leading voices opposing women's reproductive rights and LGBTQ+ rights. He has not held a town hall in more than 27 years. New Jersey’s Fourth District deserves better, and we are ready for a change in leadership.
Describe the other issues that define your campaign platform:
Protecting Human Rights: As a lifelong human rights advocate, I am committed to standing up and fighting for the rights of all people, not just a few.
Taxes: We need to immediately remove the State and Local Income Tax Deduction Cap (SALT) that explicitly and unfairly targeted New Jersey families. Repealing the SALT Cap would provide financial relief to thousands of middle-class homeowners in our state.
Environment/Climate: Climate change is an urgent threat to our community. I see moving to cleaner energy sources as a way to kickstart a part of our economy that needs it and gives working people jobs right here in Central Jersey. We must also fully fund our flood insurance and federal emergency management programs so that victims of natural disasters like Sandy have immediate support.
Education: I will work to make sure every child has access to pre-K and early learning programs, as well as work to increase access to and affordability of New Jersey’s colleges, universities and trade schools. I will fight to reduce student loan debt so that debt does not burden so many young adults, and students have a realistic and achievable path to repaying their loans. Additionally, I will always have the backs of teachers across our district and our country, and will fight for fair pay, benefits, and healthcare for our educators.
Gun Safety Reforms: I have been awarded the 2020 Moms Demand Action Candidate distinction, which is awarded to candidates who are committed to advocating for gun violence prevention and governing with gun safety in mind. I support common sense gun reforms, red flag laws, and universal background checks.
Responsive and Transparent Leadership: This district has gone over 27 years without a town hall from its current Representative (Smith) and because of that I have committed to hosting 39 town halls in my first term. I want to hear from the people I serve and understand how my work in Washington can improve the lives of our families, friends, and neighbors. I will provide prompt, responsive and compassionate constituent services.
What accomplishments in your past would you cite as evidence you can handle this job?
I have spent my life working to protect human rights around the globe as a United States Foreign Service Officer and as a human rights advocate and attorney. I spent seven years as a political officer in Haiti and Brazil working to strengthen democratic institutions, support political parties, ensure free and fair elections and advance human rights. I resigned my commission in 2018 in order to fight back against this administration's attacks on human rights, particularly women’s and LGBTQ rights, and went to the Center for Reproductive Rights where I led their U.S. Foreign Policy Program on Capitol Hill and conceived of, authored, and successfully lobbied for the introduction of the Reproductive Rights Are Human Rights Act of 2019 which has over 180 co-sponsors. We have an opportunity this year to reject politics as usual, and instead elect a new generation of leaders, like me, who are dedicated to public service and who will always put our country before party, and our communities before special interests.
The best advice ever shared with me was ...
One of my heroes, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, has given advice in countless speeches that has always guided me in my own advocacy work as an attorney, a United States Foreign Service Officer, a human rights advocate, and now, as a congressional candidate: “Fight for the things you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.” We cannot create lasting, sustainable change alone. True change comes by creating coalitions and partnerships across our communities and the political spectrum and I will continue to do so as the next Congresswoman representing New Jersey’s Fourth Congressional District.
What else would you like voters to know about yourself and your positions?
New Jersey’s Fourth District deserves a Congresswoman who will stand up and fight for public health and safety, put people over partisanship, country over party, and lead during times of crisis. It is time to join together as a community to ensure that in November we send a representative to Washington who will fight for all of us and lead before, during, and after times of crisis. I pledge to be that Congresswoman and use my lifetime of public service experience and foreign policy expertise to protect the health, safety, and security of our community and our country.
Ongoing Patch reporting on the NJ 4 Congress race: