LD-33 In Focus: Gabe Rodriguez, the InsiderNJ Interview

Gabriel Rodríguez, Assemblyman candidate for LD33: “our goal is to remove the fear and the narrative that police officers, urban youth and people of color cannot come to an accord”

By Martina Adasme

Raised by a family of educators, Mayor Gabriel Rodríguez of West New York grew up watching his parents dedicating themselves to education and public service. “My sister and I learnt about giving back to the community very early on and now she’s also a professor in the school system in our city,” he reflects.

Elected mayor of West New York on May 14, 2019, Rodriguez has seen the city through upsides and downfalls: the arrival of COVID-19, a pseudo post-pandemic life and just this week, fires that affected rows of business and apartments in West New York and Union City. Now, Rodríguez is running for office to be the next Assemblyman of the 33rd Legislative District of New Jersey.

Hudson County: Hoboken, Union City, Weehawken and portions of Jersey City are the cities of the 33rd District that are being represented in the State Senate by Brian P. Stack, and in the General Assembly by Annette Chaparro and Raj Mukherji. On February 6th, State Senator Brian Stack, state Assembly candidate Julio Marenco and state Assembly candidate Gabriel Rodríguez officially presented their candidacies for the next legislative term.

Before becoming a Mayor, Rodríguez served for four years as Town Commissioner. Governor Jim McGreevy, Governor Jon Corzine, Senator Bob Menendez and U.S. Rep. Albio Sires (who is now running for Mayor for West New York) are some of the men with whom Rodríguez worked. “I’ve always been involved and interested in politics, so running for Assemblyman is a natural progression for me,” he says, “and also it has been an honor and a privilege for me to serve the community that has seen me grow, that I have been educated in, that I in essence have become a man in.”

Coming full circle: Rodríguez was a staffer at the Assembly Majority Office at the beginning of his career. “I’m coming back to my roots by running for office!” he confesses. Therein also lies the reason why he’s supporting Sires for mayor. “For him to decide to return to serve the community where he started his political career is like a homecoming, but most importantly, I believe he’s the right person to continue and finish the projects we started in these four years.” said the sitting mayor.

Nevertheless, we have seen that Latinos (the majority of population in the 33rd District) have turned their vote around and – in some instances – the Democratic Party has lost its popularity among Latino voters. When asked, “how can the Latino community put their faith in the Democrats?”, Rodríguez is firm in his response: “I am an advocate for having representation that is relatable to the community, that mirrors what the community is and I take great pride in saying that I feel very much part of the community that I represent because I am the community.”

Especially interested in the education, health care and public safety committees, Rodríguez affirms that by connecting the bridge within these three issues, he can help lower severe cases of police brutality, and also, “we would be able to establish more intimate relationships between the policing unit, the community and, [particularly] the urban youth.” One of his goals, he says, is to remove the fear and “the narrative in social media that police officers and urban youth or people of color cannot come to an accord.” By having more than 75% of the police officers in their department born and raised in West New York, the community is used to being around police officers. “They see these officers at their schools, they see them at their games and their actual after school activities – I think that our community is a direct representation of that goal gone well,” the candidate says.

When it comes to gun control, he adds that he’s a “big proponent of stricter guidelines.” We can hear this narrative constantly: it’s easier in some cases to get a gun than it is to get your license to drive a car, and “both things are dangerous, you can kill somebody on the road and clearly by owning a gun you can do that too.” “You know, I’m not against gun rights, clearly I’m not, that’s a very American thing,” he says, but firearms as the number one killer of children in this country “is extremely concerning and that should be at the forefront in how we make decisions in approaching gun control.” That is directly related to why there are police officers in schools too, to make sure the community and their parents feel safe, “when you drop off your child in school, with everything that’s happening in the world, the fact that there’s an officer in uniform dedicated to helping and protecting the children, the teachers and all the staff – makes us all feel safer.”

And, who are you supporting, the Eagles or the Chiefs?

He laughs and says: “I’m going to watch the Superbowl this Sunday as a neutral, but I’m rooting for a good game.”

(Photo of Gabe Rodriguez by Fred Snowflack).






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