By Jorge Gomez-Kobayashi
Jersey City, NJ
Before he ran for office, Andrew Zwicker had more experience with plasma physics than he did with politics.
The Democratic Assemblyman from New Jersey thinks his atypical background as a fusion researcher at Princeton helped him win a Republican-leaning district in 2015 — a huge upset — and will help get him re-elected this fall.
As a scientist, he said, he will change his mind when presented with evidence that contradicts his point of view. That’s not always the case for politicians, he said.
“In politics, even in its purest form, evidence is just one piece of making decisions,” he said.
Prior to his election in 2015, Zwicker had little political experience. He ran for Congress in 2014 and lost the race. He said he wanted to run for New Jersey’s legislature because he had a “moral obligation to democracy.”
“Whether you think the country is right, whether you think this country is wrong, the most powerful thing to do is to vote,” he said.
Not only is he the first Democrat to represent New Jersey’s 16th legislative district, but he is also the first physicist. He won his seat over Republican Donna Simon by just under 80 votes.
Zwicker supports open-space funding, Planned Parenthood, environmental protection, and policies that support transgender and immigrant students. In his district, he runs book drives and veteran events to uplift his community.
Zwicker believes “politics is the art of compromise,” and recognizes that he’ll never get 100 percent of what he wants. Despite his science background, he also considers ethics and morality in how he votes. He said that he wanted to make “conscious decisions” so that he can sleep at night.
Zwicker said even if he is not reelected, he will continue to serve his community and focus primarily on his passion for science.
He expressed his pride in serving as a scientist and a politician at the same time, and he said, “It’ll be a great story to tell my grandkids.”