Jim’s family has called New Jersey home for four generations and began serving the state as soon as they arrived.
Jim grew up in Montclair, the second of three children. His father was a Marine veteran and a small businessman. His mother worked as a legal secretary, church organist, and music teacher. While Jim was in high school, she earned her college degree and eventually earned advanced degrees which enabled her to teach, at the college level, later in life, something she continues to do today.
His parents worked hard, every day – and put education first, despite financial hardships. With family support, student loans and part-time jobs, Jim earned his undergraduate and law degrees, with honors, from Harvard.
Over three decades of service to the public and in business, Jim has been tested and is ready to lead New Jersey, clean up Trenton, and open the door to economic opportunity for those who have been shut out and let down for too long.
After law school, Jim served as a federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York, successfully prosecuting violent drug dealers, white-collar tax evasion, and organized crime – including members of the Genovese crime family and drug dealers who tried to assassinate an undercover detective.
During the Clinton Administration, Jim served in several senior positions within the U.S. Department of the Treasury. He started as an Assistant Secretary and President Clinton asked him to co-chair the National Church Arson Task Force. Later, he served as Under Secretary of the Treasury for Enforcement, overseeing the operations of one third of federal law enforcement, including the United States Secret Service; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and the United States Customs Service. In the wake of the mass shooting at Columbine, Jim saw first hand the deadly results when guns are in the wrong hands and fought to close the gun-show loophole that contributed to the massacre.
At the end of the Clinton years, Jim returned to private practice, where clients brought him in to handle their toughest challenges. He routinely advised companies who wanted independent reviews of their actions that met tough Department Of Justice standards for independence and thoroughness. As a partner at Debevoise & Plimpton, Jim was known for his calm demeanor, high ethical standards and insistence on getting the facts right.
In 2009, Jim was selected by a federal judge to oversee the settlement of an affordable housing conflict between the Department of U.S. Housing and Urban Development in Westchester County, NY. His task was to hold officials accountable for fulfilling the terms of the consent decree. He also developed new, collaborative ways for communities to understand and solve the problems of developing and marketing affordable housing.
For seven years, Jim led the Brennan Center for Justice as chair and, at times, co-counsel, working to protect the right to vote, to reduce both crime and incarceration and to advocate for fairness for families facing foreclosure. For two years, Jim led the State of New Jersey’s Advisory Committee on Police Standards, formed to develop a set of proposals to ensure that the State Trooper’s progress in eliminating racial profiling became permanent. His work led to a change in the law that has transformed the relationship between State Troopers and civilian leadership and has withstood the test of time. In the last two years, Jim brought together members of the civil rights and law enforcement communities in a collaboration known as New Jersey Communities Forward – a project within the NJ Institute for Social Justice. Adopting a new approach, NJCF contributed heavily to the new policies on police worn body cameras, independent shooting reviews and implicit bias training.
New Jersey needs a new way of doing business – one that brings the wisdom of its people into the process and is forward-looking rather than crisis-driven. Jim is running for Governor to ensure that all of our voices are heard as we work to improve our public schools, increase wages and benefits for working families, and invest in repairing our roads, bridges, water system, and mass transit.
Jim is married to Nancy Northup, an attorney who heads the Center for Reproductive Rights, a global human rights organization. They have four children. Jim’s eldest daughter, Abigail, teaches in the New York City public schools, as does his step-son Miles. His daughter Amalya is a college freshman and his stepdaughter Natalie is in graduate school for rabbinical studies.
Jim’s mission has always been clear: siding with people against the powerful, to change the way New Jersey works for this generation and the next.