By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media
WEST CAPE MAY â€“ When it comes to the environment, West Cape May Commissioner Dr. John Francis III was ahead of his time and hopes to capture those experiences in his race for the U.S. Congress District 2 seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew.
A nationally-known TED Talks speaker, he witnessed the environmental devastation of an oil spill near San Francisco Bay in 1971, setting off decisions that in his 20s that would shape his views for the rest of his life.
He ditched motor vehicles in his 20s to walk across the country. He also took a vow of silence for 17 years, all the while going on to earn advance degrees, including his doctorate at University of Wisconsin in land resources with a concentration in oil spills. He is know through his nonprofit as the Planet Walker.
“I grew up in Philadelphia and my parents had a home in Cape May,” Francis told Front Runner New Jersey in January, where he participated in a counter-rally to President Donald Trump’s visit to Wildwood to support Van Drew. “I spent all of my summers in Cape May, so I feel like this is my home.”
Francis’s story has already been an inspiration to many, making national news when he was featured on CBS News in 2016.
“I hope that kind of story that can inspire us and anyone that we can do things we can’t imagine,” Francis said. “That’s why I would like to get across, to empower the voters to get out to vote to change things and make things happen.”
Francis is in a crowded field of Democratic candidates eager to take on Van Drew, who won the seat nearly two years ago as a Democrat but switched parties during the House impeachment efforts.
That Democratic field includes three other African-Americans â€“ Atlantic County Freeholder Ashley Bennett, and former aide to Sen. Cory Booker Will Cunningham. Another African-American, Erica Collins, has started a committee to explore a run.
Other Democrats in the field include Brigid Callahan Harrison, Amy Kennedy, Frederick John LaVergne and Robert Turkavage. Bob Patterson is running against Van Drew on the Republican side, despite the Congressman’s support from Trump.
“In the district, you have a lot of poverty, a lot of problems,” Francis said. “About 20 percent of the people here don’t have health care and we’re going to have to do something about that. Donald Trump wants to do offshore oil drilling. Gov. Murphy’s done a little bit about that keep it off state waters.
“Just to realize the environment is a challenge for us. We need to realize the way we treat each other is what’s going to manifest in the future. Let’s be good to each other. As far as policies, that’s going to influence my ways of looking at policies being good to each other. Such as women equal pay for equal work and raising up agricultural sector. This district is No. 1 in a lot of agricultural metrics,” Francis added.
Francis said he was not surprised about Van Drew switching parties, he said the district deserves someone who is committed in their believes. Francis, though his walking and vow of silence, has already shown the strength of his commitments.
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