19-Year Old Republican Demetrius Terry’s Road To Council Candidacy

At 19 years of age, Demetrius Terry isn’t always the youngest speaker during a City Council meeting’s public hearing, when residents, union reps, former pols, and business interests address the municipality’s legislative body, (often) airing concerns or (occasionally) applauding city actions. On some days, in particular when the cause is related to elementary schools, Terry will be a good 10 years older than the youngest speaker. But when it comes to issues of substance, of a concern well beyond the years of most pre-baccalaureate degree holding types – crime, crony-ism, or taxes, not to mention layoffs, government transparency or various other public interest concerns – Terry stands alone as the youngest resident ready and able to address the Council.

But Terry’s interest in politics isn’t the idle speculation of a student curious how governments function – though he is studying political science at Seton Hall University – nor is it simply the acting out of civic responsibility as envisioned by democracy-idealists. Rather, it’s the proactive involvement of a young man with large ambition. Terry, in fact, expects to see his name in print next year, and not just in the newspaper. If all goes according to plan, his name will be in the same column as current Ward A Councilman Michael Sottolano’s on next year’s City Council ballot. At the time of the election, Terry will be 20, seven years younger than Ward E Councilman Steve Fulop was when he was first elected. He’ll also be running as a Republican, a rarity in the heavily-Democratic leaning city.

“You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to sit on the council,” said Terry. “What the council in Jersey City needs is some new fresh young blood. I will bring new fiscal ideas to the table and solutions to problems facing our community everyday: crime, education and taxes.”

He looks to answer the question, “Where are our elected leaders? There have been many times I’ve talked to residents in Greenville and they have no clue [who] their councilperson is.”

Although now firmly in the GOP camp, Terry, the chairman of the Hudson County Teenage Republicans, took a roundabout route to his conservative leanings, one that has seen him make an about-face from his one-time political inspiration, President Barack Obama. And yet, like many of the president’s audiences during his 2008 campaign, Terry cites hearing Obama speak at St. Peter’s College on January 11, 2008 as the reason he got involved in politics.

“From that evening on, I knew public service was destined for me,” he says. “I was very intrigued by the way he spoke and the vision he had for the United States of America. During the time, I really had no clue what politics was about but I knew I wanted to get involved.”

At first Terry thought the Democratic party’s interests aligned with his own, and he joined the Hudson County Democratic Organization to help Obama’s campaign. But like some erstwhile ardent Obama supporters, the years that followed his election – when no simple fix for our ailing economy appeared, with economists split (and still split) over the size of the bailout (if not the necessity), with a massive national debt compiling, and continuing trouble in the global financial market – Terry’s infatuation with the president faded.

“I’m very disappointed by President Obama,” says Terry. “If you just look at his spending record and the economy, how can anyone really be happy with a President like that?”

From this disappointment, he looked to the 2009 gubernatorial race here in New Jersey, and saw that Republicans “stand for lower taxes, less government, less regulations, school choice and fiscal responsibility. All of those characteristics what something I believed morally in.” He says he’s found these values at the state level in Governor Chris Christie, and then nationally in Mitt Romney as he continues to establish himself as the so-called inevitable candidate in the Republican primaries.

While Terry says he has “respect” for Sottolano, presumably his biggest challenger come 2013, it comes down to the need for new points-of-view. He recently wrote a letter to JCI expressing disappointment with Ward F Councilwoman Michele Massey’s recent decision to vote against ousting Council President Brennan from his leadership position.

In the time until the election, Terry will continue to make appearances at Council meetings and posting on Facebook’s Political Insider page – a Jersey City-centric, keep-in-the-know forum for activist-residents – and to work as a part-time model at Hollister Co. at Newport Mall in Jersey City.

Whatever his political fate, Terry says he hopes to inspire the area’s youth by becoming “the biggest advocate for the youth in my ward. The youth are our leaders for tomorrow and they need to know there is someone out there who cares for them,” he said.

In a city of old-hands and so-called political machines, Terry’s candidacy is a hopeful sign for youthful Americans too often described as disaffected no matter one’s political affiliation.

Photo Courtesy Demetrius Terry

Matt Hunger

is a former staff writer for the Jersey City Independent.

  • Anonymous

    It’s certainly a positive thing, having younger residents getting involved with local politics. And I appreciate Mr. Terry’s ambition, desire to better his community, and active participation in our City Council meetings.
    Having said that, there is zero chance he wins the Ward A Council seat as a Republican. There are very few registered Republicans in Ward A, and there is absolutely no one in the Republican party Mr. Terry can point to, either locally or nationally, who has helped the lower and middle income residents that make up the electorate in Ward A. Who is his base going to be? No, really. Who?
    Furthermore, his assessment of President Obama’s job performance shows a severe lack of understanding when it comes to cause and effect. This country was losing over 700,000 jobs a month, and the stock market was in a tailspin, when President Obama took office. President Obama’s “spending record” was amassed mainly as a way to stop the bleeding that Bush’s Republican policies created. Furthermore, Bush signed TARP, not President Obama. Bush expanded the size of the federal government, and amassed more debt, than any President in history. 
    Maybe Mr. Terry doesn’t understand this because he’s only nineteen, and would have been seven years old when George W. Bush took office…with a $2 TRILLION surplus that the Democrat Bill Clinton created.
    Mr. Terry, do yourself a favor: take a few less Poli Sci courses, and a few more History and Economics courses. Maybe an elective along the lines of “The African-American Socioeconomic Experience in America”. Because you are going to get completely shellacked if you try to run as a Republican. And no one is going to take you seriously. It’s one thing to be a rich African-American fool (Herman Cain) shilling for the wealthy of America, but it’s another to be a lower or middle-class African-American fool doing the same. 

    Best of luck!

  • Omar Dyer

    Hey, (ohyeahabsolutely) running in a non-partisan municipal election has no parings on what side the local vote for when it comes to parties. The kid was a Young Democrat — who was taken up by a small number of repressive republicans. If there was a true role model in the Democratic Base: that actually stood for something in Ward A besides elections and who they stood next to–maybe he wouldn’t be a Republican–rather than a democratic reformer. I think he has is mind in a mix, to what he is–He’s a Democratic Reformer using a Republican coat tell–because he gets his advise from Republicans or (Tea-Party) members. And last time I checked: Tea-Party Members are neither Democrat of Republican, but flow republican ideas because of educational values. He will not be a true republican because of his educational and community setting or values. So instead of insulting him, try mentoring him first. Instead of bashing his education, how about uplifting him, and spring boarding him as a role model. Why because ELECTIONS are about CANDIDATES, not what party they hold. 

    • Anonymous

      Listen, I have absolutely no love for the HCDO. And while I think Republican policies, on a national level, have been disastrous to our nation’s health, like some greedy cancer eating away at our resources and infrastructure, in a way I welcome Republicans to Jersey City. I’m probably not going to vote for a Republican, mind you, but the fact that the HCDO has no real opposition here allows them to get away with whatever they want. 
      Then again, the last council special election shows that you don’t have to be in the HCDO’s pocket to win here. Lavarro and Richardson won as Democrats on an independent ticket. And Fulop’s been doing his own thing for years. Mr. Dyer, I understand some of what you’re saying. But I think a lot of readers will read your explanation of his ideological underpinnings and become even more confused as to what Mr. Terry stands for. After all, there’s no mention of Mr. Terry being part of the Tea Party in the article above.It’s true that I was a little harsh on Mr. Terry. But someone needs to clue him in to a few things before he moves forward. Even if he’s not going to be a “true Republican”, the fact that he’s calling himself a Republican now will follow him around for the rest of his life. Jersey City is a pretty small pond, politically, and any opponent he faces in an election will make a big deal out of the fact that he’s bashing President Obama and calling himself a Tea Party Republican. And won’t the “true Republicans” out there be upset that he’s not wholeheartedly in their camp? By calling himself a Republican, he alienates Democrats. By claiming that he’s not a “true Republican”, he alienates Republicans. So who, exactly, is he trying to appeal to?

      I could go on for days about why I think any African-American who calls themselves a Republican is a fool, but I’d rather make one specific suggestion instead. Mr. Terry, if you want to make a name for yourself in Ward A, spearhead some community effort to get drugs off the street, or get kids involved in wholesome after-school activities, or choose a small area within the ward and make it your mission to turn a bad area into a good one. Bring people together to better their community. You will need to prove yourself to the people of Ward A before they will vote for you, and making some tangible difference in the lives of people who have been beaten down by the economy, and rampant crime, will go a long way to starting a successful political career. Hobnobbing with politicos is fine, it will help you learn some of the tricks of the trade, but it’s not going to bring voters out to the polls for you. People need to see that you are capable of making a positive difference before they are going to trust you as their councilman.

      And while I appreciate your effort to reach out to me, suggesting that I email you privately, you’re going to have to learn to defend yourself in the public arena if you’re going to be a successful politician. Because whenever a voter  Googles your name, in order to find out more about you, these kind of exchanges are going to pop up. That’s the world we’re living in. Control the message.

      • Anonymous

        sound advice

      • http://www.facebook.com/demetrius790 Demetrius Terry

        You have your own opinion and I respect it. I would say your comment about seeing an African American Republican and calling them a fool is quite racist. I believe conservatism is what my ward needs. The residents in my ward don’t need government programs in which they stay on for their lifetime. They need assistance to help them get a boost. Also, I’m a strong believe in school choice, if you look at the public schools in Ward A, their performance is at a super low. Bottom line, Democrats have been controlling the area for years and look how it still is today. There is a simple answer- Let’s try a new direction and that’s Conservatism.
        Also watch this video when you can can: Black Conservative Forum:

        • Anonymous

          Thank you, Mr. Terry, for responding. I do apologize for not seeing your response earlier.
          The reason why I think it’s foolish for any African-American to be a Republican is not because I am a racist…it’s because the Republican party, for the last 50 years, has been using racism, and people’s prejudices, to divide people who would otherwise be on the same side economically. They are able to tap into the fears and prejudices of poor, white people in the South and middle America, and use that to get elected. When you have a chance, Google “Southern Strategy”. You have a small oligarchy of rich, white men instilling fear into poor, uneducated folk in order to get elected. Look at how the Republican party has behaved ever since President Obama was elected. First he’s faulted for the radical views of his former pastor. Then they try to paint him as a secret Muslim (he has a pastor, and he’s a Muslim? Hmmmm…). Then it was the birther nonsense. Then he’s a Socialist. Basically, they’ve done everything they can to put false labels on him so as to delegitimize him. This is not because he was a Muslim, or radical, or Socialist…it’s because he’s black. And the sheep who follow the party, and watch FoxNews, lap it all up, no matter how nonsensical it is.

          I appreciate your leanings toward conservatism. I found the works of Ayn Rand to be very influential in my college days. I still think she had the right ideas, if she didn’t exactly think it out all the way (What kind of quality of life would we have if we just let the poor and disenfranchised and uneducated live and die on the streets? Is that the kind of country we want to live in? Should we all just erect higher walls and live in gated communities?). However, even Ayn Rand thought the Republican party had it wrong. Watch the biography of her life that came out about 7 years ago.  Or this clip: 

          Ayn Rand was against crony capitalism. She was against religion. Yet this is what the modern Republican party represents. They do everything they can to protect the rich, even if it means shutting down the government or plunging the country into a false debt crisis. They are not for healthy competition, or laisse-faire capitalism. They are for helping out their rich buddies and meeting them later at the country club. If they were conservatives, they wouldn’t have let George W. Bush increase the size of the federal government, and debt, more than any other President in history. But, you see, that’s their game: they empty the federal coffers, giving huge tax breaks to the wealthy, to oil companies, etc. Then they leave it to the Democrats to clean up their mess. Of course Democrats have to raise taxes; someone has to be the adult, and pay the bills.

          Republicans are perfectly willing to let religion (as long as it’s Christianity) affect the way this country is governed, which is absolutely against the laws, teachings, and writings of our founding fathers. Why? Because there are only so many rich people in this country. They could never get elected if all they had was rich people. So they pander to the prejudiced, and religious, in order to get elected. I guess I’m just shocked that an otherwise intelligent African-American doesn’t understand this.

  • http://www.facebook.com/demetrius790 Demetrius Terry

    At (ohyeahabsolutely), Send me an email: hudsoncountytars@aol.com and we can talk more. 
    Demetrius Terry

  • http://profiles.google.com/pferm201 Patrick Fermin

    good luck Mr. Terry. Great to have the younger generation take an interest in bettering their community. Don’t give up on your dream kid

  • Anonymous

    Just LOVE the Red Lamps outside City Hall! I guess it really is a “house of ill repute”.Shout it to the world, child!