Woodland Park’s Turkish community looks ahead after New Jersey’s election

By Orhan Akkurt | Zaman Amerika

WOODLAND PARK, NJ – Ahead of the gubernatorial election, Levent Koch, his family and their friends gathered together to talk about the issues that mattered the most to them. Although the Koch family and their friends were divided on which candidate to support, they all agreed that that they hoped the next governor would lower taxes and have a friendly stance on immigration.

After Gov.-elect Phil Murphy’s victory on Nov. 7, Zaman Amerika followed up with the Koch family to see what they thought about the election and the new governor of New Jersey.

Levent Koch didn’t vote for Murphy, but he’s still eager to see what the next four years might bring and whether Murphy will keep his progressive campaign promises. “As I said before, I supported Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno. However, her opponent Mr. Phil Murphy won. In fact, democracy won. Now, my duty, as a citizen, is to follow if Mr. Murphy will keep his promises,” Koch said.

Ihsan Yesil, a longtime friend of the Koch family, was more enthusiastic about the new Democratic governor because of Murphy’s pro-immigration policies. Reflecting on Guadagno’s failed campaign, Yesil noted, “The Republican candidate Ms. Guadagno gave more lenient messages than her party; but one feels really uneasy given the current administration’s policies against immigrants.”

Yesil, however, doesn’t think that political issues, like immigration, are what drive people to the polls or win elections. Instead Yesil said he believes party politics and partisanship dictate election results in the U.S.

“The nation is truly split into two big polling chunks between Democrats and Republicans, who identify themselves with the party, rather than how much the candidates represent the values of the party. They rarely make choices other than whoever comes forward from within their party, whether they like him/her or not. The latest elections in New Jersey is a proof for that,” said Yesil.

Tarkan Senol, a long-time Lyndhurst resident and friend of the Koch family, believes that the Trump administration contributed to Murphy’s New Jersey victory.

“Since the November 2016 presidential elections, our businesses have been going down with losses as high as 35%. People did not vote for the Trump administration for this downfall. Even many Republicans in New Jersey are seriously disappointed, for what they were expecting from a businessman like Trump was a quick and sharp surge, not this huge drop in their business,” Senol said. “Many political scandals and failure to represent American leadership in the world have also contributed to the Democratic win in New Jersey.”

Rukiye Koch, Levent Koch’s wife, was more optimistic about the election results. She is particularly looking forward to seeing what  Lt. Gov.-elect Sheila Oliver and Murphy’s administration will do in office, and what Oliver will do as head of the Department of Community Affairs.

“Ms. Oliver has a long tenure in and experience with NJ politics. She is a person who can work across the aisle and I am glad that Governor-elect Murphy appointed her. Because we need a person who will help bring both sides of the aisles to work together for our great state,” Rukiye Koch said.

Munise Koch, the Koch’s youngest daughter, is equally optimistic about the future. She hopes Murphy will make public universities free for state residents and focus “on improving education in cities which have been hit by poverty, crime, drug, etc.”

Echoing Murphy’s campaign platform, Munise Koch said, “I believe these problems are results not root causes.” She said only a real investment in improving education will begin to directly address these issues.

In the end, the Koch family and their friends, like most New Jersey voters, don’t know what to expect from Murphy, but they are looking ahead and hoping for the best.

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This story is part of the Voting Block series and was produced in collaboration with The Record, NJ Spotlight, WHYY, WNYC, Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, the Center for Cooperative Media and New America Media. To read all the stories in this series, visit VotingBlockNJ.com.