Chris Fistonich, a professor, cybersecurity analyst, opera singer, and activist, announced Friday that he will seek the Democratic nomination for State Assembly in the 16th district, which includes Princeton, South Brunswick, and portions of Hunterdon and Somerset counties.
Fistonich, 30, earned his doctorate degree in immunobiology from Yale University. If elected, he would be the youngest member of the New Jersey Assembly.
State Senator Kip Bateman announced this week that he will not be seeking another term after 12 years in the State Senate and almost four decades of public service. Assemblymen Andrew Zwicker and Roy Freiman both are considering a run for Bateman’s seat, creating an opening for newcomers on the Democratic ticket for the Assembly.
The Democrats could end up with a primary race this year rather than candidates running unopposed. Flemington Council President Caitlin Giles-McCormick, 36, the program coordinator for the Center for Non-Profits, has expressed interest in seeking the Democratic nomination for the Assembly. Several other people are reported to be mulling over Assembly runs.
Fistonich teaches microbiology at Rowan University and immunology at Caldwell University as an adjunct professor. He is also a cybersecurity research analyst for Malwarebytes, where he has worked for more than a decade. He moved to Princeton with his wife, Stephanie, in 2017.
“Central New Jersey has a longstanding history of electing scientists to public office, including former Congressman Rush Holt and current Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker,” Fistonich said in a statement about his candidacy. “I hope to continue that tradition, as having scientists in office is critical to creating a data-driven approach to a range of policies from combating the pandemic to voting reform, immigration, and affordability.”
Fistonich’s parents immigrated to the United States several decades ago and he credits them for his work ethic and ambition. “As a first-generation Croatian-American whose parents left everything behind to create a new life in America, I reflect on all of the opportunities afforded to me every time I work to accomplish something new,” he said. “I recognize that many are denied those same opportunities and plan to make equity a focus of this campaign. I hope to make my parents proud.”
Fistonich is a co-leader of the online organization VoteDEM, which has raised nearly two million dollars to help elect Democratic candidates at the federal, state, and local levels since 2018. He is serving his third term on the Princeton Community Democratic Organization executive board, and was elected to be a representative for District 11 on the Princeton Democratic Municipal Committee in 2020.
“With a short learning curve, a thirst for knowledge, and an analytical mindset, I have the background and drive needed to make a substantial difference in the Assembly,” Fistonich said. “I am passionate about expanding the range of voices heard in our political process, and I aim to increase voter engagement and turnout beginning with this election. I want to instill the fact that what our government does at the state level is often even more important to our daily lives than what goes on in Washington, D.C. It would be a great privilege to serve the needs of New Jersey District 16.”