Category Archives: Politics

Self-Styled ‘Outsider’ Seeks To Shake Up Congressional Race

Gregg Betts

By Amanda Renae Chapa and Nahid Hassan
Sullivan City, Texas and Upper Darby, Pa.

Editor’s Note: This piece was reported and written before the Aug. 3 primary. Greg Betts was defeated in that race by Allison Russo.

On Aug. 3, a special election for Ohio’s 15th Con-gressional District will be held to replace former Re-publican Rep. Steve Stivers, who resigned in May. Re-publicans hope that they can keep the seat, as they have since 2010. But they face competition from an unlikely challenger: Demo-crat Greg Betts, a self-titled “political outsider.” Betts, who served for more than 30 years in the U.S. Army, is a retired colonel with ex-perience as a military and government policymaker.

Although the political newcomer is aware of the challenges he faces running in a Republican stronghold, he said that as a military lo-gistics expert, he has had an immense amount of experi-ence running the programs, systems and processes en-compassing the federal gov-ernment. When he retired from the Army early this year, he knew he wanted to continue in a governmental role because of his love for serving people. 

His campaign for the seat also comes at an un-likely time. Betts was herded into the race when Stivers stepped down to lead the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. Though Betts has never held elected office, he said he has the background necessary to “hit the ground running as a legislator.”

Betts reiterated that past gerrymandering makes it difficult for Democrats to win the district. “Only Republicans have won the gerrymandered Republican districts, and only Democrats have won the select Democrat districts,” he said. He noted that the partisan-ship of modern politics does little to mitigate the issue, but did not specify any ex-plicit plans to overcome the problem. His plat-forms take a populist Democratic approach, with promises to support a $15 minimum wage, univer-sal health care and infrastruc-ture reform—as well as in-creased funds for veterans. “I know full well just how imperative it is that we honor our sacred ob-ligation to care for them both during and after their service to the people of the United States,” he says on his website. This sentiment comes from Betts’s own history serving in the military. 

While his ideas for change may appeal to left-leaning voters, his plans lack detail. 

When asked to describe how he would regulate mar-ijuana usage, he remained ambiguous. “The nice part about it is that we’ll be able to process it,” he said, draw-ing comparisons to how the government regulates alco-hol usage. He suggested tax-ing marijuana to fund health care and other necessities but remains vague about the spe-cific allocation of potential new funds.

Betts faces fierce com-petition in Republ ic a n Mike Carey, who secured an endorse-ment from former Presi-dent Donald Trump, and remains the leading candidate. Despite his uphill bat-tle he has remained firm in his desire to make positive change. His underdog campaign shows a man vying to help others, and with it, the change he has promised to bring change to Ohio’s 15th Congressional District. 

Retired Army Colonel Seeks To Upset GOP’s Grasp On Safe Seat In Ohio House Race

By Elina Sadeghian and Synai Ferrell

Healdsburg, Calif. and Waldorf, Md.

Editor’s Note: This piece was reported and written before the Aug. 3 primary. Greg Betts was defeated in that race by Allison Russo.

On July 15, 2021, Greg Betts, a 53-year-old Democratic congressional candidate for Ohio’s 15th District, participated in a press conference held by students of the Princeton Summer Journalism Program. There, he discussed his policies on healthcare, civil and voting rights, cli-mate change, and infra-structure. 

Betts is a retired U.S Army colonel who served for 30 years. He is running against fellow Democrat Al-lison Russo, a sitting mem-ber of the Ohio General Assembly. The winner of their Aug 3 primary race will face the Republican nominee to succeed retiring GOP Congressman Steve Stivers, who was represented the district since 2011, in a special election.

Betts said he was inspired to run for a congressional seat in Ohio because of its history of gerrymandering and unfair electoral politics. Ohio Republicans have designed the state’s redistricting map to keep their party in office, which violates voters’ constitutional rights. Betts, a strong believer in the Constitution, hopes to dismantle gerry-mandering and influence fair elections to ensure all Americans have equal protection under the law. 

Betts has his shortcom-ings as a new politician; however, his experience as a military colonel has prepared him to navigate government policies and has provided him with leadership skills. His passion to serve the coun-try also motivates him. “Although my military service is complete, my service to this state and nation is not complete,” he said. In reference to his initiatives, a student asked how he would pro-tect the rights of workers who will be out of jobs as he battles to rid the nation of corporations producing greenhouse gas emissions. In his re-sponse, he was honest and open about consulting with experts before tak-ing further action. Betts also faced questions on his infrastruc-ture policy. Betts’s goals for infrastruc-ture include transitioning to clean en-ergy to create jobs, investing in civil projects to repair roads, bridges, rail lines, airports and seaports, and replacing all lead pipes in America so everyone has access to clean water. When asked how he would maintain equity through these ini-tiatives—especially when one considers America’s history of rehousing mar-ginalized groups under the guise of infrastruc-tural improvement—Bet-ts again noted that he would defer to expert opinion.

Betts’s policies—such as funding child care, raising the minimum wage, investing in public infrastructure, decreasing the cost of college, and making healthcare widely accessi-ble, among others—appeal to most Democrats.

Williams Crafts Candidate’s SocialMedia To Appeal To Young Voters

Stami Williams

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. 

Simmons Runs For Stamford Mayor

By: Baby Cornish & Selena Moore

Frederick, Md. and Detroit, Mich.

Caroline Simmons

At the forefront of Caroline Simmons’s bid to become mayor of Stamford, Connecticut, is a topic that has dominated the nation-al conversation in recent months: public health.  

“This is everything from mothers facing mental health issues and stressors that relate to environmental injustice, and also the adverse health effects we see from air pollution,” Simmons said in a July press conference with The Princeton Summer Journal. As a mother herself, Simmons said, she particularly cares about combating environmental injustices that contribute to adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as preterm birth.

According to Simmons, a Democrat, infrastructure is crucial to her agenda of achieving environmental and economic justice, and as mayor, she would have “shovel-ready projects” lined up. She said she plans to work with Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to secure state and federal funding. “I would have a Stamford plan to combat climate change and re-build our infrastructure in a more sustainable way,” Simmons said.

Elected as a state law-maker in 2014, Simmons challenged incumbent Mayor David Martin for the Democratic nomination, resulting in her endorsement by Stamford’s Democratic City Committee by two votes, 21-19. Despite Martin’s loss, he can force a primary by gathering 5 percent of the city’s registered Democrats’ signatures. No Republican has announced a campaign for mayor, the Stamford Advocate reported, though former New York Mets manager Bobby Valentine is running as an unaffiliated candidate. 

As the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic recedes, Simmons said she hopes to grow Stamford’s population. Prior to the pandemic, she said, the city was losing residents to New York and Boston, but as the country shifted to remote work, Stamford began to see an influx of young people from those very cities.  

However, this disproportionately white demo-graphic of remote workers could harm Stamford’s diversity. The city is roughly half-white, a quarter Latino, 14 percent Black, and 9 percent Asian. “Another one of my priorities,” Sim-mons said, “is to continue to support that vibrancy and diversity that we have in Stamford and making  sure that we’re a welcoming city.”

Amid nationwide protests demanding an end to police brutality, Simmons called for strengthening police-community relations. “It means recruiting police officers from the neighborhoods that they’re serving,” she said. She also emphasized the need for officers to forge trust with communities of color who’ve “been targeted and unfairly burdened with police hostility for years.” 

Will these ideas prove enough for Simmons to become Stamford’s first female mayor? That question is one voters will likely have to answer on November 2.

Candidate Partly Defends Trump ‘Kung Flu’ Remark


President Trump’s repeated references to the coronavirus as the “kung flu” have drawn broad political backlash as a racist slur against Asian Americans. (Photo Credit: Sgt. Dana M. Clarke)

By Andrea Plascencia and Lia Opperman

Flower Mound, Tex. and Galloway, N.J.

Alan Swain, a Republican running to represent North Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District, tore into controversial issues including police brutality and immigration at a press conference with The Princeton Summer Journal.

Swain shared his views: shaming the abuse of power by many officers, such as the ones
who killed George Floyd, and calling for a “complete revamping” of police unions.

Although police unions are typically opposed to reform, he believes that it is necessary in
order to weed out the “bad apples” in the force.

“There needs to be a better process and a reset of what we’re allowing police unions to do,” Swain said.

However, Swain said he was opposed to completely dismantling current forces. “How do you restart a police force? We need the police force, and I, Alan Swain, fully support backing the blue,” Swain said. He advocated for a different tactic to combat police brutality, stating that police unions “should receive additional support and new funding that can be put towards training programs to make them better.”

Swain, who expressed concern about illegal immigration, spoke in opposition to sanctuary cities, chain migration, visa overstays and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

“We’re long overdue for immigration reform,” Swain said. “That’s probably the biggest thing … You have to register in this country is all I’m saying.”

Although his philosophy of “trying to help” immigrants lead better lives in America was
a recurring theme, Swain’s position was unclear. At one point, he referenced a plan to dissolve DACA, but soon after voiced his desire to “bring them in [and] put them in the process” of legalization, possibly through the allocation of green cards.

Swain also expressed support for immigration reform. “We shouldn’t have [them] living in the shadows in sanctuary cities,” he said.

Swain added, though, that he was opposed to sanctuary cities and undocumented immigrants who don’t “follow federal law.”

Though Swain has never run for office before, he cited his 26 years of experience in the U.S. Army, including his service in leadership roles on the Army Staff and Joint Chiefs of Staff.

He also talked about his work in the White House under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush as executive officer to the White House Director of National Drug Control Policy.

Swain also expressed the urgency of the return of students to school this fall under the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, indicating his dislike for digital learning.

“We’re not getting enough guidance,” Swain said. “Each state gets to decide how they want to [go back]. … Two months ago, [everyone said] ‘Oh, well, we’ll worry about that in the fall.’ [But] we have children starting [school] at the beginning of August here in the state of North Carolina.”

“They’re right around the corner,” Swain said. “We’ve got to do something.”


By Naziea Fruits, Sarah Furtado, and Kuftu Said

Cleveland, Ohio, Vero Beach, Fla. and Aurora, Colo.


Army veteran Alan Swain is running to represent North Carolina’s 2nd District in Congress.

Republican congressional candidate Alan Swain—a Japanese American and president of the North Carolina Asian American Coalition—partially defended President Donald Trump’s description of COVID-19 as the “kung flu” and the “Chinese virus” at a press con-
ference with The Princeton Summer Journal.

“We don’t like the fact that he would probably use those kinds of words, but he was just talking about where the origin was,” Swain said. “I’ve actually called it the China flu, too, or the Wuhan flu.”

Trump’s characterization of the virus, the spread of which he blamed on the Chinese government, has been widely condemned as law enforcement and human rights officials report a surge in reports of harassment towards Asian Americans.

“A lot of people went crazy about it,” said Swain, an Army veteran who is running to rep-
resent North Carolina’s 2nd District. “There have been concerns that there could be repercussions against the Asian American community.

Being of Asian descent, I have not seen any around me.”

Swain’s campaign aligns with Trump in other areas, which may make his election an uphill battle in the majority-Democrat district.

In the wide-ranging press conference, Swain also discussed police funding and border control. His stances reflected his self-proclaimed “law and order” ideology. “I, Alan Swain, fully support backing the blue,” he said.

“Everybody wants to defund the police,” he continued. “But Alan Swain’s position is that
I don’t think we need to defund the police; I believe we need to fund it.” Swain said that training police to de-escalate tense and potentially dangerous situations would be more effective than sending social workers to them, as some reformers have suggested.

Swain’s politics on immigration were less reflective of the national party. Swain said he was in favor of helping people in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, perhaps by giving them green cards. Otherwise, he generally supported stricter immigration controls, including building a border wall and cracking down on immigrants who have overstayed visas.

“That’s why President Trump says they come over the border and they think they’re coming to a picnic,” Swain said. “If you go to Iran and you overstay a visa, you know
what they do to you—they kill you.”

Griffin Says Schools Should Reopen

By Anne Tchuindje, Myanna Nash, and Daniel Sanchez

Washington, D.C., Chicago, Ill. and Boca Raton, Fl.

At a recent press conference with The Princeton Summer Journal, Republican congressional candidate Sheila Griffin spoke to reporters from The Princeton Summer
Journalism Program.

Born and raised in Pinellas County, in Florida’s 13th Congressional District, Griffin became a Republican at age 18. In 2012, Griffin became involved with the Florida Bar’s Executive Committee for Labor and Employment. She found her life’s calling in politics. If she wins the Republican primary, she will face incumbent Charlie Crist, former governor of Florida.

Griffin spoke about some of the most controversial issues of the day: race, the coronavirus, and returning to in-person instruction in public schools.

Challenging students’ questions about systemic racism in America, Griffin—who is Black—instead advocated for a “color-blind” approach to race.

“There’s only one race and that is the human race,” she said, when asked about ways to reduce systemic racism against people of color.

The candidate also dismissed racism’s role in the increased prevalence of COVID-19 among African Americans in the district where she is running. Though Pinellas County
is overwhelmingly white, Black residents account for approximately 17 percent of the reported COVID-19 cases in the county.

Griffin attributed this to the recent increase in testing in Black communities. “When COVID first hit Pinellas County, it was in all-white neighborhoods. Right now, most of the testing is done in African American neighborhoods,” she said.

Passionate about education, Griffin spent considerable time talking about coronavirus-related school closures. “Elementary schools should never have closed in the first place,”
said Griffin, adding that “there simply isn’t enough science that proves that younger children could be affected by the virus.”

Although health officials are still researching how children are impacted, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said that children can indeed become infected
and spread the virus.

With summer slowly coming to an end, school officials are now struggling to find a safe way to reopen schools and hold classes in person. Griffin said not reopening schools will do more harm than good, but that parents should be able to make their own decisions.

“It should be up to the parents, not local officials, to decide whether their child goes back to school or not,” she said. “Parents know their child best.”

Griffin Says Pandemic Response Overblown

By Aigner Settles and Brianne LaBare

Pennsauken, N.J. and Orlando, FL.

As new COVID-19 cases in Florida topped 10,000 per day, 13th District congressional candidate Sheila Griffin argued in a press conference with The Princeton Summer
Journal that her state’s response to the pandemic has been overblown.

Despite the increase in coronavirus cases in her state, Griffin—one of five candidates competing for a spot on the ballot against incumbent Democrat Charlie Crist—told reporters she believes that schools should be reopened immediately.

“When you start saying that somehow or another there’s no transmission or
likelihood [of catching the virus] for those who are under the age of 12, then I
don’t understand why we even closed the schools,” Griffin said.

Griffin argued that school closures will affect underprivileged youth who don’t have access to the technology needed for remote learning. “The big impediment will not
be for those children who already have what they need,” she said. “The impediment will be for all the children who will be left behind because they do not [have the resources necessary to succeed].”

Current plans in Griffin’s district provide varying options for families. “Most of our communities here have three choices. Their children can work totally online. Their children can come to school for two days and still work online. Or they can come full-time. Those are parental decisions that are being [put] up by the school board,” she said.

Griffin also emphasized the importance of parents having the final say regarding their child’s education, despite the increasing number of cases and guidance from public health experts to keep schools closed. “I never transfer responsibility that belongs to parents to anyone in government unless the parents are abusive,” she said.

Palzewicz Rejects ‘Defunding’ Police

By Paola Ruiz and Kwanza Prince

East Boston, Mass. and New York, N.Y.

At a recent press conference, Wisconsin Democratic congressional candidate Tom Palzewicz said he does not believe in “defunding the police,” but instead supports what he called “investment and reinvestment” to other social services.

“I think a lot of the dollars need to be moved from our policing system and reinvested into our mental health and a whole bunch of other areas,” he said.

Palzewicz, who is running to replace the retiring Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin’s 5th District, said police are too often called to treat issues they are not trained to address. “The way I describe this is: Our police force shouldn’t have to be
the one that gets called for everything that happens in our society,” he said.

One in four deaths that result from police encounters are individuals with mental health conditions, according to a report from the Treatment Advocacy Center. If funds were in-
vested in programs well-versed in these issues, he said, that would provide callers with an alternative to the police, and the fatality rate would decrease.

Palzewicz, a Navy veteran, ran against and lost to longtime Rep. Sensenbrenner in 2018 with only 38 percent of the vote. With Sensenbrenner retiring, Palzewicz has a clearer path to office, though the district is reliably red.

In an effort not to alienate more conservative members of his district, Palzewicz objects to the terminology “defunding the police,” saying, “it doesn’t necessarily solve the problem.” Yet his strategy of “reinvestment” sounds similar to most calls for defunding, in that he would move money spent on police activities to other government services while stripping police departments of their military-grade weapons.

“I think mental health is a huge issue in this country that has absolutely no dollars dedicated to it,” Palzewicz said.

“In Wisconsin, we spend more money on prisons than on education, and that tells you about where our priorities are, and our priorities need to change on that,” he added.

Biden’s Advantage: He’s Not Trump

bidenFormer Vice President Joe Biden has failed to draw sustained excitement among younger voters. (Photo credit: Adam Fagen)

By Perla Duran and Crystyna Barnes

Newark, N.J. and Elm City, N.C.

Joe Biden may have a young person problem.

In recent interviews, four teenagers from the Princeton Summer Journalism Program said they don’t approve of the presumptive Democratic nominee’s policies, especially his resistance to universal health care. They were disturbed by allegations that he inappropriately touched women or made them feel uncomfortable. They felt that he wasn’t reliable or modern enough, but said they would vote for him despite these

Anne Tchuindje lives in Washington, D.C., and Alyssa Ultreras in Oakland, California. Both are 17. In deciding whom to support, they said, a candidate’s authenticity is the most important factor. Alexa Figueroa, 17, of Brentwood, Maryland, and Stephanie Garcia, 16, of New York City, agreed, adding that they’re not confident that Biden will uphold the policies he claims to support.

For example, Biden said he wants to pay educators more and modernize schools. About this, Ultreras wondered: “Is everything you’re emphasizing really going to happen?”

They also feared Biden was cynically trying to reach a specific demographic: people of color. Tchuindje mentioned a recent interview on the popular radio show “The Breakfast
Club,” in which Biden said, “if you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or
Trump, then you ain’t Black.”

To Ultreras, this attitude is exactly what Biden needs to work on. In a society where people of color face a lot of backlash, she said, “he knows that voters are in a tough position, especially Democrats, where [he’s] your only option. Therefore, like, you’re going to have to pick [him] because you don’t want Trump.”

Biden is making Black people feel either obligated to vote for him, Ultreras explained, or guilty if they don’t.

When asked what other candidates they liked, three students named Sen. Bernie Sanders, the democratic socialist U.S. senator from Vermont, who dropped out of the race in April. They said he was a candidate they could rely on to uphold the promises he had
made, as illustrated by his past activism: marching for civil rights in the 1960s and getting arrested for protesting discrimination against Black people in the Chicago school system. The teens also mentioned Sanders’ unwavering support for a government-run “Medicare for all” system.

“I’m disappointed that it got to the point where we have to pick between the lesser of two evils,” Tchuindje said. But she and Ultreras said Biden’s election would halt the current administration’s harmful health care and environmental policies. In that sense, they said, not voting for Biden would be negligent—even dangerous.

Bill de Blasio Has Failed Enough New Yorkers

By Aima Ali

Brooklyn, N.Y.

In late March, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and chancellor of education Richard Carranza announced that schools would close. Now, with 232,000 reported cases and more than 23,000 deaths in the city, the mayor is planning on reopening schools in the fall. Reopening schools with the proposed hybrid learning model will only result in more unnecessary death.

Though cases are decreasing in the city, allowing some businesses to reopen, people still die from the virus every day. Before schools closed, more than 60 Department of Education employees—including 25 teachers—contracted COVID-19 and eventually died. Opening schools will inevitably lead to more cases and will raise the risk of students being exposed to the virus. School students and staff often have to commute using trains or buses. Though the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the city’s transit agency, has been cleaning trains nightly, those who use public transportation during rush hour know how crowded trains can be. Some MTA employees have even refused to come to work after their colleagues contracted and died from the virus. As a result, already unpredictable buses run on even more unreliable schedules and remain packed at all hours of the day.

The Department of Education released guidelines limiting the number of students per classroom, but keeping up with these requirements will be more difficult for schools with larger classroom sizes. Those are often schools serving low-income students. Low-income, Black, and Latino individuals are already more likely to both contract COVID-19 and die from the disease. Larger classroom sizes and fewer teachers will only increase these inequalities.

Those pushing for reopening claim that it will not affect death rates, as students are less likely to die from the virus. However, older students are still susceptible to becoming extremely sick and may suffer from other symptoms, such as loss of taste and smell. Students can be symptom-free carriers, infecting high-risk family members without even knowing. Older teachers will also go to work fearing for their safety each day. Teachers’ unions are predicting that teachers who can retire will, causing an even greater shortage of teachers and making it more difficult for class sizes to remain small.

Poor planning caused New York City to hesitate before closing schools when a COVID-19 case was first detected in Manhattan. Still, with months to plan, the best the mayor and his fellow politicians have been able to come up with is a plan that will ultimately result in the deaths of more New Yorkers. We cannot bring back those 63 DOE employees that were exposed early on, but we can make sure that no other teacher, school staff member, or student dies a preventable death.