The Year of Independents

Stoler FlagI majored in Political Science and minored in Sociology at Tulane University.  I loved learning about governments, leaders and societal behaviors.  This has been a great foundation for the various careers I have had.  I’ve been going to DC to do advocacy for my two professional associations for almost 15 years. In the process, I’ve met with Senators and Congressmen and periodically women – on both sides of our two-party system.  Luckily, I was there to discuss health issues – which are non-partisan.  I’ve served on the Governor’s appointed Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, through 3 governors – again – regardless of party affiliation – as volunteer, for 15 years.  I made a goal to myself to consider a run for Congress when I turned 50.  Again, no other external factors influenced this decision – other than the fact that it seems that for years, people are frustrated with the multi-decade incumbents and partisan politics.

Is there one way to throw your hat into the ring… to raise your hand and say, “I volunteer” for the job of civic representative? No.  Is there a set “training” or path to elected office?  No.  Would being on town council or the board of education give me the training I need to be a Congresswoman?  No.  Heck, I’ve been the President of just about every organization I’ve been a member of.  I have friends in elected and appointed “offices” – I see what they do.  I’ve attended fundraisers, helped with campaigns, and have kept my ear to the ground to hear what people in my community want for almost two years.  In healthcare, we call it a needs assessment, in the military they call it reconnaissance, in the legal world it is called due diligence.  For me, it has been about experiencing “data collection” first-hand… not relying on the media or opinions of others.  I’ve been trained as a scientist and a journalist… and think I do a good job of minimizing personal bias.

I decided to wait until after the November election in 2017 to take the formal steps to get a US Congressional race started.  I was enthusiastic and filled with great optimism.  People have been saying that they want CHANGE.  They are tired of CAREER politicians.  The status QUO is not ACCEPTABLE.  Many long-term incumbents read the writing on the wall, and decided to retire with grace and dignity (for most).  Our founding fathers never imagined people would want to make careers out of politics – or else they would have included term limits in our Constitution.  Had they known that political parties would become polarizing forces reminiscent of the monarchies and feudal systems they traveled halfway around the world to escape, they might have prohibited them.

We are a Republic, which means there are rules and laws, and use a Democratic process to craft, implement and maintain those laws in order to protect life, liberty and our “pursuit of happiness.”  How ironic to find out that in wanting to serve our fellow residents in an elected position – for the very same altruistic reasons that I’m in healthcare and have been a lifelong volunteer – to help others, that the very process of elections is not as “open” as one may think.  The political “parties” we are asked to choose to be a “member” of when we register to vote, is not the same as the actual private party organizations that control ballots and positions.  Yes, I just said it – political parties are private organizations.  They do not have to be inclusive.  Do the parties want you to participate?  It depends.  Yes, they want your money and your votes.  They’d love for you to volunteer to help those who are already in positions… but do they want to encourage you to run for an office?  Not unless you show up with six or seven figure checks  - which is how people buy their way into politics.  Perhaps you’ve done your time like a hazed fraternity pledge, but remain in a holding pattern for decades until some “leader” has given you permission to advance or an incumbent decides to retire.  In the latter, it again means money… attending loads of fundraisers.  Ever wonder who attends most of these events?  Their price tags are not cheap and forget about if you have young kids that require being shuttled to activities (or merely being a parent).  This happens in both the Republican and Democratic parties. 

Why am I telling you this?  Because you need to know this is how it works.  When you think your vote doesn’t count… it does.  In fact, when you don’t vote, you allow the status quo to remain intact.  You allow this “old boys network” to remain in power.  Make no mistake, those people in charge – even at the local level – have their hands in each other’s pockets.  Jobs, contracts, pensions, favors… all those things that you, as the majority, do not benefit from.  So, yeah, you can vote for change every opportunity you cast your vote.

There are many ways to impact change.  First, let the local parties know that you are tired of the status quo… do not give them money, do not put out lawn signs or vote for candidates that you think do not represent YOU.  It should always be about the person versus the party.  Especially when you consider that our local, county, state and federal government works for all citizens, regardless of voter status or party affiliation.  Next, demand that conflicts of interest disqualify people from holding paid and elected positions at the same time that may put them in a position to not be objective or for which they can personally benefit financially.  This means getting legislators to create laws prohibiting it.  A legislator who is not guilty of such conflict, should have no issue getting laws like this passed.  If they do – then vote them out. 

Gandhi said “be the change you want to see in the world”.  This is a principle I live by.  This is one of the reasons why I’m running for US Congress… to be the change.  As I’ve learned in my professional training, change comes from within.   My doctoral research was in worksite wellness, and for sure, I think we can agree that Congress needs a healthy makeover – for the benefit of our country.  How about representation that works for the benefit of all Americans versus partisan politics?  Have you noticed how little gets done?  I want to see term limits for elected officials at all levels in order to ensure a government of, for and by the people.  A true participatory government.  Personally, I’d like to see the Republican party great again.  The party of Lincoln, Roosevelt, Eisenhower and Reagan.  Personal accountability, less government intervention and honoring the ideals of our Constitution.  This means keeping government out of our bedrooms, bodies and bathrooms. 

When grown MEN, and it’s only been MEN, within the party I’ve been a member of for 33 years, feel the need to take to social media to harass me about wanting to be part of the democratic process based upon their own personal narrative, it is just pathetic.  Name calling.  Come on, stop acting sophomoric.  Attacking a highly credentialed, professional, single mom – with 30 years of work experience, running for office.  Hmmm. The irony is that the very people who question my party “membership” fail to hold their incumbent to the same, alleged, party allegiance.  What about squashing competition or punishing those publically who may question inappropriate behavior within political offices.  Whistle blowing gone amuck – welcome to local politics.  This was not what our founders intended when the created our Constitution.  They intended for true representation, not back room deals by “power brokers”.  By the way, primaries are not truly open. Those involved with the primary ballots are not elected but appointed members of private organization.  Follow me here, private clubs pick who can be on your public ballot if you’ve registered to vote for one of the two “parties”. 

Perhaps we should consider doing away with primaries because they cost a lot of money to implement and just have a general election in which all candidates can be considered… that their names are placed on a ballot in an objective manner – like alphabetical order.  Add in campaign finance reform… level the playing field and then maybe we’ll see who the best person for the job really is, not the options that are shoved down our throats like bad medicine.  The process is not transparent, it is not open, and it is not democratic.   In our recent primary, 10% of voters showed up to vote.  That means 10% of Democrats and Republicans narrowed your choices for the general election.

This is precisely why I chose to go directly to the general election in November.  To let the constituents in NJ’s 4th Congressional District have an opportunity to have a real CHOICE about who will represent THEM in Congress.  Not one party, but all 711,000 people in my Congressional District.  In science, we look at the bell curve, where the majority are within the bell curve… and the outliers are the extremes on both sides.  The majority will have options on November 6th 2018. 

While the statistics for running independent of the two major parties in a general election are not good, I am optimistic that there has never been a better time to appeal to those voters are do not identify with either party anymore… to give all voters an option because they do not share the same belief that their party’s anointed “choice” is the best choice. People can stop voting for the lesser of two evils.  It about finally having a real, viable option and making history in a positive way.  I will work hard in representing my constituents – all of them – not constrained by an “us” or “them” club.  I am committed to running a positive messaging campaign.  I’d like to see this become our new normal.  We need to lead by example.  I plan on being the grown-up, professional in this campaign and hope the other candidates will do the same. 


The Sky-Rocketing Cost of Living in NJ

While I am a candidate for a federal office, I am in constant dialogue with individuals in the district and the state, about the high cost of living in NJ.  It is financially challenging to live here.  Real estate taxes keep going up at a rate that has forced many people to move or lose their homes to foreclosures.  There is an increasing number of NJ residents who have second homes in states, like Florida, who use their other residence as their primary, to avoid paying income taxes here.  We all must pay for health insurance or pay the government a penalty for not having health insurance.  Some people just don’t earn enough to pay for either.

Many school districts are seeing significant cuts in their budget.   Where is the money to educate our children supposed to come from? Where has all the money gone over these years?  We can agree that education is the foundation for building a workforce and developing good citizens.  We must thank our educators who dedicate their lives each year to teach our children.  Education is the most important part of our infrastructure that we cannot let slip or continue to fall through the cracks.  It is our children’s future and their parents who suffer from increased property taxes.  Have teachers, educators, and healthcare professionals been part of this process to help make those decisions? I’m assuming the answer is no.

NJ just approved sports betting, to make money from an addictive behavior.  A projected $13 million in tax revenue will be raised from sports betting in the fiscal year.  According to NJ.com “Some officials have estimated anywhere from $50 to $100 million -- would not have a massive effect on New Jersey's budget.”  There are talks about adding toll roads, yet we do not have affordable, accessible or reliable public transportation and potholes that destroy our cars; not to mention that we have the leading, highest auto insurance rates in our country.

I was shocked to see that Governor Murphy wants to enact legislation to increase the price of gun purchase and carry permits, identification cards, manufacturing and retail sales licenses to a rate for which there is no rationale.  I appreciate that the rates have not been adjusted since the 1960s, but is the proposed amount actually justified?  I say no and it’s unfair to those who practice responsible gun ownership. I am particularly concerned about individuals – often women – who are the victims of domestic violence, who feel they need to have a handgun to protect themselves from their abuser due to a “justifiable need”.  Let’s face it, restraining orders are just a piece of paper.  Few women who’ve been physically abused, have an extra $1000 plus it will cost to protect themselves while raising a family as a single parent because our legal system and law enforcement cannot.

Most of the gun violence we see here in NJ, is not necessarily a result of law-abiding gun owners, it’s gang members, gang violence, criminals, or others who obtain guns illegally off the streets. Street gangs like the Bloods and MS13 will continue to obtain weapons regardless of our Governor’s new proposed laws.  Some recent gun violence has been carried out by young students who’ve been bullied, picked on, who feel as though no one hears them or is willing to help them. Where can people turn to when looking for help and guidance? Our mental health care system is broken.  It’s yet another message we all need to get out there to make a difference as a society. It seems that policy is enacted without looking down the road at the ripple effect, trying to predict all of the potential long-term outcomes and its impact on life in the Garden State. 

How about fixing our family law system here in NJ?  With a 50% divorce rate, it seems like more people in NJ would benefit from a system that doesn’t create emotional and financial harm to parents and their children.  Let’s make it easier for individuals to get out of harmful relationships.  It costs less than $100 to get a marriage license in NJ, why is the price of divorce so outrageous? How about adjusting the child support guidelines to levels that support the REAL cost of living in NJ?  Oh yeah, and enforcement of child support payments and other agreed upon terms of property settlement agreements so children can be taken care of by both parents, not be the pawns in money deals.  Perhaps NJ should tax family law attorneys who create acrimonious situations where parents are nearly bankrupted by the process, dragging out cases through frivolous motions and rescheduling that takes years.

This week, there has been a very public outcry over the separation of children from their parents or other relatives dues to illegal immigration, yet many do not realize that our family law courts have been doing this in NJ for decades.  There are many Facebook groups that address this issue – it is a crisis in this country that has been swept under the rug.  A child’s cry from being separated from their parent is the same regardless of their citizen status.

Yes, there is a budget problem.  I don’t have the answers since I’m not privy to all the details.  However, I’m asking the Governor and the NJ Legislature, to rethink the budget, and take into consideration the faces of the people you are impacting.  I’m asking all of the existing NJ members of the House of Representatives and the current Congressional candidates to join me in protecting the rights of our residents in NJ. 

 

 


Shame on Those Who are Barbarically Separating Children from Their Parents

I am without words to describe the absolute disappointment I have in our federal officials.  Shame on everyone who does NOTHING to stop this trauma on our own soil.  We should be honored that people would do ANYTHING to come to this country, but instead, we are barbarically separating children from their parents. It is unconscionable. I was moved by the letter that Laura Bush wrote over the weekend to the Washington Post.  I share her sentiment.  As a healthcare professional and mother, it is abhorrent that young children are essentially forced to be in detention centers where the staff are instructed not to hold, touch, or comfort these children.  The president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Collen Kraft, has eloquently described the harm we are causing these children.  Let us not forget what the Romanian orphans taught us about the irreversible damage that not touching, holding or attending to children’s basics needs can do. These children developed autistic-like behavior.  We are a better nation than this.  My piece of advice – do not vote for incumbents who supported this zero-tolerance policy.  I appreciate the problem we have with illegal immigration, however, the partisan politics that we are seeing in Congress is destroying this country.  Some people care more about the way animals are treated than human immigrants.  You have a choice in November – you can leave things as they are, or you can choose to help new leaders change the way our government is run. Breathe new life into Congress by saying that the STATUS QUO MUST GO!


Dr. Felicia Stoler Proposes a Women’s Reproductive Rights Act!

It really galls me that states keep trying to pass laws like the one in Arkansas which clearly violates women’s reproductive rights— it would have the effect of forcing two of that state’s three abortion clinics to close. We need a federal law that stops states from doing this once and for all!

The Arkansas state law is like one in Texas that was recently struck down by the Supreme Court. A Federal District Judge in Little Rock used the Supreme Court precedent from the Texas case to declare the Arkansas’ statue unconstitutional— but, state lawmakers got a court of appeals to reverse the district judge’s ruling which effectively keeps the Arkansas law on the books for now. The Supreme Court sent the case back to the federal district court in Little Rock for clarification.

We need a federal Women’s Reproductive Rights Act to once and for all put an end to these unconstitutional state laws.

Please visit my “Issues” page for details on all my positions.

As “The Inclusion Candidate®” in the November 6th election, please rest assured I’ll work tirelessly for common sense solutions on your behalf!

Thanks,

Felicia


“Dangerous Weapons” can be prohibited— wrote Scalia in the “Heller” decision!

I disagree vehemently with his extreme views on “Choice” and LGBTQI rights but as a lifelong “independent thinking” Republican I agree with the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on gun issues. Scalia wrote for the majority in the landmark 2008 “Heller” decision that “dangerous weapons” can be prohibited even as the second amendment guarantees an individual’s right to own certain guns for lawful purposes like self-defense. Recent polls show that a majority of NRA members support comprehensive background checks!

I participated in a candidate’s forum on gun related issues— I hope you’ll watch this video for details on my positions and ideas:

Like so many other important issues today the extremists in both parties insist on proffering all or nothing ultimatums instead listening to the vast majority of Americans. As “The Inclusion Candidate®” in November and hopefully your next Congresswoman from New Jersey’s 4th district, I’ll work tirelessly to build coalitions for common sense solutions.

Thanks,

Felicia