As of March 8, four Democrats have declared their candidacies for Princeton’s municipal primary election, which will be held on June 2.
Among the candidates competing for the two open seats on the town council are incumbent council members David Cohen and Leticia Fraga, along with newcomer Dina Shaw.
Mark Freda is currently the sole candidate running for mayor to succeed Mayor Liz Lempert, who has decided not to run for a third term.
The Daily Princetonian reached out to the candidates to gain a general sense of their background, prior experiences, and plans for the town of Princeton.
A newcomer to the ballot, Mark Freda is currently running unopposed for the position of Mayor of Princeton.
Born and raised in Princeton, Freda stated that he feels rooted in the town and community and that he believes this is the perfect next step in serving it.
Freda has held elected positions on local government boards, has volunteered for the fire department since 1974, and has been serving as President of the Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad for the past two years.
“It is difficult for most people to match my record of civic and voluntary involvement in town,” Freda said.
Freda said he wants to address the necessity to make local government more open and transparent as mayor. He said he believes in fully engaging with the public.
“Change will always happen; we need to be a part of that change,” Freda said.
Serving as the current Council President, David Cohen expressed that he is eager for the opportunity to be reelected to represent the town of Princeton for another term.
After obtaining a B.A. in Social Studies from Harvard University and his Masters of Architecture from the University of Virginia, Cohen has lived in Princeton for the past 33 years. He stated that he fell in love with Princeton and immediately found his passion for public service through his volunteering efforts.
According to Cohen, his inspiration for running for office was initially found at the Washington Women’s March.
“It was so inspiring. One of the lessons was if you want things to change, you run for office,” he said.
Using his background in architecture to his advantage, Cohen has made considerable strides for the town in regards to advancing sustainability and creating plans for affordable housing to attract future generations to Princeton.
He feels that housing is an outlet to promote another aspect of Princeton he would love to see grow stronger — diversity. Cohen says he places great significance on a diverse population as he firmly believes in the Jewish proverb, “he who is wise learns from everyone.”
Cohen shared his hopes to, if reelected, use his next term to preserve Princeton’s community and environment. For Cohen, it would be an effort to help the town become the very best it can be and continue heading in a positive direction.
After accomplishments during her first term with affordable housing, gender, immigrant equality, and emergency response plan development, Leticia Fraga — Princeton’s first Latinx Town Councilor — feels the need to run for another term.
“I can still contribute to strengthening our quality of life and meeting our community’s many challenges head-on,” she said.
Fraga was one of eight children born to a family in Mexicali, Mexico, where she lived for 12 years before moving to Seattle, Wash. and eventually Princeton in 1999.
While in Seattle, Fraga served as a Civil Rights Specialist and served on the Civil Rights Commission. In Princeton, she served as the Chair of the Princeton Civil Rights Commission, the Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund (LALDEF), Vice-Chair of Princeton Human Services Commission, and a board member of the Princeton YWCA.
Fraga says that her passion for providing equality for underrepresented populations pushed her to run for office and this perfectly aligns with the progressive values set forth by the town of Princeton. She noted that, in working with a community as diverse as Princeton’s, her background as a first-generation immigrant has provided her with many meaningful experiences.
Having fought for better opportunities throughout her life, she noted that this background will be useful as she works to do the same for Princeton residents.
Given the opportunity of another term, Fraga hopes to use her training through the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO), as well as her skills and experiences from her previous term, to continue addressing the needs of those who are underserved in the Princeton community through the emphasis of affordable housing and accessible healthcare.
Fraga said she believes the future for Princeton is beaming with amazing opportunities. She said that its growth and improvement as a town has no limits.
“I envision a Princeton where we all have the opportunity to thrive — a Princeton that is the top choice for raising a family, attending school, starting a business, and enjoying retirement,” she said.
Although this will be her first town council race, Dina Shaw said that her background in the Princeton school system and experience in creating her own business has left her more than well-equipped to serve her town.
In the past 17 years that she has lived in Princeton, Shaw raised a family and started her own business, Code Tech Corporation. Although not a native of the town, she said she believes there is no other place she would rather live.
According to Shaw, for as long as she could remember, she was always a go-getter — never able to sit still. She said she has always wanted to use her resources to improve the lives of others. She recounted, among her many accomplishments, revamping the parent-teacher communication system at her children’s school to become more technologically conscious.
“Life is not a spectator sport, so you better join in,” Shaw said.
Shaw stated that this challenge motivated her to formulate her “big tent” approach that welcomes all community members to participate in the democratic process, regardless of their backgrounds. She noted that comprehensive communication and transparency within local government are crucial to effectively addressing the concerns of Princeton residents.
Shaw expressed hope that Princeton will grow and become a more vibrant community. She emphasized developing the town, in a way more meaningful than installing candy stores and restaurants.
“Let’s make it a destination!” she said.
Democratic party individuals have until March 30 to file a petition to appear on the primary election ballot for mayor and town council, and independent candidates have until June 2 to file their petitions.