The field of Democratic candidates for New Jersey’s 12th District Congressional seat has recently expanded to include Dr. Andrew Zwicker, a physicist and head of the Science Education Program at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory.
Zwicker filed Monday to run in the district Democratic primary against State Senator Linda Greenstein from Middlesex, State Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman from Mercer and State Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula from Somerset. He is the only non-career politician among the Democratic candidates.
Zwicker explained that his platform will focus on comprehensive energy reform, climate change, investment in alternative energy and education, noting that he has professional experience with all of these issues. Zwicker said that as a resident of Middlesex County and employee in Mercer County, he has a personal understanding of the issues the district faces, and his status as a non-career politician makes him an ideal candidate for voters disillusioned with gridlock in Washington.
Furthermore, in his years as an educator he has brought in $10 million into the district through federal grants, Zwicker noted.
The University’s College Democrats are now actively involved in Zwicker’s campaign. Zwicker came to them seeking endorsement and has also included some of them in his campaign, as volunteers.
Kelsey Blair ’16, the social media chair for Zwicker’s campaign and the tech chair for the College Democrats, stated that the parallels between Holt and Zwicker will work in his favor with voters.
“I really think that people will recognize that … he’s trying to be another man of science in Congress,” Blair said. “A person who comes in and uses the scientific approach and isn’t necessarily concerned with all the backdoor things, all he wants to do is focus on the issues and focus on doing what’s right.”
Rush Holt, the current congressman for the 12th District who recently announced that he will not seek reelection, has not yet endorsed a candidate, and there is speculation regarding whether he will ever do so. Nevertheless, Blair said that the Zwicker campaign hopes to receive Holt’s official endorsement.
“We’re hoping for Rush’s endorsement,” Blair said. “If and when he finally does endorse a candidate, I think it will go a long way.”
Zwicker explained that he first thought about entering the race after Holt announced his retirement, and several people urged him to consider it. However, Zwicker added that he decided to evaluate the situation and ascertain his chances of winning the primary before making a final decision to announce his candidacy.
In particular, Zwicker stated, he spoke with former colleague and friend Holt, who advised him not to enter the race halfheartedly.
“One of [Holt’s] pieces of advice was: be in it to win it,” he noted.
Another major part of his decision to enter the race was the result of a meeting he had with the College Democrats.
“They were actually instrumental in my decision to run,” he said. “Their enthusiasm for a scientist, teacher, non-career politician was inspiring to me.”
Blair, who designed Zwicker’s campaign website, said that a unique aspect of Zwicker’s campaign is his “massive social media presence.” She noted that other candidates have yet to create websites specifically for their congressional campaign or use social media to communicate their stances on issues.
Miranda Rehaut ’16, who is the co-chair of Zwicker’s get out the vote campaign and co-president of the College Democrats, is working alongside Blair and others to mobilize University students to vote by absentee ballot during the primaries.
“If you’re going to choose to get involved with one political cause, this is the cause to get involved in,” Rehaut said. “Not only is Dr. Zwicker from the Princeton community … he is just a really great candidate. He really resonates with young progressives, which is why I think the College Democrats related so well to him.”
Rehaut is also a writer for the Street section of The Daily Princetonian.
Zwicker is also a lecturer in the Princeton Writing Program, a fellow of the American Physical Society and a faculty adviser for Rockefeller College. He was recruited to work at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory by Holt in 1997.