By Brett Friedensohn
Fueled in part by Senator Bob Menendez’s ongoing bribery trial, Alexander J. Kucsma, an English professor of 45 years at County College of Morris, has announced he will run against Menendez in the June 2018 Democratic primary election for one of New Jersey’s two seats in the United States Senate.
Menendez is accused of favoring Dr. Salomon Melgen, a Florida-based eye doctor charged in 2015 in unrelated fraud case, for giving him campaign donations and lavish gifts, according to CNN.
In his unorthodox campaigning approach, Kucsma is running under Democratic Liberty Tea, a trademark federally registered to his name in December 2015, rather than under the support of a party. Kucsma said he is using this race in part to bring attention to his cause of eliminating money as a factor in deciding legislation and policy.
Kucsma is announcing his intention to run through Youngtown and said he wants to attain the needed 1,000 signatures on his petition to run at County College of Morris.
“This would be the first college ever to get a Senator on the ballot and that he is Democratic Liberty Tea, and the people just Google in there and see exactly what that is,” Kucsma said. “And we start getting out stories as to what is a trademark name? And we don’t need lobbyist money. We don’t need lobbyist money. I mean, one day, I’m offering Democratic Liberty Tea for somebody to run for Congress for $100. Maybe one day, that business is going to be $10,000 to run for Congress. That’s what it’ll be because people understand, if they understand the trademark name, they’ll buy into it. It’s like a McDonald’s franchise. It takes $150,000 to get it. Doesn’t it?”
Candidates who run under Democratic Liberty Tea must follow the set principles of the organization, according to Kucsma, who said that he can lose his trademark otherwise. Among these principles is the refusal to seek out campaign donations. Instead, candidates who use the trademark must pay to the organization a $100 registration fee and, if elected, a one percent royalty fee for campaign funds raised, according to Democratic Liberty Tea’s website. Kucsma said that he is legally obligated to report all of his organization’s funds as income as would any other corporation.
“It took me five years to get that trademark; I’m not about to lose it because somebody wants me to cut a deal and slash into a budget,” Kucsma said. “If the NRA knows I’m friendly to the Second Amendment, which I am, I’d certainly like their members to come out to support me, but I’m not going to ask them for a donation which would then obligate me to do that. Every politician of the world would do that.”
To create an environment that does not pressure its members’ opinions and policies, members of the organization are forbidden from discussing certain issues, including abortion and gay marriage, among each other, according to the website. However, other issues are included in the organization’s core principles. Upon signing up, members agree to strive toward reducing government spending to not unduly burden taxpayers and small businesses, increasing military spending to “keep our country the foremost military power in the world,” passing legislation to counter illegal immigration, and supporting to replace the Affordable Care Act with a system that will restrict omission of people with pre-existing conditions and force no one to maintain health insurance.
Kucsma received 6 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary of New Jersey’s 12th Congressional District in the House of Representatives election of 2016, when, according to his website, he received a public endorsement by New Jersey Right to Life Committee, a non-profit whose purpose is to legally combat abortion rights.
Kucsma hopes to become the first member of his trademark elected into public office.
“I think there’s a snowball’s chance in hell,” Kucsma said. “I think even if Menendez was indicted, but somebody’s got to do what I’m doing.”
Eighty four percent of likely New Jersey voters believe Menendez should resign if indicted, according to a Suffolk University poll.
If elected, Kucsma said that he does not plan on introducing legislation to limit the power of money in politics as members of the Senate and House of Representatives benefit too much from campaign donations to pass such laws. Instead, Kucsma said that such a change will only come when voters begin electing politicians who stand against cronyism.
“What I’m saying is you need a political reorganization here of what we do in political parties,” Kucsma said. “Never trust those who have created a problem to give you a solution.”