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Q&A

Jason Blazakis joins crowded N.J. congressional primary to take on Tom Kean Jr. 

JI talks to Blazakis about why he’s running to represent the 7th District

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Jason Blazakis

Former State Department official Jason Blazakis is entering the Democratic primary for the House seat representing New Jersey’s 7th Congressional District, held by Rep. Tom Kean Jr. (R-NJ). 

Blazakis, 48, was director of counterterrorism finance at the State Department for a decade, and previously worked on the Hill for Rep. Jim Saxton (R-NJ) and for the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service. 

The New Jersey native, a Middlebury College professor, geopolitical consultant and security adviser, follows progressive activist Sue Altman and Roselle Mayor Joe Signorello III in entering the race. 

In May 2022, Blazakis wrote a co-bylined Washington Post op-ed in favor of reentering the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, dismissing the Trump administration’s designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization as “a stupendously unserious move… a sanction that brought no discernible pressure on the group or Iran more broadly.” He said the Biden administration should be open to removing the designation as part of nuclear talks. 

Democrats view the seat as one of the party’s top political targets in the effort to win back control of the House. President Joe Biden carried the suburban northern New Jersey district. Kean won the seat by three points in 2022, after falling short against Rep. Tom Malinowski in 2020. The Cook Political Report lists the district as a “Toss Up.”

Hours ahead of his campaign launch, Blazakis talked to Jewish Insider about why he’s running to represent the 7th District. 

Haley Cohen: Why did you decide to run for this seat? 

Jason Blazakis: I grew up right here in Harmony Township, went to public school my whole life, and had my first job picking peaches on an orchard, which helped pay for my college education. Public service is in the roots of my family. My father served in the military, my grandfather fought in the Second World War, and I have spent my career as a national security official, fighting for democracy and counterterrorism around the world. I worked on keeping us safe from terrorism, fighting corruption and the illegal drug trade overseas. Working both at home and abroad, I’ve made some enemies, like Vladimir Putin in Russia, resulting in me being sanctioned by the Russian regime. I’ve seen the threats anti-democratic regimes pose to fragile democracies around the world, and I worry about similar anti-Democratic MAGA extremists here at home, and those in Congress who enable them. 

HC: Some House Democrats have distanced themselves from Israel. Which wing of the Democratic party do you more identify with when it comes to your position on Israel?

JB: I’ve dedicated my career to fighting the global spread of antisemitism and other forms of extremism and mis- and disinformation. I am proud to call myself a steadfast ally of the State of Israel and in Congress, I will remain a strong and unwavering ally of Israel.

While serving as director of the Office of Counterterrorism and Terrorism Finance at the U.S. Department of State, I was responsible for sanctioning anti-Israel, anti-Jewish terror groups and am proud to have led this fight.

HC: Should President Biden invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to visit the White House?

JB: I’m glad the Biden administration has made an invitation [to meet with Netanyahu in the U.S.], and this important meeting should happen this year. This meeting will be in keeping with the strong bilateral relationship that the United States has with the government of Israel.

HC: Based on your career history at the State Department and in counterterrorism, what legislation would you pursue on Capitol Hill?

JB: Working in a bipartisan manner across all branches of government is critical to mitigating the threats posed by terrorist groups, both to the United States and Israel. These threats continue to persist and in Congress I’ll work on legislation that will utilize our existing tools like sanctioning these terrorist groups. In addition, I’ll work on enhancing information-sharing at a bilateral level between the U.S. and Israel, which works to counter current terrorism threats.

HC: New Jersey used to be referred to as “America’s medicine chest” with most of the large pharmaceutical companies headquartered in this state. If elected would you support efforts to impose more price controls on new drugs in the face of strong opposition from the major drug companies?  

JB: Here in Jersey, insurance and prescription drugs are way too expensive for a lot of people. 

We must do more to keep costs down and expand access to affordable care. I don’t support hyper-expensive proposals that would take away employer-sponsored health insurance and hurt Jersey. People deserve affordable, high-quality choices in the health insurance market, and that’s what I’d work to deliver in Congress.

HC: What legislation would you champion to improve the state’s economy?

JB: We must reinstate SALT [state and local tax] immediately, so we can build amore affordable community where working families can thrive. Trump is the reason we lost SALT deductions here in Jersey. Trump and his enablers in Congress like Tom Kean have only hurt Jersey families and Jersey’s economy. 

Marc Rod contributed reporting. 

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