Two Political Novices Square Off in Democratic Primary In 3rd District
Jim Keady, a ‘Berniecrat,’ is a former soccer pro, while Frederick John LaVergne previously ran for seat as an independent
Jim Keady is best known as the protester who was told to “sit down and shut up,” when he questioned Gov. Chris Christie’s ability to handle the Hurricane Sandy recovery effort back in 2014.
An activist and former professional soccer player, Keady is the owner and proprietor of Lighthouse Tavern in Waretown. He is a former Asbury Park councilman and ran unsuccessfully for the state Assembly in Monmouth County's 30th Legislative District in 2015. As a resident of Spring Lake, he lives outside the district.
Frederick John LaVergne, a loan officer, has a background in biology and molecular genetics and previously worked as a residential mortgage broker for the Barclay Funding Group of Princeton. Lavergne ran unsuccessfully as an independent candidate for the U.S. House seat in 2012 and 2014, using the ballot label Democratic Republican in 2014.
NJ District 3 consists of Burlington and Ocean counties and has been represented by three Democrats and two Republicans over the past 50 years, although there have been major changes from redistricting. Although more voters in the district are registered as Democrats (26 percent) than as Republicans (25 percent), Republicans won the 2012 and 2014 races with 8-point margins. Nevertheless, it is expected to be a contested seat this fall.
The Democratic Party had been split over the two candidates, endorsing LaVergne initially until the Ocean County Democratic Committee broke off and endorsed Keady when he declared his candidacy in mid-March. The winner of the Democratic primary will face first-term Republican incumbent Tom MacArthur in November.
LaVergne supports minimum wage increases but says these changes “cannot occur in a vacuum.” He says raising the wage to $15 an hour is a “good start, but we must also protect the value of the dollar.” LaVergne says his plan will weigh the factors of inflation and changes in pricing to ensure that businesses treat workers fairly.
Keady says his work as an activist took him to Indonesia in 2000 where he lived among low-wage workers manufacturing Nike sportswear. He says his time in Indonesia drew him to start a nonprofit grassroots organization called Educating for Justice and advocate on a range of issues like economic justice. “This is a natural extension of that work,” Keady says “I would like to be inside the halls of power being the voice for those issues so we can get some real policy.” Keady said in an emailed statement, “we need to increase the minimum wage so that we get more dollars flowing at the bottom of the economy to spark economic growth for working families."
Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts
Keady says he represents the upward of 7,000 families who have been displaced due to the storm. “It’s imperative that they have a voice that’s fighting for them in Congress,” Keady says. In the aftermath of the storm, he says he personally took to the streets in Belmar to help clear the rubble. He also says he intends to target insurance firms that have profited from the National Flood Insurance Program and sees this as an opportunity for a major policy change. Keady says his entire campaign is focused on fair compensation and getting people back into their homes and he will never “sit down and shut up,” with regard to this issue¬¬¬¬¬¬.
LaVergne says the way the state handled funds was inefficient and proposes his own plan to help his district recover from the storm. He says the first dollars should have come from the homeowner’s insurance and flood insurance investors. LaVergne’s plan, outlined on his website includes among other points a retroactive moratorium on collection activities on loans and liabilities for those displaced, immediate offset of uncollected taxes, and an investigation into the dispersion of FEMA funds. LaVergne says of FEMA “some of that money didn’t end up where it was supposed to, and those involved have committed a crime against their neighbors.”
LaVergne says he supports “national healthcare for all” and “will defend it with my every breath.” He says he promotes consolidating the current model of the Affordable Care Act and will look to implement cost reductions to “make Obama-care work.” He also supports legalizing medicinal marijuana nationally.
Keady, a self described “Berniecrat,” has tweeted his support for the Vermont Senator’s health care plan for a single-payer system, saying the plan is something positive to build toward.
Keady has publicly come out in support of legalizing marijuana medicinally and recreationally, especially for veterans who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
LaVergne says he puts an emphasis on support for veterans healthcare, specifically in the area of mental health. Most of the inefficiencies, LaVergne says, come from a bloated administration. He writes in his policy statement “these members of the ‘Department of Redundancy Department’ are why your tax bills and our deficit continue to spiral upward out of control” and advocates for a stronger auditing process.
LaVergne says one of his major policy points for the district is investing in infrastructure, environmental remediation, and alternative-energy projects as potential sources for new jobs. He says bringing alternative-energy manufacturing into the district will provide employment for those struggling to make ends meet.
Keady says, as a small business owner himself, he thinks it’s crucial to support those middle-class workers living in the district. He says he’ll fight for green-energy projects and has publicly opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership and China Bilateral Investment Treaty. He wrote a blog post condemning the TPP, saying, “it creates the uneven playing field that leads to the loss of hundreds of thousands of good-paying American jobs.”
LaVergne says he advocates removing the earnings cap entirely and collecting the subsequent taxes using this funding to make Social Security “permanently solvent.” LaVergne says that the extra funding coming in from this action could also be used to subsidize health care expenditures and education funding, including a reduction in rates for existing student loan debt.
In an emailed statement, Keady said "I am committed to protecting Social Security to ensure that our nation's' retirees have income security in their golden years."