Kipnis seeks to unseat Coleman in race for seat in U.S. Congress

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Daryl Kipnis has just come in from the rain on a recent Monday morning, when the Republican Congressional candidate is running late for an appointment.

His suit jacket is wet and two campaign aides have accompanied him as he prepares to discuss why voters in the 12th Congressional District — a swath of New Jersey from Union County to Mercer County — should choose him in November.

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“I’ve always been a believer in individual liberty,” he said during an interview. “Government needs to be there for people who need it. And people do need it. It’s there to keep us safe, it’s there to stop injustices, it’s there to right wrongs. But it’s not there to do every single function in life.”

For nearly 44 minutes, Kipnis shared his views on topics ranging from immigration and President Donald Trump to the troubles facing New Jersey and the nation as a whole.

“My views are not always going to align with the Republican Party,” he said. “My views align with the people of the district, the people in New Jersey and to have a representative in the truest sense of the word.”

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Kipnis lived there for a brief time until his family moved to Staten Island and then finally to New Jersey, in East Brunswick. He counts former President Ronald Reagan as one of the people who influenced his political views. He recalled seeing the fall of communism in Europe as a boy.

“That was the time when I really started paying attention and following everything,” he said.

Kipnis graduated from Rutgers University in 2002 and from the Seton Hall University School of Law in 2005. In law school, he lost his best friend, Army Lt. Seth Dvorin, who was killed while serving in Iraq in 2004.

Looking back, he said he thinks the Iraq War was a mistake and believes former President George W. Bush, “in many ways, had a personal motivation to finish what his father started.”

Asked in what scenario he, as a Congressman, could support a resolution authorizing the President to send troops overseas, Kipnis said he would “hope I would never have to.”

“I don’t think you’re going to see a country, a whole country, mobilize a war effort against the United States in the immediate future,” he said.

Kipnis, 38, lives with his wife and their three children in Franklin Township. Professionally, he is an attorney whose law office is in Somerset County.

This is the second time in as many years Kipnis is running for political office. He lost in a landslide to state Sen. Bob Smith (D-Middlesex and Somerset), but he said he was approached by Republicans to run for Congress.

“I looked into doing it,” he said. “I thought about it with the family and talked about it and decided I could do a lot of positive work in Washington.”

This year, he is challenging Democratic Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, who has raised about $690,500 for the contest. An email message to her campaign was not returned.

“My opponent hasn’t accomplished what I would like to accomplish in Washington,” he said. “She is a hard-core Democrat.”

But the district has not been kind to Republicans.

Democrat Rush Holt won the seat in an upset in 1998, the year Kipnis graduated from East Brunswick High School. Since then, Democrats have won every contest, typically in a landslide. Coleman was re-elected in 2016 by about 30 points.

“I don’t get the sense in people I talk to when I’m out campaigning that there’s going to be an issue with voting for a Republican at all,” Kipnis said.

Princeton Republican Chairman Dudley Sipprelle said Kipnis met with Republicans in that Mercer County town, one of the communities in the district.

“We had a good impression of him,” Sipprelle said. “He’s very earnest. He’s very hard-working.”

But Sipprelle said Kipnis has an “uphill climb” in a “gerrymandered district” where his own son, Scott, lost to Holt in 2010.

Kipnis, asked about Trump, believes the president has accomplished much in less than two years in office: low unemployment, high consumer confidence and Wall Street doing well.

“He’s delivered on his promises he made to the American people,” Kipnis said. “Do I have issues with his tone sometimes? Yes. Does he say things I won’t say? Yes. Has he made mistakes? Yes. But as a whole, if you look at what he’s accomplished, there are very few presidents, if any, in history who have done so much and reversed a lot of issues lingering from not just the previous president’s administration, but the previous two, three, four presidents’ administrations in a short period of time.”

On immigration, Kipnis said he supports the Dreamer Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. On his campaign website, he said he favors reforming the nation’s immigration system to “assist others in retaining resident status and streamlining their path to citizenship as well.”

“Mass deportation and sending people out and then having them come back makes no sense at all,” said Kipnis, who added he would vote to fund a border wall.

Of the tax cut Congress passed last year, Kipnis said around “60 percent of people in New Jersey are going to see a benefit or break even from the tax reform bill.”

The measure has been criticized by Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy and others in the state for limiting the state and local tax deduction on federal income taxes at $10,000.

“But let’s focus on the real reason why it hurts New Jersey,” Kipnis said. “The reason why it hurts New Jersey is profligate spending by the Democrat-controlled Legislature for 17 years.”

On social issues, he said he favors legalizing marijuana and thinks states should be allowed to make up their minds on the issue. He said Roe v Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, “should remain the law of the land.”

He favors abolishing the U.S. Department of Education, supports getting more money into the state for infrastructure and wants to address the college loan debt crisis.

Kipnis points to how New Jersey gets back less from the federal government than it provides in tax dollars. New Jersey sends among the most, “and we get the least back,” he said. He criticizes “moocher” states like Missouri and Montana that he said get “a lot” of money from the federal government, but “don’t send nearly as much to Washington in terms of revenue that we do.”

“And we need it, our state is broke,” Kipnis said.

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