Meet Aaron Fraser: Former Coke Dealer, Homo Thug Author and Aspiring Congressman

Categories: Longform

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"Where are you from? What have you done?" a tiny 80-year-old woman demands, peering out from the doorway of her Jersey City home. "I've never heard of you."

Aaron Fraser is standing on the woman's wide wooden veranda, asking if she will sign a petition in support of adding his name to the ballot for U.S. Congress in New Jersey's 10th District. He needs 200 signatures from Democrats registered in the district by March 31, but Fraser is aiming to collect at least five times that many, in case his opponent challenges their validity.

The woman knows, if only by name, the man Fraser is running against: Donald Payne Jr., her congressional representative and the son of Congressman Donald M. Payne. Payne Jr. assumed the office his father had held for 24 years after Payne Sr. passed away in 2012. She doesn't recognize the distinguished-looking black man with the broad smile and shiny bald dome, standing nearly six feet tall on her doorstep in a full suit and immaculate midnight-blue overcoat with silver cuff links peeking out from its sleeves.

He stumbles a little at her frankness. "Well, I think my academic experience . . ."

"What do you mean, 'academic experience?'" she snaps.

"I have an MBA in media management," Fraser offers, hopefully. The woman looks unimpressed, but he presses on, speaking in broad terms about how he would like to change this neighborhood for the better.

She grumbles incredulously but signs the petition anyway, neatly fitting her name and address into one of the 10 slots provided, then hands the clipboard back. "I'm 80 years old. I don't care," she shrugs, shuffling back inside. The door slams shut behind her.

By half past two on this Saturday afternoon in late February, Fraser has knocked on more than 60 doors. He has gone up and down Jersey City's Randolph and Arlington avenues, sidestepping, in his dress shoes, the dog poop and trash that have spent weeks obscured by several feet of snow. It is sparklingly sunny, warm for the first time in weeks, and the gutters of every row house are dripping. Fraser has shaken dozens of hands, asked after his neighbors' concerns, and promised to attend at least one church function the following Sunday. He has climbed 16 flights of stairs in two apartment buildings, and after almost two hours he has a total of 18 signatures.

The old woman's home is the third-to-last door he will knock on today, and she is the only one who has asked him who he is — beyond the polite, well-dressed, soft-spoken man with an impressive business card (red and blue, featuring a photo of himself and a string of silver stars), declaring his intention to be her next congressman.

That's probably just as well; Aaron Fraser has yet to put the finishing touches on his 30-second elevator pitch.

His spiel could go something like this:

Aaron Fraser grew up in Harlem, the eldest of six kids, son of a minister's daughter and a Guyanese immigrant. He attended Julia Richman High School on the Upper East Side and later graduated from Mercy College. He holds two master's degrees (one from Mercy, the second from Metropolitan College of New York) and is three credits shy of a fourth degree in theology. Now 43 years old, he is a published author many times over.

Fraser has also, at various times in his life, been a robber, a drug dealer, and a con man. He has been convicted in three states, has seven felony counts to his name, and has spent, all told, close to a decade and a half behind bars.

It is possible that these details might make voters in New Jersey's 10th District less inclined to elect him to a seat in Congress. Then again, it's slightly refreshing that a New Jersey politician might reveal himself to be a criminal before he's elected.

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