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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Openly gay man in New Jersey running for Senate
by Ross Forman, Windy City Times
2012-02-08

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Jonathan Bannon Maher is convinced his lack of political experience won't affect his run for the U.S. Senate from New Jersey—or his chances to oust incumbent Bob Menendez (D).

"I am 100 percent certain that it's possible for me to win," Maher said in a phone interview. "The obstacle that I have to overcome is that I have to get a critical mass of the public attention. If I can align people's perceptions with the reality that I am more qualified than any of the alternatives out there, and will do more good for them, which is absolutely the case … if I can get enough people aware of that, then I can win."

Maher, 30, who is openly gay, is the author of two books: Building a Successful Organization and The Destiny of Humanity.

The Destiny of Humanity discusses war, poverty, trade, clean energy, economic development and gay equality.

Maher said being gay is less of an issue today than in past elections. "If I had run, say, five years ago, my viability would have been determined exclusively by that," he said.

He added, "I, of course, support full gay equality in every way possible."

According to Internet reports, Gwen Diakos, a defense contractor, is the lone Democrat to already declare that she will challenge Menendez. Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D) has reportedly stated that he will not run for the Senate. The Republican field to oppose Menendez is deep, but there are just potential candidates at this point.

Maher said he wants to run "to help people, which is something I've always enjoyed and how I was brought up."

"The other more substantial reason is, I think there's an opportunity to do this right now because I think we're significantly short on intellectual resources in the U.S. Senate. Our most important challenges are not being addressed properly."

Maher said Menendez is, "pretty vulnerable."

"The majority of [New Jersey] residents don't know who he is, and of those who do know who he is, [the majority] don't like him. His contributions to the Senate have been unremarkable," Maher said.

So what will Maher do?

"I've laid out in my book, positions on every issue that would come up in the Senate," Maher said. "I bring a whole array of new ideas that aren't now out there."

The problem is, not many have heard of him yet—and he acknowledges that issue.

Enter the mainstream media, which Maher is courting feverishly.

"If I'm not in the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal seven months from now, I'm not going to win. If I can [get exposure in such outlets], I think I have an extremely good chance," of winning, he said. "What I've found is, no journalist wants to take any risk at all; they are all very timid. They don't seem to want to go out on any limb to back someone who does not have a major public profile."

Maher—who said his focus, if elected, will be expanding job opportunities for residents—added he plans to contact every journalist he can find who writes about Menendez, or about gay Congressional candidates, and ask to be profiled, too.

He is convinced his lack of political experience will not affect his chances come November.

Windy City Times: What is your political background?

Maher: I've written extensively on politics in my most recent book—every topic that would come up, or be relevant while holding office.

WCT: So you basically want to go from writing about politics to jumping into the political field?

Maher: Joe Biden got elected at 29. Thomas Jefferson was a senior member of the Senate at 29. It's not something that is unprecedented, but is something that we need. The incumbents are not delivering; they are not doing the job. We need something new, different, and more thoughtful than what is going on right now.

WCT: So, am I accurate [in saying] that you want to go from writing one book about politics to wanting to be a politician?

Maher: Sure.

WCT: You feel you are more qualified than Bob Menendez, and any other candidate, based on what?

Maher: Based on my ideas, my thinking, my ability to address new problems and issues as they arise...

WCT: What about what Bob Menendez has done in office?

Maher: If you look at what he's accomplished, it's so generic and mediocre. People are desperate for an alternative. So, the opening [for someone to oust Menendez] is that there's no substance there, no delivery of results.

WCT: Clearly, the experience edge goes to Menendez.

Maher: We have more experience than we need in the U.S. Senate. Any potential lack of experience that I might have as a bureaucrat will be well more than made up for by the other senators there, as well as by Frank Lautenberg [D-N.J.], who is 90. [Lautenberg was actually born Jan. 23, 1924.]


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