Lauren O'Brien: CD-7 Redistricting Testimony
Thank you to the commission for this opportunity to participate in discussion of the
redistricting process. My name is Lauren O’Brien, and I am in favor of putting Scotch
Plains-Fanwood back into Congressional District 7.
I am here independently, but have worked extensively with several nonprofit
organizations, campaign teams, elected officials and political organizations as an
activist both professionally and as a volunteer. I am also commenting as a 10-year
resident of Scotch Plains, a native New Jerseyan, and an involved neighbor with
First, as a community member and mother of children in the Scotch Plains-Fanwood
district, I want to emphasize the importance of keeping our two municipalities together in
a voting district. Even though we are technically two towns, the community is absolutely
one, with shared institutions, resources, sports teams, associations and so much more.
To me, the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Parent-Teacher Association as an institution is a
good example of why we need to stay in the same voting community.
Next, to my family, Scotch Plains-Fanwood and Westfield are one common community
of interest. Residing only blocks from Westfield, I think it is important to note that many
businesses I frequent are in downtown Westfield because those services and goods are
not available in my community - such as supermarkets, shoe stores, clothing stores,
and certain types of restaurants. My children grew up in the Westfield preschools
through the area YMCA, where I am still a member. My children have done years of
camps there, and participated in their recreational programs. They received full-day
preschool education from the Westfield Y community for years. Finally, my husband
was a commuter to New York City with our CD7 neighbors for many years, and we
have dealt painfully with all of the transportation conflicts that we are fighting right now
through Congressman Malinowski. I almost have to consider CD7 as my district even
though it is not because it has been so much a part of our community and culture for so
In 2012, Scotch Plains was divided into two congressional districts. The 1000+ people
above route 22 remained in CD7, and the rest of the thousands of us were cut to CD12.
to favor a former Congressman’s victory. A municipality should not be carved into
pieces to fit a political puzzle. Neither should a common community / community of
My volunteer activism and professional work has afforded me many positive
relationships with elected officials at local, county, state and federal levels; familiarized
me with political and democratic processes; and most importantly has engaged me in
many conversations with many voters about issues they are passionate about.
One example is that in 2015, I founded the Union County chapter of Moms Demand
Action for Gun Sense. Our leadership team was 70% CD7 and 30% from Scotch
Plains-Fanwood. Our activity hubs were based in Fanwood, Westfield, and Cranford.
During my 18 months of leading that chapter and building up membership to hundreds
of people, it was clear that those municipalities made up a community of interest.
Another example is my volunteer work with METAvivors of New Jersey, a state chapter
for metastatic breast cancer patients and advocates. We work with congressional staff
towards legislation that affords better health care, insurance, and research funding to
turn this terminally-ill disease that kills 115 Americans a day to a chronic but
manageable one. My experience with this work since April 2019 continuously shows
big activity hubs in Scotch Plains-Fanwood and Westfield, and emphasizes the need for
them to exist in one Congressional community. Finally, I am currently working in the
climate justice space, and again I see strong commonality amongst these same
constituencies in supporting federal legislation to combat climate change and provide us
with urgently needed resources for clean energy and overall resilience. Congressman
Malinowski of CD7 is a strong leader in this mission.
Our District 12 representative is Congresswoman Bonnie Watson-Coleman, whom I
greatly admire and respect. She is an excellent representative, and I’m proud to be a
supporting constituent and activist in her district. But in conclusion, Scotch
Plains-Fanwood would be best served by returning to CD7 and joining our larger
community of interest. Let’s aim for accurate representation and voting fairness and
align these communities in district 7. Thank you for your time.