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Dunec stresses fiscal issues in bid to unseat Frelinghuysen
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Dunec stresses fiscal issues in bid to unseat Frelinghuysen

Staff Writer, New Jersey Jewish News

Mark Dunec, speaking at Temple B’nai Abraham in Livingston, said he favors a “two-tier” approach to raising the minimum wage.     
Mark Dunec, speaking at Temple B’nai Abraham in Livingston, said he favors a “two-tier” approach to raising the minimum wage.     

Seeking A Seat, a series of appearances by candidates in November’s elections, took place on three days in October at Temple B’nai Abraham in Livingston.

Republican Jeff Bell, who is running for U.S. Senate against the incumbent, Democrat Sen. Cory Booker, spoke Oct. 14; Booker appeared Oct. 19. 

Democrat Mark Dunec, who is challenging Republican incumbent Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen for the Dist. 11 congressional seat, spoke Oct. 6. Frelinghuysen declined to take part in the series. 

NJJN covered all three talks.

The series was offered under the auspices of TBA’s Congregational Learning, cochaired by Alyce Sands Miller and Steve Delman, and cosponsored by the Community Relations Committee of Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ.

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Mark Dunec, Democratic candidate for Congress from New Jersey’s 11th district, attracted an intimate and sympathetic audience at Temple B’nai Abraham in Livingston on Oct. 6. 

Running against incumbent Rodney Frelinghuysen, Dunec said he is undaunted, though he acknowledged he is weary of hearing about the slim odds of unseating the 10-term incumbent. 

“It is very easy to be a naysayer. I am very tired of hearing the numbers and the phrase ‘uphill battle,’” he told an audience of 16.

A financial and real estate analyst, he lives in Livingston and is a member of the Orthodox Synagogue of the Suburban Torah Center. Dunec is a board member of Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy in Livingston, where he and his wife, Caryn, send their two children. 

In a question-and-answer format, he called on most audience members by name.

On some issues, he offered terse answers: He supports gun control, is pro-choice, and believes in equal pay for equal work. 

On other issues, he offered more complex responses.

When asked about the minimum wage, he said that while he supports the $15 per hour minimum wage, he knows the Republican Party would not do so. He said, “It’s not my way or the highway. I’m not rigid.” Instead, he suggested a compromise that involves bifurcating the minimum wage. For workers 18 to 23, he proposed an “apprentice tier” of $8.25 per hour, and for those over 23, an increase to $10.10. The apprentice wage recognizes these young workers’ “limited experience” and the fact that they are “not using it to raise a family” and that the job is “a stepping stone in their career.” 

“Is it age discrimination? Yes,” he said. “Is it perfect? No. but I’d prefer to get something rather than nothing.”

On the affordability of higher education and student loans, he echoed Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s solution of pegging student loan rates to the Federal Reserve rate. But, Dunec added, “I would go even further and change every existing student

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