Meet the 25-Year-Old Fighting Corruption By Running For Congress
Usually, when you quit your prestigious post-grad job as a consultant for a Fortune 500 company to move back home to New Jersey with your family, it’s because something awful happened. While it’s true that 25-year-old NYU business school graduate Alex Law left IBM to move home because of something tragic, it was about something that didn’t just affect him—it affected every American. Tired of seeing his home state of New Jersey fall victim to the kind of corruption usually reserved for Washington, D.C. or an episode of Scandal, he made the decision to pack up, move back into his old bedroom, and start one of the most ambitious political campaigns in the country.
On June 7th, a little less than a month from now, Law will attempt to become the first millennial ever elected to Congress in his home district, CD 01. It’s a goal shared by another of our fav young politicians, 25-year-old superwoman Erin Shrode. But we have a feeling that Law is definitely the only candidate to erect a 60-foot billboard in his district that reads: “Alex Law for Congress, born in 1991.” It’s kind of brilliant, and yes, void of subtlety, but Law doesn’t have time for that in his fight to dethrone his opponent, the “most corrupt Democrat in the state,” Donald Norcross. Norcross is one of the most powerful Democrats in New Jersey, thanks to hefty campaign coffers and a brother, George, who is one of South Jersey’s biggest Democratic powerbrokers. When we caught up with Law during a break in his busy campaign schedule last month, he was quick to separate himself from his opponent and the “Norcross machine.”
Law passionately explained that having Norcross as a representative was “shocking and unfortunate for the people in my district—the 174,000 Democrats who were hoping for better.” It all goes back to NJ Governor Chris Christie, whom Law thinks has set an awful example in his home state.
“Christie’s governing style has been very similar to his personality: bullying, ineffective, loud, and not good at getting all that much done,” he said. “We’ve seen state takeovers of different towns and all that has resulted in is more cronyism and more special interests getting to take advantage of New Jersey tax dollars. He’s done an absolutely horrible job and it’s a real shame that my opponent has worked so closely with him. Norcross, even though he’s a Democrat, has taken over $10,000 from the Trump family to fund his campaign.”
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) May 10, 2016
This wasn’t the first time that the word “cronyism” (favoring your close friends in political appointments) and the influence of outsider money was brought up in our talk. Since Law was inspired to become a politician in order to fight corruption, he’s made it his mission to take money out of big politics, starting with his campaign. Like Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, Law’s fight for a Congressional seat has been completely crowdfunded. Law was one of the first people running for public office to declare his support for the Vermont Senator—he did it the very day that Sanders announced he was running. It was a logical move, given that their positions on various issues had become nearly identical. Both are focused on campaign finance reform, which Law named as the biggest issue in politics.
“Until we do something about our democracy being up for sale through special interests buying the kind of policies they want to see, we aren’t going to be able to move forward and make the United States a better country,” he explained. “It’s been demonstrated that there’s a direct correlation between the policy that gets passed in Washington and state legislatures with the dollars that are spent by special interests. There’s almost no correlation to policy being passed around things that public polls show people care a lot about.”
When you can Google “New Jersey corruption” and the first result is literally a slideshow on a state newspaper’s website called “N.J.’s most infamous political scandals,” it’s safe to say that the correlation between what people care about and what gets the state government’s attention does not exist. That failure of the public’s faith in politics isn’t lost on Law. His district includes Camden, Jersey’s poorest city, which is currently in the midst of a food crisis. Camden has no major grocery stores. The town is a “food desert,” meaning its nearly 80,000 residents are forced to shop in corner stores. While that sort of worked for a while, new food stamp legislation that requires grocers to stock fresh produce, meat, and other food items has made shopping with food stamps impossible at most corner stores.
“It’s creating a tremendous problem. It’s a problem that the officials in the city who are aligned with my opponent, Mr. Norcross, have been unwilling to solve,” Law explains with agitation. “They came out with a press release that they were solving the problem and that there would be a new ShopRite in Camden. That was multiple years ago, and it still hasn’t happened. There are people really struggling, and it’s something that should have people’s’ attention and have people working to actively solve it, like we’re trying to do.”
— The Young Turks (@TheYoungTurks) April 30, 2016
Should he win next month, issues like the ones facing Camden will be Law’s responsibility, which is a lot more stressful than an average 25-year-old’s job. For his part, Law doesn’t seem worried about the stresses that come along with being responsible for an entire congressional district. That may be because, underneath the battle-hardened political front that led to walk 100 miles to door knock in all 52 towns in one week, he’s just another idealistic twenty-something.
We are also twenty-somethings, and is required by internet law, we felt the need to ask a fellow millenial what his favorite memories of the 90s and early 2000s were. “For the 90s, I’m going to go with Dragonball Z. For the early 2000s, let’s go with my favorite band from middle school, who have since broken up: The Academy Is,” he confessed. From a commitment to taking back New Jersey’s government from political corruption to harboring a soft spot for the emo music of our high school heydays, Law seems poised to usher in a new wave of politicians who’re ready to dismantle the status quo–one tweet at a time.
Polaroids shot exclusively for Milk by Jocelyn Silver. Additional imagery via Alex Law.
Stay tuned to Milk for more groundbreaking politicians.