By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media
WEST NEW YORK – New Jersey State Senate candidate David Winkler has a couple of irons in the fire, running to unseat a popular Democratic incumbent and is now leading a new recall effort against Gov. Phil Murphy.
Winkler, a combat veteran of the Marines and Army, told Front Runner New Jersey last week if his military experience has taught him anything, it is fighting for a good cause is worth the effort regardless of the odds.
Winkler, who is running as a Republican in the 32nd District likely against incumbent Nicholas Sacco, said he hopes his recall of Murphy gets off the ground Monday (Jan. 4) where he will be tasked with getting 1.7 million signatures to force Murphy to defend his office.
“I’m somebody who lost 46 Marines on the battlefield between Iraq and Afghanistan,” Winkler said. “I lost another 20 to suicide afterwards. Freedom is taken lightly by some people. As a state official, I will be held to a higher standard, just like when I was on duty.”
In announcing his recall effort last month, Winkler accused Murphy of abusing his power with his state emergency orders related to the coronavirus pandemic. He said those orders crushed local New Jersey business owners and everyday workers trying to make a living.
“I am a combat veteran who has seen tyranny in the Middle East and I am not afraid to stand and fight against those who oppress the people,” Winkler said in his December statement. “My oath to protect and defend the Constitution and the American people never expires and our people are suffering under Governor Murphy’s reign.”
Winkler said he was inspired to take on the Herculean task against Murphy while running for office himself while seeing residents in his own community face evictions and lose their livelihoods because of the COVID-19 restrictions.
“They were considered non-essential, and there’s not really a whole lot of hiring up here,” Winkler told FRNJ. “I’ve got a bunch of small mom and pop businesses up here. Not only that, but this religious aspect was an attack on our Constitution, as well as the disability aspects with the mask mandate. There are just some people who can’t wear masks going in stores because they medically can’t do it. They are told they can’t go into these stores because they’re not wearing a mask and that’s a problem.”
A New Voice
Winkler is trying to become only the second African-American Republican to serve in the New Jersey State Legislature in his effort to unseat Sacco. The California native who is of mixed-race Black and Latino, would also likely become one of the few Latino Republicans in the body. Assemblyman Antwan McClellan, R-Ocean City, is currently the only Black Republican in the New Jersey legislature.
“My message I bring to the 32nd Legislative District is of hope, prosperity and civility,” Winkler said in a statement in December announcing plans on running in Sacco’s district. “We must heal the divisions here within America and restore a system of government that is for and by the people. I am a Black/Latino conservative who exemplifies the values of Lincoln, abolitionists and freedom. I believe in engaged and servant leadership where every voice matters and I am always available and accountable to the people.”
The challenge against Sacco will be significant. Sacco won his last election for the same seat with more than 80% of the vote in 2017 and by more than 70% in 2013. Winkler said he believes his background and military experience will play to his advantage.
“The military and politics kind of coincides with each other, especially as you get up the rank,” Winkler said, who spent 15 years serving in the U.S. military. “I was an advisor for the Afghanistan government and I did the same thing for the South Korean government underneath the current President Moon [Joe-in]. There is, to me, just a lack of real understanding or a lack of leadership here and I believe that I’m more of a common sense and more pragmatic kind of person when it comes to this. They call me crazy for saying this, but I have real unconditional love for the American people as to why I handed over a blank check to the government to go protect the freedoms that we have.”
Winkler said he believes his diversity of thought as a Black and Latino will go along way in giving critical perspective to social issues that dominated the headlines last year.
Diversity of Thought
“I think [diversity of thought is] critical, and I think it’s an underestimated advantage or a strategic advantage, especially in this current political climate,” Winkler said. “In my area right now. I got [Black Lives Matter] attacking the moderate Democrats. I got BLM attacking, even the progressive side. There’s some inner bickering going on there.
“Moderate Democrats in Hudson and Bergen [counties] are not actually caring about real criminal justice reform here, or social justice. This is dealing with police. This is where being a Black conservative comes in as an advantage, strategic advantage, but we’re not playing that card. As more youthful Republicans, we know how to handle it. We know how to fight back against the Democratic Party’s identity politics.”
Winkler is not afraid to challenge his own party in becoming more diverse.
“We should be using people like Billy Prempeh out of the Ninth District when he was running. You should be using somebody like me over here to say, ‘Let’s go ahead and take this and turn it into a legislative win for everybody here, where we can rebound in these areas, use taxation to go ahead and help the black community and the Latino community thrive here. They’re stuck in their old GOP ways. It’s something we can take advantage of if they are willing to work with us.”
Who Is David Winkler?
Winkler has a compelling back story, starting with his adoption and finding his leadership voice in the Marines and Army.
“I was adopted into a family and that that family took care of me,” Winkler said. “There’s a price that needs to be paid back for that kind of love, being a Black Latino adopted into a White family. It’s a story like the actual American dream and love where I grew up. I wanted to pay that back what America did for me. I went overseas, Iraq and Afghanistan, that’s another version of that as well.
“There are a lot of things we take for granted. Simple things, like taking a shower or, having a toilet, or having basics of food in a country that’s just war torn. When you walk around [Iraq and Afghanistan] and you got these little kids that give you the last piece of food off their backs, so that you can protect them as a guardian. That’s kind of where my mind and mentality goes in this world,” he said.
Winkler is the former CEO of Wings for Warriors, a nonprofit organization that has helped more than 5,000 veterans nationwide. He spent four years in the Marine Corps infantry and 10 years in the Army. There he served in various leadership positions for infantry, air defense artillery, recruiting and the New York City Joint Color Guard team.
He currently serves with the New York State National Guard as a military police officer. He is a former Republican Congressional candidate in New Jersey 8th Congressional District and a GOP political strategist. He is a member of New Jersey Blexit and is a political commentator for Black Conservative Talk and Hardline Politics.
Winkler will move his campaign forward with a meet and greet Saturday (Jan. 9) in Jersey City. His guest will be Merle Rutledge, a Black Republican for Virginia who is running for governor against Democratic incumbent Ralph Northam.
The Rest of the Story
Winkler touched on numerous other subjects in his interview with Front Runner New Jersey.com.
FRNJ: I saw you were born in Santa Ana, Calif. How does this California kid get all the way to New Jersey.
David Winkler: The military makes you travel. So I started off out in California when I began my military career as a Marine. Then when I switched over to the Army. That’s when I started going towards the Midwest all the way to the East Coast. This is where I reside. Now I’m getting out from my last duty station. I really kind of like the port aspect and the water. I’m not a huge fan of going back to California right now, especially when they’re dealing with the lack of leadership over there.
FRNJ: I saw online that you are actively working on issues with voting, particularly this last election in attending “Stop the Steal” rallies. Can you talk a little bit about your position?
David Winkler: I don’t apply “Stop the Steal” to just President Trump. I apply it to our constitutional rights and having a free and fair election. I don’t care if you are a Democrat, independent or a Republican. We should all be taking this kind of issue seriously. So when it deals with elections, in general, we should all be looking at either the campaign finance aspect, and we should be looking at the voter fraud or election fraud aspect and take it all seriously. When I go to “Stop the Steal” rallies, that’s what I talk about, the constitutionality of it, saying that freedom is not free. With every single right and liberty you have, there are blood, sweat and tears behind it. We should not be taking this lightly what took place in 2020. I do believe in our judicial system and letting the courts handle what they need to handle. I believe in the legislators. I believe in our branch as well. But if something took place, and millions of people are crying out there’s foul play, it should be our duty to listen to that, do a thorough investigation and come to a remedy if something happened. It shouldn’t be the mainstream media saying ‘there’s nothing to see here.’ We should be saying let’s get to the bottom of this.
FRNJ: What would you tell people who will say that all of these states have done their own investigations and audits and went through more than 60 court challenges and nothing has come out of it.
David Winkler: I believe that a lot of these court processes were rushed, rather than them actually getting all the ducks in a row to be able to make a sound legal argument, because they were on a time crunch. The media tried to call the presidency for Joe Biden. They were all rushing these things through, rather than taking the time sitting down, and just laying out the facts and doing it properly. I’ve actually seen here in Jersey we just had that issue in Paterson were people are being indicted. They also had to redo a mayor’s race here. We need to put a pause button on all these challenges and get a special counsel to look at what’s going on here at the federal level.
FRNJ: Can you talk what are you involved in now? Are you involved in protests?
David Winkler: The rallies where they asked me to speak at includes Governor Murphy COVID-19 protests because they want me to address the constitutional aspect of it. I’m a huge supporter of small businesses and I don’t believe that they’re being treated fairly here. If we remember correctly, 2019 we had a mass exodus of about 68.5% leaving New Jersey. What I’m worried about is another massive fleeing and I see our families either going to Florida or Pennsylvania. They’re going to other places and staying there. That really impacts our economy. I believe in standing my ground and I always stand my ground and fight for what’s right. It’s the same thing even on criminal justice aspect or social ethics. I do the same thing for our Black and Latino communities when it comes to racial justice as well.
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