Photo: By Ilya Galak
C.M: I’ll start with a question about your background…Please tell us a little bit about your life story.
J.M: My name is Janine Materna and I’m a 3rd generation Staten Islander with deep roots in the Staten Island community.
I am the proud product of public school education by attending: P.S.3, I.S.34, and Tottenville High School.
After high school, I attended, and graduated from, Columbia University holding a Bachelors of Arts degree in Political Science and Environmental Science. Currently, I’m a Management Consultant, working for the past 10 years in the financial services industry consulting Fortune 500 companies both domestically and globally on ways to become more productive and efficient in the workplace. While practicing my profession, I continued my education by earning a certificate from the Women’s Campaign School at Yale University. I also attended St. John’s University to attain a Master’s in Education with a dual certification in Childhood Education and Teaching Students with Disabilities. Currently, I am entering my third year of law school at New York Law School, where I am involved in the evening program.
I’m involved in a variety of organizations and proudly serve as the President of the largest Civic Association on the South Shore of Staten Island, the Pleasant Plains, Prince’s Bay, Richmond Valley Civic Association where I’ve had many speakers educate the community on the issues we face. The Civic Association has also implemented traditions for generations to come. Some of these traditions include: Meet the Candidates Forum, We Care Community Clean-Ups, The Annual Christmas Tree and Menorah Lighting Ceremony, and the Great American Barbecue, demonstrating patriotic pride. I have also worked tirelessly on educating the community on drug addiction, mental illness, domestic violence, transportation issues, organ donation, autism, etc.
Along with leading the Civic, I’ve been active with the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York Junior Board, Women’s National Republican Club, Co-Chair the Alumni Representative Committee for Columbia University, New York Junior League, Staten Island Women’s Political Caucus and the Women’s Auxiliary of the Staten Island Historical Society at Historic Richmond Town.
Coming from a family of veterans, I have demonstrated a strong commitment in making sure that our members of the armed forces are respected and continuously recognized for their sacrifices.
I have fought for many years to provide better quality roads for the people of Staten Island by starting the Facebook group: Staten Islanders for Pothole Free Roads. I have been a very big advocate of introducing a sustainable product known as asphalt rubber to New York City.
Recently, I have been featured as a Republican Strategist on a number of different news networks, including but not limited to: NY1, NBC, NBC Latino and on the Kelly File, hosted by Megan Kelly.
Some honors and awards I have received include: Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition in Recognition of Outstanding and Invaluable Service to the Community, New York City Public High School Distinguished Graduate from Mayor Giuliani at Gracie Mansion, New York State Assembly Certificate of Merit & New York City Council Citation.
I have decided to run for New York State Assembly representing my hometown the 62nd Assembly district to give voters of the district a choice on who they want representing them. I will be facing a Republican primary on Tuesday, September 13th.
C.M: The influences of your family background on your life?
J.M: My Italian, Russian, and Polish roots have instilled in me a work ethic that is unmatched. Growing up I learned the value of a dollar and never took anything for granted. I learned that our freedom is something that does not have a dollar value and to be grateful for living in this great country of endless opportunities.
- Graduating from Columbia University, where I competed with students that went to fancy private schools and I was there from attending public school
- Having the courage to go back to law school after being out of college for more than 10 years
- Having the courage and determination to force a Republican primary in the 62nd Assembly district because I believe that voters should decide on whom they want representing them, not party leaders.
C.M: What are some of the biggest concerns you hear from voters in your district?
J.M: The heroin epidemic is a major source of concern in my district that is taking lives almost on a daily basis, and needs to be addressed urgently with increased awareness in schools and better facilities to manage those who suffer from addiction. Another issue that I’ve heard throughout my district, and paid special attention to, is the lack of resources for children who require special education or other special needs. We have a high rate of autism on Staten Island and I have been working to have this issue addressed with more care and energy. Furthermore, many individuals within my district have complained about the plethora of potholes in our roads, the inadequate public transportation system that can no longer service Staten Island due to the abundance of residents, and the over congested roadways that decimate the small town way of life Staten Islanders know and love.
C.M: Would you support a bill, which would place term limits on members of NYS senate and Assembly?
J.M: If I were elected to the State Assembly, I would support a bill that placed term limits on members of both the NYS Senate and the NYS Assembly. I cannot underscore the importance of getting fresh candidates in office and to not have the same people making the same decisions for years at a time. This is part of what I believe leads to corruption, back room deals, and other kinds of suspicious activity in politics that has made people stray away from our current politicians and look to more antiestablishment options. It is important to bring new fresh people into the legislature so that different ideas can circulate, and the decisions can be made by people, who accurately represent the will of the voters, not people who know how to manipulate the system to stay in power.
C.M: A lot of voters appear to be looking for “outsider” candidates this election cycle. Do you think your opponent Mr. Castorina has become an “insider” after serving only few weeks in office? Why or why not?
I have lived in this very District my entire life and been involved in the issues we face for over a decade. My opponent recently moving into the district, he has become close with party bosses through personal relationships with some of the other party insiders, who then selected him for this Assembly seat back in April. When running, he remained on the ballot utterly unopposed, which is unfair and contrary to this nation’s democratic process. This, among many, is one of the reasons why I am challenging both him, and the current local political system on Staten Island.
J.M: I plan on hosting town halls and forums to understand what issues are most important to small businesses in our community. I pledge to fight to make Staten Island and New York State, in general, a place that is more business friendly by lowering taxes and cutting the red tape.
C.M: From Staten Island Advance (Rachel Shapiro): “Those who spent part of their lives in the former Soviet Union remember what it was like to live under a repressive socialist regime, and on Staten Island, some of them are hoping Donald Trump becomes the next American president”. In your opinion, why most of Russian – Speaking immigrants on Staten Island support Trump?
J.M: The Russian Speaking population on the island understands and fears the consequences of life under a socialist regime; equal wages regardless of occupation or profession, decimation of ambition in the workplace, lack of foreign resources, rationing, and corruption in every facet of life and the absence of personal freedoms. Their arrival in America marked a drastic change in their lives, it was liberating - to say the least - to live in a country where hard work was rewarded and corruption was curtailed. However, with the last few years, the America that Russian immigrants longed for was no longer the same America that they immigrated to. With years of fiscally liberal spending and egregious foreign policy decisions, Russians have begun to see what many other Americans fail to; a turn towards socialism, which frankly should be everyone’s biggest fear. Russians value this great nation and all the opportunities it gave them, all of which they would be bereft of in the Soviet Union. Trump supports all of the views that America once stood for, and all the values that Russians came to America for, which is exactly why Russians want to make America great again.
C.M: In your opinion, what are some of the positive effects of having Russian - speaking representatives working in your office?
J.M: Russian speaking representatives in my office can offer a unique perspective on politics and decision-making, while also connecting with and understanding the needs of Staten Island’s vast Russian population, which I can fulfill. There are many different areas within Staten Island, and particularly my district, that have pockets of Russian speaking individuals who can offer valuable insight and may have needs I can address. Through the use of Russian speaking personnel in the office, communicating with this demographic becomes easier and more efficient, which as a result helps me solve their issues in a more efficient manner, while being in a conductive environment. The Russian community represents what Staten Island is known for…it’s the hard working, civic minded population that I am proud to call my friends and neighbors. Their ideas, input, and advice would be an asset to my administration.
C.M: How can the Russian - Speaking community help you in your campaign?
J.M: Because the Russian speaking community constitutes such a vast demographic in my district, they can provide a large basis of support by mobilizing voters to come out in this primary. Also by being proactive in telling me of the needs and concerns of the Russian speaking community so that I can help and accommodate them in any way. The Russian speaking community can also assist in funding for my campaign, since the government doesn’t match my campaign funds at all and everything I raise is what I raise on my own. This funding from the hard working Russian community will be put into running a fair and hard working campaign geared toward serving my hometown.