By Dennis “DJ” Mikolay
Like many New Jersey natives, Matthew Morehead has always taken great pride in his community, viewing its unique people and places as a source of inspiration. A lifelong resident of Monmouth County, his family tree is largely intertwined with local history, stretching from pre-Revolutionary times all the way to the modern era. It was this sense of kinship with his surroundings that propelled Morehead to become politically active; now, with the November elections just around the corner, the Middletown resident hopes to open a new chapter in Bayshore history by being elected to the State Legislature.
As one of the Democratic Party candidates for Assembly in the Thirteenth Legislative District, Morehead hopes to provide constituents with accessible and open-minded representation in Trenton. A long-time activist in political causes, he first considered running for office in 2009. Though he ultimately didn’t do so, the prospective candidate never lost this desire to serve New Jersey’s residents; a dream became reality when the Monmouth County Democrats nominated Morehead, who served as campaign manager for the party’s legislative tickets in the Thirteenth District in 2007 and 2009, and attorney Allison Friedman, at their convention earlier this month.
“I’ve always felt the need to do public service for my community at any level of government,” said Morehead, whose experiences as the owner of Sudzy Puppy dog grooming were among the many factors that prompted him to consider a run for office. “I am a small business owner, so I understand the dynamics of what is happening in this state. It is terrible for small business owners to get a foothold, to grow, or to hire anybody…we have out-regulated the ability to really get new businesses.”
This hostile business environment, coupled with the fact New Jersey’s property taxes are among the highest in the nation, has negatively impacted residents from all walks of life. Though Garden State taxpayers share this unfortunate burden, Morehead believes the youth have been dealt and exceptionally unjust hand. Fiscal irresponsibility squashed their ability to experience financial stability or economic independence long before they even stood a chance.
“I would expect support from young people because I have a strong history of supporting youth issues,” said Morehead. “It is next to impossible to get a start in this state because you have a whole generation forced to flee [from New Jersey] because of the taxes and the policies we have here. Youth unemployment is higher than it is for others and we’ve priced most young people out of the market!”
Morehead believes the increasing polarization of American politics and the broadening of the line that separates Democrats and Republicans has had an adverse impact on government accountability, shutting out those who would otherwise become involved in state affairs. In addition to the inaccessibility of elected officials, changing political norms have blurred the line between conservatism and liberalism, leaving a growing demographic completely unrepresented by politicians, who continue to use the partisan model.
“People associate parties with whether you are liberal or conservative,” said Morehead. “But most people in my generation are socially liberal and fall more towards being financially conservative. They went from supporting Obama to supporting Ron Paul, which are polar opposites, and were able to do this based upon the fact that the younger generation already knows that it is being left out of the conversation. Right now, the government is basically saying we need to sell out our future so we can preserve what we have today, instead of biting bullet and making hard decisions.”
Morehead, who supports shared services and believes “we have reached the limit on what we can tax individuals in this state,” plans to discard such ideological isolation if elected to office.
“My door would always be open to anyone, no matter what their party or ideas,” he said, stressing that he appreciates that many individuals, particularly students, who have traditionally been inactive politically, have now started to show an interest in their government. “It’s nice to see that the younger generations are finally aware of what they have at stake because apathy is what got us into this problem.”