As part of our coverage of the upcoming New Jersey election, we attempted to contact, usually by e-mail or Facebook, all twenty-four major party New Jersey Congressional candidates and both Senatorial candidates. Those who responded were sent a list of questions, basically the same questions but modified for specific information already available about each of them. Their responses to these "e-mail interviews" are being organized into individual articles and published in the order in which the responses are received, and indexed here with other election coverage.
Yolanda Dentley's campaign has been focused on local outlets, and thus there has been very little about her on the Internet. It was an effort to remedy that lack which led to the decision to do these individual interview articles, and she was swift in her response. She has no prior political experience, but has long been in education, currently vice principal of a middle school in the district. As to what motivated her to run, she says:
I must ask the questions:
Are the citizens of the 10th District satisfied with their current Congressman?
If the answer is “No,” then I ask the voters, especially Democrats and Independents, to consider my candidacy. It will infuse “new blood” into a district that under the Democrats, has maintained an ailing economy, failing public and charter schools, high taxes, dilapidated infrastructures, etc. And with 60+ years of Democrats in power in 10th, how much longer will the citizens have to wait for their voices to be heard?
I am motivated to run because I have become quite disenchanted with the direction of the 10th district. I feel I have many things to offer and will bring a new mindset to help bring the necessary funding and legislation to help take the 10th district to another level.
On the top of her list of problems to be addressed:
Public education is and has been one of the most important problems facing the district and the country since the 1960s. Without a good education, citizens will remain underemployed and continue to seek assistance from the government or turn to illegal measures to make ends meet. How much longer do our urban centers have to wait for the education system(s) to improve? As a former classroom teacher and currently a vice principal, I see the inter-workings and the complexities of public schools in District 10. It saddens me that the progress of public school students remains stagnant in the largest city in the district--Newark! Working with local elected officials, I feel my experiences in education will bring fresh innovative approaches to restructuring public education in the 10th district and throughout the United States of America.
Although in the 10th district Democratic incumbent Donald Payne, Jr., is just finishing his first term, he took the seat from his father, and from a long tradition of Democratic representatives. We asked Dentley why she is running as a Republican in such a district:
The most interesting aspect of my run for Congress is questions about being African-American and a woman running as a Republican. You should remember I became a Republican in the 80’s and my parents were Republicans well before that. The party did not act or sound the same as it does now. I am not blind to the anger and disappointment felt by Democrats towards my party and I agree with some arguments. But I believe in the two party system and change will only come from within. There must be someone in the rooms and chambers when decisions are being made that can carry your voice and express your needs. An African-American woman from Roselle who has worked in urban environments for over 25 years can get the message across.
Asked about her position generally, she also gave positions on several specific issues:
I am a life-long registered Republican who is considered a moderate. Although many think all Republicans think alike, there are levels within the party and I happen to have moderate views on some issues. In a Congressional district like New Jersey’s 10th, where a majority of the constituents are democrats and independents, I realize the importance of remaining moderate to fully represent the district once elected to office. My experiences shape my views, more than my party, and I share a lot of the same experiences the people of the 10th district have.
Having lived off of my father’s Social Security and Veteran benefits after his passing, I can be in the room to say that it is earned income not an entitlement. When generalizations are being made about parents that don’t care, I can be in the room to talk about the parents that have sat in my office crying because they feel helpless and have nowhere to turn.
I was not a trust fund baby as many think Republicans are. I worked at McDonalds for 2 years during high school because my mother could not afford to pay for my extra-curricular activities. I worked full time while going to college full time and graduated only to face unemployment. I paid off student loans that were still needed when financial aid fell short. I have worked a full time job and had as many as 2 part-time jobs to maintain a standard of living. I can represent the people of the 10th district because I am one of them.
Homosexual Marriage: The homosexual community has the same right to live and love as the heterosexual community. We should not muddle moral and civil issues and we should not deny people the ability to marry because we have a moral objection to their lifestyle.
Gun Control: I agree that we all have the right to own firearms. But, as with all our rights, we must act responsibly.
Affordable Care Act: I agree that everyone should have access to affordable health care, but I have spoken with too many citizens of the 10th district that are still uninsured because they cannot afford it. If the Affordable Care Act is repealed, it would leave millions of Americans uninsured while Congress develops another program. I recommend the Affordable Care Act be assessed and amended so it will truly provide affordable health care for the most number of people as possible.
Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of being a United States Congressman is the tension between national, state, and local responsibilities. We asked about this tension:
The citizens of the 10th district deserve appropriate relief from their tax burden. Congress must gain control of government spending. I will start with curbing abuses and excesses.
The critical question for voters, ultimately, is what distinguishes one candidate from another. Her answer to that:
What distinguishes me most from my opponent is my background in education. Improving our school system is a top priority in many municipalities in the 10th Congressional District. I not only have formal training by way of a Master’s Degree, but through the numerous professional development trainings and conferences I have attended. I have also gained practical training in many areas. And, nothing can replace the 25 plus years of hands on experience I have gathered. This makes me an expert in the field and able to provide unique insights into how to approach the complex challenges of reforming our education system.
Our thanks to Ms. Dentley for participating in our efforts.
We will continue providing coverage of all major party Congressional and Senatorial candidates, with focus articles like this one on those who reply to our invitation. If you would like to see coverage of a candidate outside that list, send a note identifying the candidate and the office and we will attempt to make contact.