Two Penn alumni, one progressive and one moderate, will soon face each other in New Jersey’s fifth district Democratic primary.
Arati Kreibich, Glen Rock freshman councilwoman and 2005 Perelman School of Medicine graduate, is challenging New Jersey Representative and 1997 College graduate Josh Gottheimer in the primaries. The two are set to face each other on July 7.
“Just like I learned during my time at Penn, you have to stand up for your values," Gottheimer wrote in a statement to The Daily Pennsylvanian regarding the upcoming election. "I’m honored that the hardworking residents of New Jersey's fifth district have given me the opportunity to represent them in Washington, and I'm going to continue fighting for what’s best for North Jersey and for our Democratic values."
Although this is a local election, widespread media coverage of the race has attracted national attention, prompting endorsements from prominent United States politicians.
Gottheimer wrote in a statement to the DP that his strong record on issues including women's health, clean water, criminal justice reform, and equal rights have earned him the support of Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and the Congressional Black Caucus.
After defeating a highly conservative, seven-term Republican incumbent in 2016, Gottheimer has since served as the congressional district representative since Jan. 3, 2017. The New Jersey congressional race that year was influenced by "negative advertising and a flood of outside money," The New York Times reported.
Kreibich, who secured the endorsement of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on June 15, campaigned for Gottheimer two years ago. She launched her campaign last fall.
She said she made the decision to challenge him, however, based on his response to last year's humanitarian crisis at the border, when widespread media coverage documented family separation and U.S. Border Patrol holding kids in cages at the southern border.
Gottheimer advocated for the passage of an emergency border funding bill that gave $280 million to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and more than $1 billion to Customs and Border Protection.
This action also garnered backlash from liberals in the fifth district.
“I found that to be morally repugnant, and having been a longtime supporter of his, he made me morally complicit in that decision, and that is the antithesis of my beliefs and values, so I decided to primary him," Kreibich said.
Penn Justice Democrats endorsed Kreibich, the group wrote in a statement to the DP, and expressed that they are interested in phone banking for her.
“She’s a progressive insurgent candidate going up against a corrupt corporate Democrat who votes alongside Donald Trump the majority of the time,” the group's executive board wrote.
As the election approaches, Kreibich said she is wary of the circumstances in which voters are deciding who to cast their ballots for, citing the coronavirus pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement as pressing societal issues that need to be addressed.
“In the middle of a pandemic right now, one of the worst places hit was [New] Jersey, as an epicenter of COVID-19," Kreibich said. "I’ve been frustrated and angry that we haven’t even had the leadership to ensure the PPE for healthcare workers on the frontlines everyday.”
According to Kreibich, until this past weekend, Gottheimer refused to say 'Black Lives Matter,' and "still hasn’t condemned police brutality."
“I don’t even know how to explain the depths of the multiple crises that we are going through right now," Kreibich said. "And that’s why we need folks who need to advocate to take care of people first, before we go and bail out corporations.”
Gottheimer currently has a 41-point lead, 62%-21%, over Kreibich according to a TargetSmart internal tracking poll published by New Jersey Globe on June 23. Kreibich has raised $474,812 so far, while Gottheimer has obtained more than $8.4 million in campaign funding.