Congressman Rush Holt is one of four Democrats that plan to run in an August primary for the chance to take over the Senate seat left vacant by the late Frank Lautenberg. He told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that he has a very different background than the other candidates and considers himself the most progressive of the group.
Holt said his background in the scientific community, being on the international negotiating team on arms control across the table from the former Soviet Union and working in the State Department to deal with weapons of mass destruction set him apart from the other Democrats looking to fill Lautenberg’s seat. “I’m a scientist, a teacher, a committed progressive. I’m the progressive in this race,” Holt said, adding the Senate could use more progressives.
A number of progressives have spoken in support of Edward Snowden, the former security analyst who’s on the run after leaking information about surveillance by the U.S. government. “I certainly do not condone leaking classified information. Nor can I condone classifying information that should be out there for public debate,” Holt said. “The president has said we should have a good debate on this surveillance of Americans, spying on Americans without warrant. and we certainly should have that debate. And there also should be better laws to protect whistle-blowers so that the debates can take place.” The congressman added that Snowden should probably be prosecuted.
Holt believes he has good chance of winning the Democratic primary in August against Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Congressman Frank Pallone and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver based on his record. “I’ve never run into a burning building and I don’t have a million Twitter followers, but I do have I think quite a good reputation for cutting student loan interest rates to make college more affordable and accessible. I helped write that legislation,” Holt said. “I’m responsible for the $80 million appropriation to deal with epidemic of suicides among our soldiers and veterans.”
According to Holt, the August primary won’t be about celebrity but about the depth of support people have for their candidate of choice. “It would be good to have somebody in the Senate who had some scientific expertise, who would understand the implications of science and technology for our society,” he said. “It would be good to have somebody in the Senate who would once and for all close Guantanamo, who would see that we get Medicare for all, health care coverage. It would be good to have somebody in the Senate who would confirm judges and justices who won’t tolerate government spying on unwarranted surveillance of citizens.”
Holt said he’s an independent thinker, like Lautenberg was, which makes him a good choice for the Senate position. “I speak out on things that are in the interest of New Jerseyans. It’s why so many people say that I’m the worthy successor to Frank Lautenberg, who was an independent fighter, fighting for children’s health and fighting for gun safety and fighting against drunk driving,” he said. “This is the seat that Frank Lautenberg vacated by his death and I’m so pleased that so many people have said that they’d like to see me carry on that fight.”
Winning the seat is Holt’s goal. “I’m in this to win. I intend to win with the help of people who have been with me so strongly over the years,” Holt said. “I’m the one who’s battle tested in elections, always running better than the pollsters say, always running and confounding the expectations and conventional wisdom.”