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Kleinman challenges Van Drew

Longtime activist enters race for Democratic nomination

By Nikita Biryukov, April 02 2018 5:46 pm

A longtime liberal activist and co-founder of a sustainable farming non-profit group is aiming to take on frontrunner State Sen. Jeff Van Drew (D-Dennis) for the Democratic nomination to Congress.

Nate Kleinman, co-founder of the Experimental Farm Network, a 501c3 group that encourages farming practices that blunt climate change and a prominent activist in the Occupy movement, aims to move the race for the state’s second congressional district to the left.

“I feel like it’s a shame that the democratic machine in Washington and New Jersey is behind Van Drew,” Kleinman said. “If Democrats are going to take over in November, I feel like it’s important to do this with real democrats who have a strong agenda for change.”

Van Drew, a right-of-center Democrat that skipped a forum organized by three progressive grass-roots groups in January, has won lines from all eight Democratic County Committees in the district, and Kleinman said he has reason to be wary of the political establishment.

Two other Democrats are already in the race: retired teacher Tanzie Youngblood and former Cory Booker Senate staffer Will Cunningham.

In 2012, Kleinman, who was a staff member of former President Barack Obama’s 2008 election campaign, ran as a write-in candidate for Pennsylvania’s 13th district’s congressional seat.

He said he had planned to run against then-Rep. Allyson Schwartz for the Democratic nomination, but Schwartz challenged 800 of the roughly 1,500 signatures on Kleinman’s nominating petitions. Faced with court fees if the challenge succeeded, Kleinman withdrew from the race, and his name was removed from the ballot.

The experience has made Kleinman wary and reluctant to talk to press about his run for Congress until he is sure the same will not happen again. Still, he said his ideals have pushed him into the fray.

“I’ve been thinking a while about running, and I do it somewhat reluctantly because I have a busy life as a farmer,” Kleinman said. “But, on so many different issues, I believe the country is moving in the absolute wrong directions, and I don’t believe status-quo politics are prepared to solve those problems.”

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