Central New Jersey has had some success over the years electing Princeton area scientists to public office and voters might have a chance to do it again this year with an authentic Renaissance man running for the New Jersey legislature.
Dr. Chris Fistonich, a Yale-educated PhD immunologist, cybersecurity analyst and opera singer, today announced that he would seek the Democratic nomination for what will likely be an open State Assembly seat in the 16th legislative district.
He is also a co-leader of an online organization, VoteDEM, which has raised nearly $2 million in support of Democratic candidates at the federal, state and local level.
“With a short learning curve, a thirst for knowledge, and an analytical mindset, I have the background and drive needed to make a substantial difference in the Assembly,” Fistonich said. “I am passionate about expanding the range of voices heard in our political process, and I aim to increase voter engagement and turnout beginning with this election.”
The 30-year-old Fistonich teaches microbiology at Rowan University and immunology at Caldwell University. For the last decade, he has also worked for Malwarebytes as a cyber threat analyst.
Rush Holt (D-Hopewell) was the assistant director of the Princeton University Plasma Physics Laboratory before launching a fourteen-year career in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Like Holt, Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D-South Brunswick) comes out of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, where he headed the science education department.
Zwicker is running for the State Senate and it’s his open Assembly seat Fistonich wants to fill.
“I hope to continue that tradition, as having scientists in office is critical to creating a data-driven approach to a range of policies from combating the pandemic to voting reform, immigration, and affordability,” said Fistonich.”
He pointed to his own personal story as the son of immigrants.
“As a first generation Croatian-American whose parents left everything behind to create a new life in America, I reflect on all of the opportunities afforded to me every time I work to accomplish something new,” Fistonich said. “I recognize that many are denied those same opportunities and plan to make equity a focus of this campaign. I hope to make my parents proud.”
Fistonich did not say in his announcement if he would run off the line in the June Democratic primary.
He serves on the executive board of the Princeton Community Democratic Organization and is a Democratic county committeeman in Princeton. In 2020, he designed a ranked-choice ballot and voting system the PCDO used to endorse a presidential candidate.
The PCDO voted overwhelmingly on Sunday to support a better ballot design.
Flemington Council President Caitlin Giles-McCormick is close to entering the race for the open seat in a district that has trended heavily Democratic in recent years.
Somerset County Democrats are also recruiting someone to run, with party vice chair Zenon Christodoulou again on the list of potential candidates.
State Sen. Kip Bateman (R-Branchburg) announced this week that he would not seek re-election to a fifth term this year, creating a strong opportunity for Democrats to pick up a Senate seat.
Joe Biden carried the 16th district by 28,165 votes, 61%-38%.