Environment Advocate Brings Local Issues Forward in 26th District Race
During her time as an environmental advocate, Jefferson resident Christine Clarke was inspired to run for the General Assembly by problems in her own life that reflect bigger challenges in the community.
Before the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, Clarke’s aunt passed away. She had postponed a CAT scan because it required out-of-pocket payment. Two days before the scheduled test – which would have led to a simple antibiotic and saved her life – she died in bed with her 6-year-old daughter. “It’s very powerful for me to think about the idea that some families have to postpone tests and ration medication because they can’t afford it,” said Clarke, a mother of four. “That’s wrong.”
When Clarke’s oldest son took an interest in marine biology, she helped him get as much hands-on learning as possible. Through his education, she saw numerous environmental issues such as garbage patches in the ocean and how plastic pollution has resulted in humans consuming on average up to a credit card’s worth of microplastic each week. These are just a few of the problems Clarke spent years fighting to fix. “There are things you can’t unsee,” she said. “There are things I’ve learned in the course of activism that I cannot walk away from in good conscience.”
When Clarke was asked to run on the Democratic ticket for the 26th Legislative District, she described it as a natural extension of her work. If elected to office, she intends to fight for job growth and economic gains through the renewable energy market, investment in water infrastructure and clean water, and reduction of income inequality.
Clarke credits her background in advocacy as a powerful resource to bring to the statehouse. She is a Climate Reality Leader with the international Climate Reality Project. In addition, she serves on the steering committees of the Jersey Renews coalition, the New Jersey March for Science, and the New Jersey People’s Climate Movement. She has worked with politicians to achieve shared goals, testified to the government on environmental issues and legislation, and made politics and policy more accessible to the public through Facebook Live broadcasts.
We All Care
While talking one on one to people on the campaign trail, Clarke has observed the power of community – regardless of party affiliation. “No matter what policy we may see changed or repealed at the federal level, when you talk to someone at the door, we all care about the same things.” She cited as examples families, good stewardship, the legacy left to children, good schools, and taking care of one another.
The campaign trail has exacted a toll. Though Clarke’s family was heavily involved in her environmental advocacy, she finds that campaigning takes away more home time than any of her previous work. “There are moments that are heartbreaking,” she reports. “My youngest son has gotten used to his mom leaving in the morning. That’s hard. But I married such an excellent man that knowing they’re in great hands with their father is also nice.”
Clarke’s children accompany her to events and help with canvassing. They are so integral to the campaign that she is making a blooper reel of funny moments. “They’ve been a part of this journey, and they know what we’re fighting for,” she said.
For Clarke, decency is on the ballot. She believes this election will determine the direction of the state and the future. “It’s important that we choose people, regardless of affiliation, who match our values,” Clarke said. “People in communities can get together and get work done, and we need representatives who work the same way. I think our government is too partisan and too broken, and that needs to change.”
Clarke and Democrat Laura Fortgang are challenging Republican incumbents Jay Webber and BettyLou DeCroce in the general election on Tuesday, November 5. Polling places for each resident can be found on the New Jersey State Department website at https://voter.njsvrs.com/PublicAccess/jsp/PollPlace/PollPlaceSearch.jsp#.