Even at 22 years old, it’s not Dan Valentine’s first time on the ballot. The Toms River native is a Libertarian running for a seat on the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders, against longtime Republican incumbent Joseph Vicari and Democrat candidate Helen Dela Cruz.
But his age, Valentine said, can be seen as a positive: “When I speak with the voters, they agree we need younger blood and newer voices representing us in Ocean County,” the candidate said.
He’s been focused on standing up for marginalized voices, devoting his time to causes such as homelessness, whether volunteering at food pantries or advocating for the homeless at a recent Freeholder meeting.
“Being a Christian, I am passionate about loving and serving our community, having spent the last 5 years serving in local non-profits and ministries, from food pantries, to youth groups, to our homeless shelters, to events like car shows and kids camps,” Valentine said. “I work as a teacher, a server, a notary public, and am training to be a pastor.”
Last year, with two seats up on the board, Valentine reserved 2,154 votes out of the almost 225,000 cast. But as this unprecedented election season draws nearer to Election Day, Valentine reflected on what it has meant to him and how it has been different amid the coronavirus.
“As for the pandemic, I have watched as Gov. Murphy mercilessly shut down most schools, businesses, and houses of worship. I am discouraged that NJ residents have not stood up to this destructive and unconstitutional overreach on the part of the state government that has been crushing local businesses, disconnecting people from churches, isolating people, and contributing to our current isolation, mental health, and addiction crisis,” said Valentine.
He said he takes issue with Murphy’s policies.
“Though we should all be taking reasonable precautions, the ‘one size fits all’ policies from Trenton are going to leave a scar on our state and lead us further away from liberty,” said Valentine. “The pandemic and lockdowns have made me much more passionate to fight for human freedom as NJ becomes more authoritarian.”
In this year’s campaign, Valentine has three things he is advocating for: Get taxes and spending under control; end criminalization of homeless, substance addicted and mentally ill persons in favor of rehabilitation; and protect gun rights.
We need to “keep resources in the hands of Ocean County residents, not to be spent by politicians and their buddies,” Valentine said. “Your family knows better how to spend your money than the freeholders. We must also stand up to increases in toll fees, gas taxes, or excessive lockdown measures implemented by Governor Murphy.”
To his second campaign point, decriminalization, Valetint said that we should “Instead rehabilitate them by empowering non-profits, churches, synagogues, temples, and other community organizations. These are people that need healing, not handcuffs. We need a sustainable solution to help and to house the homeless in Ocean County, which should include a permanent shelter.”
Valentine outlined his third campaign point about guns: “Protect gun rights for all peaceful adults in Ocean County. The right to keep and bear arms is currently being heavily infringed upon in New Jersey, and this is unacceptable and unconstitutional. You should be able to defend yourself however you see fit, without interference from the government,” he said.
The Libertarian party candidate said he decided to run for freeholder “to advocate for compassionate, bottom-up, & community-based solutions.”
“I want to speak up on behalf of those who are hurting, marginalized, and forgotten residents of Ocean County who cannot run for office,” he added. “As a Libertarian, I am also serving as a much-needed alternative to the Republican-Democrat duopoly on the ballot.”
Valentine explained further, criticizing the length of term of longtime incumbent, Freeholder Director Vicari.
“My campaign is also to unseat the career politician Joe Vicari who has held this seat for 40 years, since about 18 years before I was born, having also been mayor of Toms River for 5 terms,” Valentine said. “Based on the last few decades, the chances are that Vicari will win again, but that should not stop us from voting based on our principles. When I speak with the voters, they agree we need younger blood and newer voices representing us in Ocean County. As for my opponents, Vicari and De La Cruz, I believe they have the best of intentions, but would both continue the failing top-down government approach in place currently.”
As part of this season’s campaigning, Valentine has used social media but also outreach at protests, rallies, places of worship and also the Freeholders’ meetings themselves, using the public comment section to speak up about homelessness for example.
“It is challenging to think of a single moment or experience that I’m particularly proud of, because this year was spent solely in smaller groups without big events. I’d say I found the most joy in listening to the stories of hundreds of Ocean County residents, in the churches, in the synagogues, at local businesses, on the streets, on the boardwalk, or at the food pantries. I get to hear them out and let them know that they matter, they are valuable, and they are cared for,” Valentine said.
In hearing their stories, he has listened, and shared how his platform might help: “I share how we are fighting to free them from brutal taxes, the disastrous war on drugs, and a government that wants to control every little aspect of their lives,” he said. “Compassion should be our solution, more not control over people.”
Valentine invites voters to contact him via email at “ValentineForOceanCounty@gmail.com” or on Facebook at “Valentine For Ocean County Freeholder”. He also points to the full Libertarian Party platform found at LP.org/platform.