Because the New Jersey Libertarian Party does not conduct a primary election, DeZarn will automatically be nominated at a statewide Libertarian convention on March 16. He will run against the incumbent Democratic Senator Linda Greenstein. The Republican Party has not yet announced any candidates.
The 2013 run for state senator will be DeZarn’s first political campaign. He has been employed by Dining Services for the past 17 years, though he took a yearlong military leave in 2005 to serve in the Iraq War.
DeZarn became interested in pursuing a political campaign after “waking up one morning” and asking himself, “What happened to my country that I love?” DeZarn explained that he was inspired to run for office after hearing about the financial struggles of both his neighbors in East Windsor and his colleagues in Dining Services. He added that he believes that both Democrats and Republicans today are limiting the free enterprise system.
“It makes me sick to see our state give out subsidies while the mom-and-pop private businesses don’t get that even playing field,” he said. “No one really has a plan to get us out of this mess.”
DeZarn said that in addition to minimizing government regulation of small businesses, he intends to “start a movement” by generating conversations about marijuana legalization and the rights of gay men and women.
“There are politicians in Trenton who agree with me on these issues, but they’re not willing to be the first to stand up for them for political reasons,” DeZarn explained. “But I’m not a politician, so I have nothing to lose.”
In particular, DeZarn noted that he believes that marijuana could benefit many patients. He said that elderly individuals with chronic ailments should be able to access the drug.
DeZarn added that marijuana prohibition laws are “racist,” as he believes certain groups in the population are targeted more heavily than others.
“It’s not only young black males that use marijuana,” he said.
Legalization of gay marriage on a future New Jersey ballot is also an agenda DeZarn said he would like to see.
“New Jersey prides itself on being a progressive state,” he said. “There are people who support this very much.”
While DeZarn has reached out to Princeton’s American Civil Liberties Union, he said he hopes to make contact with LGBT groups on campus throughout his campaign. While Princeton students are not registered to vote in the 14th district, DeZarn nonetheless said he wants to have the opportunity to meet with such student groups to “be a voice that they have never had before.” He added that he hopes he can “plug into” fellow Libertarians on campus, although he noted that he is not familiar with many student organizations.
Greenstein said she had not been aware of DeZarn’s campaign before speaking with The Daily Princetonian on Wednesday afternoon. She stated that the announcement of his candidacy will have no impact on her campaign schedule.
“I welcome any and all people into the race, whoever they are,” she said. “Everyone has the right to run.”
Greenstein also said that, while it is not the centerpiece of her campaign, she shares DeZarn’s stance on gay marriage equality and explained that he would not be generating a new discussion by including this view in his platform. She noted that the issue has been brought up in the Senate several times and that she has voted for the legalization of gay marriage in past Senate discussions.
On the subject of the legalization of marijuana, Greenstein declined to comment, saying that she would consider discussing the issue with DeZarn in future debates later in the campaign.
DeZarn informed his Dining Services supervisors of his candidacy on Wednesday afternoon. He said he intends to continue working at the University if he were to be elected.
University Spokesperson Martin Mbugua said that there is no policy that governs employees running for an elected office in their personal capacity. He added that if an employee wished to continue working for the University after being elected to a public office, the University would consider the situation “on a case-by-case basis depending on the requirements of the job.”
At the same time, DeZarn said that he expects the administration and the campus to be receptive to his campaign.
“Princeton’s motto is ‘in the nation’s service and service of all nations,’ and I want to serve my nation,” DeZarn said. “I expect that [the University] would be supportive of my endeavors.”