December 30, 2018

Mikie Sherrill demonstrates morality over partisanship


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Michael Lurie ‘21

West Orange High School is very much like Golda Och Academy politically, in that since students at both schools are exposed to the similar media they will generally share many of the same beliefs. The difference in a large school like West Orange is that political activeness is harder to achieve on a schoolwide scale. This difficulty is reflected in young voter turnout on election day every year.
When navy veteran Mikie Sherrill visited West Orange High School to ask how many 18-year-old students were voting, dozens of hands remained down. The votes that counted the most for Sherrill and her competitors in the New Jersey District 11 Congressional race during the past months, were those of the undecided and the no-shows.
The Flame had the chance to speak with Sherrill in May about her experience running for Congress in this district as well as the main platforms she ran on. At the time, Sherrill was projected to win the Democratic primary and represent the party in the general election in November. After that, however, the real challenge began for the campaign.
The 11th district is split about evenly between Democrats and Republicans, as about 40 percent of the population identifies with each party respectively. The last 20 percent of the population is either undecided or does vote in elections. Sherrill said these votes matter the most, not just to get her elected, but to get everyone involved politically, and express their constitutional right.
“We’ve been moving them,” she said, “by offering them a new vision of what representation in the district can and should look like.”
Sherrill stressed that if elected, she would stand to serve not just the federal government, but have a strong focus on New Jersey, as well. Sherrill believes in being a conduit from the government to the community.
“The reason I decided to run for Congress is because I felt specifically that Representative Frelinghuysen was not serving his constituents,” she said. “This is not what representation looks like in a democracy.”
Change is coming when she takes office this January, as Sherrill feels the most important job for a congressperson, before a voting on a bill, is not necessarily to do exactly as their constituents say, but to provide an explanation for why they voted as they did. The constituents’ voices will obviously still be taken into account as she said she will regularly host town halls and office hours and run constituent services and social media to connect with the district.
“I’ve held more town halls in April than Congressman Frelinghuysen has in the past four years,” she said pridefully.
Sherrill said her life of serving the country has led her to finally run for Congress. After graduating from the Naval Academy, she became a helicopter pilot in the navy and later a federal prosecutor.
“Feeling as invested as I do in this country, as responsible I do for this country,” she said, “to step up, to serve again and to run for Congress actually feels very good.”
The experience she has in government as a federal prosecutor makes her qualified as anyone to take it to the next level.
“The issues that I’ve worked on have been federal issues,” Sherrill explained, “so I have a lot of knowledge of how the federal government works.”
After many years of working for the country, Sherrill decided to run for Congress now because she found the current state of the country alarming.
“I really felt like all the things I’ve worked my entire life for were under attack at this moment,” she said.
According to Sherrill, the two biggest problems within the government today are gerrymandering and money in politics. She believes gerrymandering is what breaks down bipartisanship and is only feuling the divide in the American politics. With seats being secured via illogical district borders, politicians can handpick which seats they want in Congress.
More importantly, in her opinion, is money in politics.
“I think its corrosive,” she said, “and I think it's had a huge detrimental effect on our politics and the ability of people’s voices to be heard.”
She believes that when organizations donate to campaigns, they are essentially buying that politician’s vote, especially in cases like the NRA.
Sherrill says action on the issue of universal background checks has been delayed significantly because of campaign contributions by the NRA. She feels strongly about the issue of gun control considering her military past.
“Veterans know guns. We’ve been around guns for our entire career,” she said. “We know that there are certain weapons out there that are weapons of war and that we don’t need on our streets here in the United States.”
Issues like gun control are moral decisions, on which Sherrill will not change her opinion, no matter what compromise is made in potential legislation. She even expressed a willingness to be voted out as long as she stands for her values.
Although still important, an issue concerning the economy is not always a moral issue. In areas like tax reform, Sherrill is willing to make room for compromise.
“Governing is compromise,” she said. “We have seen now too many times where people have this set of ideals and… they won’t compromise. They’d rather let the country burn than give up one inch.”
“I don’t have this need to be narrowly defined as a Democrat who’s lock-step with the party,” she said.
Although she noted she is willing to vote on either side of the political spectrum, she associates herself with the Democratic Party because of its support of the middle class.
“I am obsessed with how we get our middle class families to a secure present and a secure future,” she said.
Sherrill believes that a better-supported middle class is the key to economic fluidity. Her most important platforms that she is ran on and will continue to reform are taxes and healthcare, especially aiding the middle class.
A highly qualified candidate for Congress, Sherrill is an example of a new politician looking to change the extremely partisan state that the federal government is in. Although proud to represent her party, she is determined to express her responsibility in a moral way, rather than voting just to satisfy Democratic leaders.

“There has to be a core to what you believe in,” she said, “because otherwise, why do this?”

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