By Aryam Haile and Huda Tombul
Stone Mountain, Ga. and Brooklyn, N.Y.
In a press conference on July 15, students from the Princeton Summer Journalism Program interviewed Stami Williams, the communications director for New Jersey GOP gubernatorial candidate, Jack Ciattarelli.
Originally from Stone Mountain, Georgia, Williams’s job consists of creating and maintaining Ciattarelli’s image on the campaign. The current governor of New Jersey, Democrat Phil Murphy, has a considerable advantage in New Jersey, where there are over a million more registered Democrats than Republicans. De-spite this advantage, however, no Democratic governor has won a second term in the last four decades. To win, Ciattarelli must win over Democratic voters. Williams told the students at the Princeton Summer Journalism Program that in Ciattarelli’s previous years as an assemblyman, he ran in Democratic districts so that he could form a relationship with those voters. During the campaign, Williams said, Ciattarelli has visited communities that Republicans traditionally don’t go to. “He appeals to people by being honest and speaks about issues that are actually important,” she said.
In her role as communications director, Williams, who is 29, has focused on Ciattarelli’s social media strategy to appeal to younger voters, a strategy that she admit-ted Democrats are usually better at. “Democrats traditionally crush us with social media engagement,” she said. “It’s really important to stay focused on mastering the social media platforms that you have.”
The students asked Williams about her personal experience working on Ciattarelli’s campaign. She characterized it as a safe space for a woman in a male-dominated field. Williams is also passionate about Ciattarelli’s pol-icy goal to reduce property taxes in New Jersey. Williams noted that many people in New Jersey suffer due to these taxes and oftentimes have to move away. Some of these people include her parents. “My parents are unable to move to New Jersey to be closer to me due to the unreasonable property taxes,” she said.
Candidate Ciattarelli is also a big supporter of law enforcement. During the Black Lives Matter movement, tensions between law enforcement and minority Americans were very high, raising the amount of distrust Americans have towards the police. Accord-ing to Williams, Ciattarelli is committed to easing this tension by listening to both sides. “The plan is to have more community involvement, it’s to engage communities of color and have open-ended discussions,” she said.
As a young woman, Williams’s career in politics is still new, but in the long road ahead, she plans on hopefully changing New Jersey and helping the people who have had their wishes ignored by previous leaders.