Congressman Chris Smith of the NJ 4th District needs to go asap!

Many people on Mercer’s campus are represented in Congress by a hypocritical and evasive man named Chris Smith who needs to be voted out in the next cycle.

There are a lot of reasons to oust Smith, but the most important one is that Smith doesn’t care about his constituents and we know that because he won’t talk to them. Smith–a Republican who represents Mercer communities Robbinsville and Hamilton–has been in office since 1980 and hasn’t made himself available for a public comment since 1992.

When I called Chris Smith’s office to ask why he hasn’t responded to his constituents, they declined to comment.

People show up at his little storefront headquarters in Freehold to protest and he wants nothing to do with them. He ignored the local activist group called District 4 Coalition for Change who protested there last month. One of their members, Sue Fulton, a military veteran and activist spoke at that demonstration in a video that can be viewed on their Facebook page. She puts it just right saying Smith “collects a paycheck to represent the people of a district he won’t even face.”

Another constituent who has tried to get in touch with Smith is Kevin Akey, 66, retired and presently living in Little Silver–one of the towns represented by Smith. Akey is part of the activist organization Indivisible NJ 4. He told me he wants to discuss issues like health care, reproductive rights, the Muslim ban, and gun control with Smith and calls Smith’s offices “just about every day,” but even staffers in charge of specific policy areas are “never available on the phone” and Smith is “notoriously hard to get a hold of.”

Akey and his group have been petitioning Smith to hold a town hall meeting since last January and have personally delivered petitions to Smith’s Washington D.C. and Freehold offices, but they’ve received absolutely no response on the matter.

They also put a petition up on to get Smith to address his constituents and 1,587 people have signed it as of November 4. Still no word from Smith.

One person who actually did manage to get a comment from Smith’s office is Katie Park, she reported on Smith’s absence last February for the Asbury Park Press. Smith aide, Jeff Sagnip, got back to her a few hours after she made her request and sent a statement saying that “[Congressman] Smith has no intention of subjecting his constituents to the animosity and hostility that has been directed at him and his staff.” Is he really afraid of his constituents facing animosity?

Another reporter, Tom Moran, in his column for The Star-Ledger last February, reported that Smith was upset because people “called [him] an asshole, and worse than that.” Smith reportedly said: “And when people call me an asshole, I’m less likely to take their opinions seriously.”

Of course, there is no indication he ever took anyone’s opinion seriously. Moreover, President Trump’s rampant name calling doesn’t appear to have caused Smith any concern. He hasn’t distanced himself from the President at all. He is quite insulting himself. Last January he said–as reported by NJ Advance Media–that he does “not construe homosexual rights as human rights.”

I don’t condone name calling, but if Smith has been utterly incapacitated by mean comments from constituents since 1992, unable to address any issue for a quarter of a century, he’s obviously not fit to hold office.

Even Republican students on our campus find Smith inaccessibility alarming.

When asked what she thought about Smith’s 25 year long reluctance to hold a town hall, Mercer Freshman Angelica Pettinato, one of Smith’s constituents, and a Republican from Robbinsville, said: “I think that’s horrible!” She added she would not vote to re-elect him in 2018.

Mercer student Mikayla Eckel Cifrese, also a Republican from Hamilton said of Smith: “he’s supposed to represent the people. To just ignore everyone, that’s not okay. If he’s not able to do it he should not be a politician.”

This October CNN reported on a Washington Post- University of Maryland poll that found “71 percent of Americans say politics has reached a dangerous low point.”

If we continue to elect people like Chris Smith, who ignore their constituents and discriminate against many of them, anger and divisiveness will surely get worse.

Challengers and their supporters need to get to work now. We deserve to be represented by someone who will actually hold a town hall, preferably more than once every 25 years. Actually, we deserve a lot more than that, but it would be a good start.

Sean O’Connor
Mercer County

This letter was also published in The Campus Voice.

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