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Q&A With John Cummings, A Republican Challenging Ocasio-Cortez

John Cummings is a retired NYPD cop and high school civics teacher. He is running for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s seat in New York’s 14th district. 


John Cummings is a retired NYPD cop and high school civics teacher. He is running for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s seat in New York’s 14th district. The Federalist sat down with Cummings to discuss his plans to represent NY-14, if elected.

Chrissy Clark (CC): Can you explain your background and why have decided to run against AOC?

John Cummings (JC): I’ve been teaching government, United States history for the past 21 years. My students suggested for me to run for office. And you know, I have some pretty strong reasons for running.

I really think that this district lacks local representation that has lasted for a long time, which came from Crowley [Joe Crowley, the U.S. representative proceeding Ocasio-Cortez]. And I think Congress probably made it worse. And especially now, with AOC she doesn’t really address the local issues. She’s been in office for, more than 25 percent of her time is up, and we haven’t even got a mailing yet. So I was really concerned about the lack of local representation. And you combine that with the fact that I despise socialism and everything about it. It was time to jump in.

I think the representative needs to be much more present. I understand I have to spend a lot of time in Washington. But, you know, it’s not like this district is in Oregon. You can get back and forth pretty quickly from New York to Washington by driving or whatever you have to do. And there’s just a serious lack of presence. I think that leads to a complete disconnect of what’s going on in the district, and there are some pressing issues here.

CC: What are the problems that you would like to see fixed? What key points are on your platform as of now?

JC: Education is always important, of course, as a teacher that’s an obvious one. But you know, infrastructure is a major concern we have.

We have huge problems in the Bronx, and Queens with traffic to the point where I think some of the roads are dangerous, not because they’re designed improperly, but just because they’re too crowded. We need to somehow alleviate some of the traffic, as I’ve mentioned, several ideas before.

The fact that, and a lot of people don’t even realize this, there is not a truck stop for truckers to use. Of course, they’re a key part of our economy. There’s only a certain amount of hours that these truckers can drive in a day. And they get stuck in massive traffic jams around the city. And then they have the time out, basically pack it up where they are. And that leaves trucks parked where they shouldn’t be.

And that’s something that the federal government really needs to take a look at with this infrastructure project that’s supposed to be coming up. This major infrastructure bill is supposed to pass.

Another one was they are re-doing LaGuardia Airport, which is in our district. And it’s long overdue, and that’s great. But, what I think needs to be part of that project is, the looking into creating ferry service from the Bronx side of the white stone bridge. That way, people from Connecticut, people from Westchester, and people from the Bronx could park there long term. Just like you have long term parking at airports, but now you can jump on a ferry and drive right over to the terminals. And that will alleviate a lot of the traffic.

But I haven’t heard anything about this from the congresswoman at all. Like I said, we’ve got no newsletter, we’ve got no update, we’ve got nothing really a pressing issue for us here. I’m talking about local representation, common sense stuff, feet on the ground, feedback from the people, an office with a staff that’s open to people that you can just walk in and talk to people about your concerns. We don’t have any of that.

CC: What does your current staff and campaign team look like?

JC: I do have the backing of the branch Republican chairman, which is a big help. And, I have some people in the background. A guy that I went to high school with volunteers his time and helps me out. So, right now it’s pretty, it’s pretty bare bones. But as we move along, and hopefully, you know, we get there with the appropriate contributions and we can we can really get this thing running, it needs to be done.

I think that even though this district is 70 percent Democrat and it voted for Hillary Clinton 59 percent,  I think that local politics can transcend that. I think that people are more likely to cross over if they think a person will serve them properly.

CC: Did you ever consider running as a Democrat to primary AOC or run as an Independent?

JC: Years and years ago, I used to be a Democrat. because like you said, to operate in this political climate, you almost had to be. But, I just I just couldn’t stay part of that, you know, very long time ago, I decided, no, I gotta get out because it was just going too far left for me. And really the answer is no, I think that the Republican Party can take or regain a foothold in this community. I think there are a lot of people who have just become disenchanted with the political process, who would like to get back in and who would vote for change, like I’m proposing.

I’m much more of a free market guy, and the more I talk to people, the more I realize how important liberty is to them, you know, freedom to choose where they work, where they live, you know, where their kids go to school. I think it’s important to people. And I think as we move along, and as the Democrat party starts to go further and further left, people start to realize that.

CC: There are a lot of people in your district that want what Democrats call “Medicare for All.” I’m assuming that as a Republican, this isn’t a policy you would endorse. How would you persuade the people in your district to a proposal other than Medicare for All?

JC: So, as far as free market approach to health care, there are a lot of things I would favor. I certainly think portability is a big thing. I think that we would be far better served, perhaps getting some sort of system where instead of being married to your health care provider, your insurance company, through your job, that perhaps your employer could provide you with a voucher. So most of what you would get, you know, for education, you get a voucher, That way, you could tailor your policy for what you need, and you could shop around and then if you if you lost your job, or your change jobs, You would lose your insurance is still your insurance as long as you can pay.

CC: Identity politics are a very important part of the political climate in your district. There are other Republicans running against you in this primary that fit that mold that people are looking for. Do you find this to be a struggle for you and your campaign?

JC: I’m not blind to that type of politics, identity politics. But here’s the one thing that I think can overcome all of that. My entire life has been about serving. I was a police officer for eight and a half years, and I’ve been a school teacher for 21 years. I never really looked around to see who was teaching or who I was helping out when I was a police officer. It’s never has been important to me. And I would think they probably could make the case that if it was important to me, I wouldn’t have done and I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing.

You know, I served in a diverse community my entire life. And I think that once people realize what you do, and who you are, you know, I like to say my slogan is “I Am You.” When I say that to people, I think that transcends everything. You know, when I say to them, “I am you,” what it tells them is that I work where you work, I drive on the roads you drive on and I shop where you shop. I know what the good restaurants are. I teach your children, you know what I mean? I’m part of this community, and I have been for 59 years.