Pro-Animal Candidates Fight for Election in California and New Jersey

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Across the United States there are elections with important animal issues at stake. Read on to find out more!

In CA-34, Gomez Stands for Animals

If you care about animals, Jimmy Gomez is the best bet for California’s 34th congressional district — in a June 6 general election which pits two Democrats against each other. Gomez, who currently serves in the state assembly, doesn’t appear to have been a leader on animal-welfare issues, in that he wasn’t credited as authoring any legislation. But he appears to have been a reliable vote in favor of animal protection.

On the other hand, his opponent, Robert Lee Ahn, is a completely unknown quantity. Ahn’s campaign website doesn’t mention animal welfare as an important piece of his platform. He has no history in elected office which can be examined to better understand his views. And perhaps most tellingly, until 2012, Ahn was a registered member of the Republican Party, a political force which is objectively awful for animals. (For instance, in 2015, of the 71 senators and representatives who achieved a 0-percent rating from the Humane Society Legislative Fund, 70 were Republicans)

Over the course of his political career, Gomez seems to have consistently supported pro-animal legislation. I say ‘seems’ only because a 2014 scorecard for California isn’t available on the HSLF website. In 2013, Gomez voted in favor of bills promoting the development of dog parks, restricting the sale of animals at swap meets, protecting wildlife from lead poisoning, banning certain trapping methods, restricting bobcat trapping, and requiring non-lethal options for the removal of mountain lions deemed a safety hazard.

In 2015, according to HSLF, he supported legislation protecting elephants and rhinos from poaching, promoting the adoption of research animals, permitting out-of-state veterinarians to help in cruelty cases, allowing temporary animal shelters in disaster situations, raising funds for spay/neuter services and cruelty prevention, protecting pets from domestic violence, protecting sea otters, prohibiting the use of antibiotics on farm animals for weight-gain purposes, and banning the use of elephant bullhooks.

The following year, Gomez voted in favor of improving animal-cruelty reporting, removing a provision deeming former fighting dogs to be vicious, establishing a right to rescue animals from cars, ending the release of shelter animals to laboratories, and closing a loophole on the gas-chamber ban, according to HSLF. He also supported banning elephant bullhooks again, as the previous legislation was vetoed.

“As the owner of a shelter dog, Austin, Jimmy Gomez is a huge proponent of animal adoption from shelters and rescues,” the state assemblyman’s website states, before noting he’s hosted a number of pet adoption and care events in his district. “In Congress, Jimmy will push to increase enforcement funding to protect endangered species from poaching, [and]add penalties for animal cruelty.”

It should be mentioned that while Gomez’s campaign says it’s been endorsed by the HSLF, I’ve found no evidence of this on the latter organization’s website. HSLF endorsed Gomez in 2014 for the state assembly, but I see no sign of the group’s preference in this 2017 special election. Perhaps HSLF made an endorsement but forgot to upload it to their website. Regardless, one hopes that if he’s voted into the House of Representatives, Gomez joins the Animal Protection Caucus, something he didn’t seem to do while in the state assembly.

In New Jersey, Animal Activists Should Support Lesniak for Governor

New Jerseyans who care about animal welfare should support Democrat Raymond Lesniak in the state’s gubernatorial primary on June 6. Representing the 20th legislative district, he’s an experienced hand who has served in the state senate for over 30 years. Michael Markarian, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, endorsed Lesniak’s bid, saying in a statement on the organization’s website, “Throughout his public service career, Senator Lesniak has been a champion and leader on animal protection issues. His efforts in New Jersey have also sparked similar bills and reforms in other states across the country.”

What are some of those efforts? Lesniak’s campaign website — the only one in the Democratic race which prominently features animal protection as an important issue — highlights a number of these. The state senator sponsored a historic bill in 2014 which made New Jersey the first state in the country to fully ban the sale and trade of ivory and rhino horns. That same year, he introduced legislation aiming to end the use of gestation crates, which was shamefully vetoed by Republican Governor Chris Christie. In 2015, Lesniak backed a bill prohibiting leg-hold traps and the shark fin trade. The following year, he sponsored legislation outlawing the ownership of endangered animal trophies. Again, New Jersey was a trailblazer, becoming only the second state in the nation to take this step.

Also, in 2016, the lawmaker introduced a bill to ban bear hunting, while a non-lethal control program was implemented. “I expect this program will be a success and there will never again be a bear hunt in New Jersey,” he wrote in a Facebook post. The same year, Lesniak sponsored legislation seeking to prohibit the use of elephants in traveling animal acts. In 2017, the state senator led the charge to outlaw puppy mills. Unfortunately, the proposed expansion of the Pet Purchase Protection Act was again vetoed by Christie. Lesniak vowed to fight for an override, telling the Observer, “We’ll be targeting every single legislator.”

Unfortunately, the lawmaker faces an uphill battle for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. A Quinnipiac poll released on May 3 suggests Lesniak has the support of just 4 percent of New Jersey Democrats, with rival Phil Murphy getting 26-percent. That said, more than 52 percent of these voters are undecided. Whatever Lesniak’s chances, animal activists should support his candidacy. When reporters and pollsters start hearing voters support the state senator because of his animal welfare positions, other candidates will take notice. As things currently stand, politicians don’t even bother to cynically appeal to people who care about animals. We need to stand up and be counted.

At a World Elephant Day event last year, Lesniak said, “Animals matter. All animals matter and we should treat them with distinction. They are here on Earth, created by the same force that created us. We should treat them with kindness and understanding — not in the way that humans are treating them today.” I urge all progressive-minded voters to support the state senator in Democrats’ New Jersey gubernatorial primary on June 6.


Featured image: black bear in New Jersey. In 2016, Senator Lesniak introduced a bill to ban bear hunting in the state. Image credit Rachid H, CC BY-NC 2.0

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Jon Hochschartner is author of The Animals’ Freedom Fighter: A Biography of Ronnie Lee, Founder of the Animal Liberation Front. Visit his website at Hochschartner.com. Click to see author's profile.

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