Will politics be kinder to Justin Verzosa?

The candidate: Counting on family and personal connections to deliver the votes

The candidate: Counting on family and personal connections to deliver the votes

By Cristina Dc Pastor

Politics appears to run in the Verzosa family of Union Township in New Jersey.

Software engineer Justin Verzosa is a Republican candidate for a council seat, the same position his father aspired for in 2009.

“Unfortunately, my father and his running mate Charles Donnelly were not able to capture the majority votes but the two races were the closest margins in the past 20 years. They lost by only 500 votes, about a 10 percent margin,” said Justin in an interview with The FilAm.

Justin is the younger son of businessman-realtor Paul Verzosa, chapter commander of the Order of the Knights of Rizal (KOR) of New Jersey, and Christine Verzosa, a registered nurse at Trinitas Hospital. He has an older brother Jann-Paolo, who is a CPA.

His quest to enter politics at age 25 has nothing to do with rebranding his legacy. As a young college graduate, he remembers coming home to Union Township and finding a “much different place.”

“As a child, the town was a great place for family and recreation,” he recalled. “When I returned back to Union from college, I noticed that the town was not as vibrant like before. There were a lot more For Sale signs in front of homes and For Rent signs all over storefronts.”

One day, he went to pay his home’s property tax at the municipal building and found the tax cost exactly the amount of rent his brother was paying annually in Manhattan in his apartment.

“I was in shock,” he said. “I didn’t realize the town’s property tax has been increasing for the past 20 years as the quality of life was decreasing accordingly.”

That ignited in him a lot of questions which set him off on a search to learn more about his community and the “root cause” of its problems. He and his Republican Party colleague Karen Slawson pledged to fight increases in property taxes once elected.

“I want a higher quality of life for the residents in Union. I want them to know where and how their property taxes are being utilized. I want them to truly feel that their money is not being wasted. I want to bring back value to the town of Union,” said Justin, who works as a software engineer.

Choosing a party at the local level “can be confusing” for some, he said. “Since politics are more publicized in a national level, people tend to see parties’ platform on a national level rather than the local level.”

Ultimately, he decided to run under the GOP ticket. He said his objective is to discuss the “most relatable issue” and apply that to local government. In the town of Union, that issue would budget and spending.

“There is spending problem in the town of Union and yet there seems to be no balance,” he said. “As a Republican at the local level, I am concerned about the spending, and want to bring balance. I believe Union residents should have a voice on how the taxes are used. As of now, there is no transparency and every budget gets approved. This is causing our taxes to rise every year.”

He drew parallel to House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, as he “works with President Obama to ensure that there is enough budget for the President’s programs.”

Justin has a Bachelor of Science degree in Business & Technology from Stevens Institute of Technology with a focus on Financial Technology and a minor in Economics. Previously, he worked as a junior equity trader where his group specialized in short-term arbitrage in U.S.-listed equities and exchange traded funds. He was an intern at the US Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

He attended St. Michael Parish School and Burnet Middle School. He was part of the first graduating class of the Academy of Information Technology, a part of union County Vocational Schools, located in Scotch Plains.

There are about 3,000 Filipinos in Union Township he is confident he could count on for votes.

“We have a formal organization called the Bayanihan Club of Union that has about 400 registered families. There are still a lot of families who are not a part of the club and the club is looking to extend an invitation to them,” he said. “I have been involved in the Bayanihan Club since its initiation in the late 1990s. I met my closest friends and have made the most memorable experiences through the club.”

Team Verzosa & Slawson is campaigning via social media and traditional means like going door to door and attending community events. They vow to work for speedy pothole repairs and prompt snow removals in their town and make Union Township an “attractive” neighborhood for residents.

“By sheer numbers alone, we will not be able to compete with the Democratic Party,” lamented Justin. But he has family and personal connections as his “main strength.”

“I have been meeting with all of my friends and have been building a strong support team. The Republican Party is outnumbered 3:1 by the Democratic Party. We are at a major disadvantage, but I am not concerned. I feel like my personal friends in this town outnumber my opponents’ personal friends 3:1,” he said.

Is being young an advantage?

Replied Justin: “Since I have a connection with many people in my age group, I do believe that the youth votes cannot be overlooked. People my age usually are not into politics, but I am surprised with the amount of support and help I am receiving.”

With dad, Paul. Photo courtesy of Paul Verzosa

With dad, Paul. Photo courtesy of Paul Verzosa

Marching with running mate Karen Slawson at the Fourth of July parade. Photo by Steven Hans Lindner

Marching with running mate Karen Slawson at the Fourth of July parade. Photo by Steven Hans Lindner

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