Victory Fund urging support for five LGBTQ New Jersey candidates

Screenshot from Victory Funds New Jersey page
Screenshot from Victory Funds New Jersey page for 2021

LGBTQ candidates ask for your support and your vote this November 

The Victory Fund is the LGBTQ national organization dedicated to electing openly LGBTQ people to office throughout the country. They strive to support out candidates who can further equality at all levels of government. Here in the Garden State there are six candidates they have spotlighted for the 2021 election cycle.

One of them, Jennifer Sciortino, was elected with their support as Bordentown City’s first out LGBTQ City Commissioner. The local election was held in May in Bordentown City.

The other five LGBTQ New Jersey candidates Victory Fund is supporting are looking ahead to the November 2, 2021 election. There is an contest for governor of New Jersey on that date. And Governor Phill Murhpy, a Democrat, is at the top of the ballot seeking re-election. He has been a staunch LGBTQ supporter and has worked with Garden State Equality many times on developing rules and regs in New Jersey departments in Trenton. But Murphy is being challenged by a well funded GOP candidate Jack Ciattarelli. Ciattarelli has made it clear he is no friend to the LGBTQ community.

Here we look at the LGBTQ candidates that Victory Fund is supporting. Even if you live elsewhere and are not able to vote for the candidates, Victory Fund says you should consider contributions to their campaigns or volunteering to spread the word.

Shannon Cuttle is running for the Board of Education in South Orange/Maplewood

Shannon Cuttle plans to continue to be a voice for the LGBTQ community on the South Orange/Maplewood Board of Education. They is a recognized national leader in the safe schools movement. As a leader and advocate for over 20 years, Cuttle has driven innovation in education and civil rights policy including LGBTQ rights, advocacy and programming at the city, state, and federal levels focused on creating inclusive safe schools for all communities. Their background in equity and inclusion, policymaking, advocacy and research has led to successful statewide, national and international educational and civil rights policy implementation, and best practices for students, schools and communities.

In 2018, Cuttle was elected to serve their first term on the South Orange/Maplewood Board of Education, making them the first-known openly transgender non-binary elected official in the state of New Jersey. Cuttle is currently the Board of Education’s First Vice President. In 2020, Cuttle was elected by the Essex County School Board Association to serve on the New Jersey Schools Boards Association Board of Directors. In 2021, Cuttle was also elected by the Essex County School Board Association to serve as Vice President of ECSBA also making them the first trans/non-binary person to be elected to both positions.

Cuttle was first elected in 2017 as a Essex County Democratic District Leader and then was re-elected in 2021. Cuttle was a 2020 New Jersey Biden Delegate to the Democratic National Convention and was the first known transgender elected official selected to serve at the time.

Don Guardian is running as a Republican for the New Jersey Assembly

Don Guardian and his partner of 20 years, Louis Fotato
Don Guardian and his partner of 20 years, Louis Fotato at Atlantic City election headquarters on election night 2016. Photo by Geoff Rosenberger.

If elected, Don Guardian will be the only openly LGBTQ member on the NJ Assembly. He possesses a lifetime of experience in local government. For two decades, Guardian ran Atlantic City’s Special Improvement District (SID) before becoming the City’s first GOP mayor in 30 years. For the past three years, he applied his knowledge of public finance as Toms River’s business administrator.

Guardian says he is ready to take on Trenton’s fiscal challenges and put Atlantic County back on the path to recovery. At SID, he oversaw the daily upkeep of Atlantic City and earned a reputation for consistently delivering high-quality services that enhanced life in an urban environment. But while Guardian balanced SID’s budget for 20 years, he watched the local city hall pile up a mountain of debt.

Against all odds, Guardian was elected as Atlantic City’s first openly-gay mayor in 2013. This was in an urban city with just 10% Republican registration. He united voters around a common goal of restoring Atlantic City’s former glory.

To balance the budget, Guardian cut Atlantic City’s spending by $40 million, trimmed bloated government by 400 jobs, and froze any proposed tax increases. At the same time, he repaved the roads, rebuilt the Boardwalk, and was mayor when violent crime went down by 20%.

After a successful term as mayor, Guardian was seen as a hard-nosed but beloved budgetary expert who reignited the city’s turnaround effort. Because of this, he was later selected as Toms River’s business administrator.

A bicyclist, beachgoer, and bow tie enthusiast, Guardian lives in Atlantic City’s South Inlet neighborhood with his husband, Louis.

John Kashwick is running for Clinton Town Council

If elected, John Kashwick will be the first out LGBTQ member of the Clinton Town Council. He is a life-long New Jersey resident. He has served as Vice Chair of the Executive Committee and Chair of the Political Committee for the New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club since 2017. He is responsible for overseeing the chapter’s endorsement process for local, state, and federal candidates in New Jersey and motivating volunteers to help with campaigns.

Kashwick was Chair of the Sierra Club North Jersey Group from 2011-2017 and was a member of the Executive Committee for the North Jersey Group since 2003. Along with his husband, Jonathan Wall, he co-founded the LGBTQ Section for the New Jersey Sierra Club. John also serves on the Northeast Regional Council for the National Parks Conservation Association where they worked to promote Stonewall National Monument. He has advocated for wilderness and other environmental issues in Congress and at the state house in Trenton.

Kashwick was a Councilman in the Borough of Closter from 2006-2014 serving three terms. For those nine years he was also the liaison to the Environmental and Shade Tree Commissions. He spearheaded the creation of a conservation zone in Closter which passed in 2013. He worked on the three successful grant applications for the acquisition of properties in the Borough. Kashwick served on the Council Ordinance Committee for nine years and was the Chairman of the Finance, Public Works, and Human Resources Committees at various times. he relocated to Clinton, New Jersey in 2017 where he currently resides.

Anthony Paradiso is running for Town Council in Waldwick, New Jersey

If elected, Anthony Paradiso will be the first openly LGBTQ member of the Waldwick Town Council. He has 15 years of Human Resources experience and is very passionate about inclusion, diversity, and equity in people’s professional careers. Paradiso is the Founder and President of AllThingzAP, where it is his primary mission for all to be their full authentic self. Anthony is a member of the New Jersey LGBT Chamber of Commerce and he is NGLCC nationally certified.

Paradiso enjoys being on a host of boards and committees, including serving as the Diversity & Inclusion Director for the Garden State Council—SHRM (GSC-SHRM) and the VP of D&I with the North Jersey—Rockland Chapter SHRM. Additionally, he is a Bergen County Human Relations Commissioner, part of the YWCA Northern Jersey Racial Justice Taskforce, and a recent board member with the New Bridge Medical Center Foundation.

As a member of the LGBTQ community, Paradiso believes it is important to have representation and a seat at the table. Paradiso is running on a platform surrounding the importance of diversity of thought and embracing inclusion. He believes everyone should have a voice.

He’s Interim President of the Bergen County LGBTQ Democratic Caucus, Waldwick Board of Health member and part of the Green Team.

Vincent Solomeno is running for the New Jersey State Senate in district 13

If elected, Vincent Solomeno will make history as the first out LGBTQ member of the New Jersey State Senate. He believes in the power of public service to improve people’s lives. The third generation of his family to call Monmouth County home, he has demonstrated his commitment to community through his service as an Army officer, veterans advocate, and community leader.

Solomeno attended public schools and graduated from the Marine Academy of Science and Technology at Sandy Hook before earning his Bachelor of Science from the University of Scranton. He is the recipient of the prestigious Harry S. Truman Scholarship and J. William Fulbright Scholarship. As a Fulbright Scholar, he received a Master of Arts from the University of Amsterdam for his study of the roots of radicalization in Muslim and non-Muslim communities in the Netherlands. He also worked as a Truman Summer Fellow in the Washington, D.C. office of U.S. Representative Frank Pallone, Jr.

Solomeno is a Captain in the New Jersey Army National Guard. He deployed overseas in support of Operation Enduring Freedom as a future operations officer for U.S. Army Central Command. A recipient of the New Jersey Distinguished Service Medal, he was called to active duty during and after Superstorm Sandy, working in devastated communities across Monmouth County. In 2020, he was an operations officer helping coordinate the New Jersey National Guard’s COVID-19 pandemic response.

Jennifer Sciortino has already been elected as Bordentown City Commissioner

She will be Bordentown’s first out LGBTQ City Commissioner. Jennifer Sciortino, a New Jersey statehouse veteran with nearly 25 years of experience centered on government communications for Democratic elected officials won her four-year term as Bordentown City Commissioner in the May 11 non-partisan election.

Sciortino is the first openly LGBTQ member to serve on Bordentown City’s Board of Commissioners, and just the third woman, since the board’s founding in 1913.

Sciortino has been actively engaged in government and civic organizations throughout her life. She serves on the Bordentown City Parks Committee and helps run the city’s local 501c3 animal rescue group. She also represented Bordentown City on the Burlington County Democratic Committee for several terms and served as a former member of the Advisory Board for Garden State Equality. She currently serves as Communications Director for the NJ Treasury Department.

She said she will parlay her decades of government experience and deep knowledge of the resources available to help bolster Bordentown City and improve people’s everyday lives. Her goal is to foster an open and inclusive dialogue that embraces diverse points of view while ensuring Bordentown City remains a vibrant, affordable community with thriving downtown businesses that have something to offer for everyone.