Mark Dunec: Only Jewish Candidate

His campaign video, “What Does Mark Dunec Stand For?,” begins with the only Jewish candidate in New Jersey running for Congress answering, “one heart and one nation.” An Orthodox Jew, Dunec is running against 10-term Republican Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen.

On his campaign website Dunec states his motivation running for Congress:

  • Working across the aisle to tackle the problems facing his district and country
  • Embracing good ideas without regard to rigid ideology or strict party affiliation
  • Honesty and transparency where constituents will know where he stands regarding any given issue

In a phone interview Dunec said he is running on a “platform of solutions at a reasonable balance and in my mind, passable.” He referred to politicians wanting to grow the economy. “But that’s where it ends. They just don’t just tell us how they’re going to do it.” However, Dunec prides himself being a “professional problem solver.” “I got the education, experience… and versatile character to get the job done. And by the way, I have the ability to compromise, as well and I don’t know why compromise in a lot of people’s minds is the dirty word,” said the professional management consultant.

Dunec used minimum wage as an example of compromising: Two-tiered minimum wage. He further explained that in New Jersey the minimum was is $8.25 per hour, which he said high school and college students would make while those 23 years and older would make $10.10 per hour. “This is how I would potentially move the conversation forward. Is this solution perfect? No. Is it age discriminatory? Yes. But you know what? The status quo is not working. And if I can bring [a] number of people out of poverty or be much closer to almost above the poverty line I’m prepared to compromise and get it done. And that idea that you just heard from me is original thought. This is not Wall Street Journal or New York Times. It’s not Rachel Maddow or Shaun Hannity… everything that I’m running on is Mark Dunec original thought from Livingston. This is what we need. We need options on the table that are reasonably balanced and in my mind this is a reasonable compromise to the minimum wage issue.”

Discussing the U.S.- Israel relationship Dunec said, “The U.S.- Israel relationship is not only a bipartisan issue, it’s a nonpartisan issue.” His foreign policy mirrors Robert Menendez, a Democratic senator from New Jersey, who is known to be pro-Israel.

Dunec said that Israel is a U.S. national interest as well as U.S. security interest. As a member of New Jersey Leadership Council and National Council of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), he would go to Washington and build relationships with members of both parties. “There really wasn’t much to strengthen. It was already there.” Concerning “certain elements of the Democratic Party” regarding Israel, Dunec said, “It’s my job to educate them in terms of helping them understand it is in our national interest and national security interest… and I’ll always be outspoken about the issue.”

On his campaign website under the “National Security” section there is a subsection titled “Arab-Israeli Conflict”. It reads: “The United States can only serve as an aid and arbiter, and we should only serve as arbiter if both parties wish for us to act as such.” Dunec elaborated, “We are the superpower of the world. At the end of the day we’re not going to be the world police and we will try to keep peace to the best of our ability all around the world.” However, Dunec said, “I would never support imposing our U.S. views of what we think a peace settlement should be [between Israel and the Arabs].” Instead, what he suggests is the U.S. being a “mediator,” but “ultimately the two parties have to come to an agreement on their own and whatever agreement they come to, I will support.” He added, “This is not a Palestinian-Israeli conflict…. There has to be peace with the Arab League.” The Arab League, he said, does not allow the Palestinians to make peace. “Once Israel makes peace with the Arab League, there will be peace, period, in the Middle East. Whatever agreement they come to I will support.”

Running in a district dominantly Republican, Dunec said, “People are praising leadership. People want to know options…. This entire campaign from Day One has been about providing solutions. Providing something new. Enough with the rhetoric of the left and the right. We have to start thinking on our own.”

To Dunec, being the only Jewish candidate in New Jersey running for Congress is “irrelevant.” He said, “The fact that I’m Jewish shouldn’t be an issue.” However, Dunec mentioned that when he told party leaders about running for Congress, leaders were concerned his observance of Sabbath would interfere with campaigning. Nonetheless, him being Jewish was well received by the people in his district, especially in the town of Sussex where the county democrats typically have their convention had their convention on the third Saturday of March. They changed it to happen on a Sunday so Dunec could attend. Reflecting that moment, he did not expect the rescheduling to occur. “This experience and campaign trail journey has been a wonderful experience for me and my family.”

When asked about working in Washington on the Sabbath, if elected, Dunec answered, “I’m going to be one of those guys that’s going to sleep under the desk… if I need to be in Washington for a vote over Shabbat or a holiday, you know, that comes first and I will 100 percent be there.” He mentioned though that every weekend he plans on returning to his family, which he said is a four-hour train ride from Washington to New Jersey.

Dunec is not your average political candidate. He said, ““Everything about me is out-of-the-box. I think strategically. This is how we have to get it done.” His personality, relative to being the only Jew on a New Jersey ballot, is irrelevant. “My ego is at the door. Let’s just get it done. That’s why I’m running.”

About the Author
Jackson Richman is a student at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Former fellow at The Weekly Standard. Once shadowed at the Jerusalem Post.