William “Billy” Prempeh, a longtime Paterson resident and Republican, is again challenging Democrat Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. for the 9th Congressional District of New Jersey in the upcoming November general election.
Prempeh served in the U.S. Air Force from 2009 to 2011. He is now a self-employed website builder who says the 9th District is not as Blue as many think.
“There’s a very large number of unaffiliated voters that don’t really vote in elections over the past ten years,” Prempeh said. “We spoke with a lot of those people. We were able to get almost 98,000 votes back in 2020. So there’s no doubt that there is definitely the ability for change in this district.”
According to Prempeh, there are a number of unaffiliated voters as well as disaffected Democrats in the district that he is looking to pick up in addition to Republican voters this November.
“People have lived in this district for many years and most of them don’t vote Republican because maybe they don’t see anything in common with the candidates that ran in the past,” Prempeh said. “But they weren’t voting Democrat either, or else Pascrell would have historically got higher numbers. But that wasn’t necessarily the case.”
Flipping the 9th?
According to Prempeh, he is running to provide voters with a choice in the traditionally Blue district. However, he will still face an uphill fight, as demonstrated by Pascrell’s 2020 victory totaling over 203,000 votes.
“The 9th District has historically voted Democrat for quite some time,” Prempeh said. “There haven’t really been too many alternatives with the Republican Party. I’ve opened my doors up to people in both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. There’s a choice. People get hung up on Red versus Blue, Republican versus Democrat, but I’m a candidate that’s always led by policy. This campaign is open to both sides and I want people to understand they actually have a choice.”
Prempeh said he is looking to build on the momentum that he gained in 2020 and that Jack Ciattarelli increased during his gubernatorial run in 2021. Prempeh has not stopped his campaign since his first bout with Pascrell.
“I never stopped campaigning after 2020,” Prempeh said. “I campaigned the whole year 2020, continued through 2021, and we’re going to continue to ride those out into 2022. I believe we’re in pretty good condition to actually flip the 9th to Red for the first time in a very long time.”
The boundaries of the 9th Congressional District have changed following the completion of redistricting in New Jersey, and Prempeh is pleased with the results, which he said looked more favorable for him. In Hudson County, the district is largely the same, encompassing Secaucus and parts of Kearny, and has also been applauded by Pascrell.
“This is definitely a toss up district,” Prempeh said. “Looking at how the new map has played out, I’m quite satisfied with it. It’s gone from a D +16 to a D +9. It has picked up a lot more Republican towns. And we have seen some significant changes with Jack Ciattarelli’s race in 2021. In Passaic County, for example, he was able to pull 48 percent, which is almost unheard of. Lots of Democrats are looking into alternatives as well. Many are dissatisfied with not just Pascrell, but Gov. [Phil] Murphy as well as President [Joseph] Biden. So I’m expecting a large Republican turnout in 2022. A lot more people are paying attention than were in 2020.”
Prempeh’s top priorities
On the issues, Prempeh said his top priority was education, specifically passing the “Freedom of Education” plan which he said will allow parents to send their children to any school regardless of state regulations.
“I grew up in a school district where we could learn woodshop, metalshop, and so forth,” he said. “But a lot of schools don’t have these kinds of program anymore. I’ve always been a very big proponent of choice for a child. I was limited in my education prospects because of the zip code situation that we have here.”
Prempeh also said he wants to improve public schools with mentorship and trade skill programs.
“I’m also very much in favor of making our public schools better than they currently are, specifically with the high schools,” he said. “I would like to bring training programs as well as mentorship programs into our schools again. I want to partner with business owners that are involved in not just the trades, but IT, finance, and electrical work, and many other skills to teach our children how to do what they do as professionals with the new infrastructure bill that’s been signed. There’s going to be a huge skill gap that’s going to need to be filled.”
According to Prempeh, crime is another issue he wants to tackle to “help keep communities safe.”
“One thing that really disturbed me was, after going through all the different police departments, we saw how well equipped they were and well taken care of,” he said. “However in Paterson, our largest city, not only are our police understaffed, they don’t have the equipment necessary to properly do so. Their police complex was in horrible shape. I would like to work with the federal government to try and get grants to get a new building and the resources they need.”
After speaking with many police officers in the district over lunch, Prempeh said he wants to better equip the force in Paterson to tackle the rising crime.
“Crime has shot up to an incredible degree in the city of Paterson,” Prempeh said. “It’s beginning to spill out across the district. People want to feel safe and they want to be able to trust their police as well. So we need to be able to build that cohesive communication between the public and the police right now. We really don’t have that and I would like to personally help bridge that gap. Working with the federal government, I hope to bring some stability and safety to the community and to the 9th District again.”
From Hudson County, to nationwide
While Prempeh is aiming to tackle a number of issues in Paterson, he said his plans extend throughout the entire district, including Secaucus and parts of Kearny. Prempeh added that he and his ideas will not only serve the the 9th District and the portions of it in Hudson County, but can also apply on a national scale.
“A lot of the platforms and things that I wish to bring to the table don’t just benefit the 9th District, but the United States as a whole,” he said. “If our plans can work here, they can work nationally.”
The primary election is on June 7 and the general election in on Nov. 8. So far, Prempeh and Pascrell are the only candidates in the race with Pascrell having officially announced his reelection bid in December of 2021. However, the filing deadline and primary is still beyond the horizon, meaning there is plenty of time for others to join the race on either side.
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.