STATE – All 120 seats in New Jersey’s legislature are at stake in the Nov. 8 election. Although there were some minor changes to the makeup of some districts following the 2010 Census, the new map is unlikely to lead to major changes in Trenton.
Three districts include Union County towns. District 20, which now includes Elizabeth, Hillside, Roselle and Union, historically has been staunchly Democratic. Redistricting swapped Hillside for Kenilworth, which moved to the District 21, and does little to alter the party balance.
State Sen. Raymond Lesniak, who was first elected as an assemblyman in 1977, will face Elizabeth Republican Committee Chairwoman Helen Rosales. In the Assembly, Republican John F. Donoso will attempt to unseat Assemblyman Joseph Cryan or Assemblywoman Annette Quijano.
Donoso is a member of Elizabeth’s Board of Education and a financial advisor vice president at JP Morgan Chase. Cryan is the majority leader of the Assembly and an undersheriff in Union County. He has served in office for the past decade. Quijano, who chairs the Assembly Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee, has served in the Assembly since 2008.
District 21, which includes suburban areas of Union, Essex, Morris and Somerset counties, traditionally votes Republican though the GOP only has a small majority in terms of registered voters.
State Sen. Thomas Kean Jr. and Assembly members Jon Bramnick and Nancy Munoz are running for re-election against three Democratic lawyers: Paul Swanicke for Senate and Bruce Bergen and Norman Albert for Assembly. Libertarian Darren Young, a software developer, is also seeking an Assembly seat.
Plainfield, Rahway and Linden are the largest cities in District 22, an overwhelmingly Democratic district which stretches across Union, Middlesex and Somerset counties.
State Sen. Nicholas Scutari, who’s served in office since 2003, is being challenged by Middlesex Borough Council President Michael W. Class, a Republican. Incumbent Assembly members Jerry Green and Linda Stender face Republicans Joan Van Pelt, a lawyer, and Jeffrey First, a health administrator.
In District 19, which includes the Middlesex County municipalities of Carteret, Perth Amboy, Sayreville, South Amboy and Woodbridge, a slate of Republican challengers faces an uphill battle against Democratic leaders.
State Sen. Joseph Vitale has served in office since 1998 and is known for creating the popular NJ FamilyCare program. His Republican challenger, Paul Lund Jr., is a teacher at St. Patrick High School in Elizabeth.
In the Assembly contest, state Democratic chairman John Wiskniewski and first-term Assemblyman Craig J. Coughlin are being challenged by a pair of Republican newcomers, Angel J. Leon and Shane Robinson. Robinson has been endorsed by the Bayshore Tea Party.
District 18 underwent small changes during the redistricting process, losing Spotswood to District 14 while gaining Highland Park from District 17. Those changes are unlikely to affect the solidly Democratic district.
Democrat State Sen. Barbara Buono has been in office since 1994 and has served in the Senate since 2002. She will be challenged by Edison Republican Gloria Dittman. In the Assembly contest, Democrats Peter J. Barnes III and Patrick Diegnan Jr. face challenges from Republicans Marcia Silva and Joseph Sinagra. Barnes and Diegnan have been in office since 2007 and 2002, respectively. Sinagra is a former president of Helmetta’s Borough Council and vice-chair of the borough’s Republican Party, while Silva is an attorney.
The solidly Democratic District 17 spans parts of Somerset and Middlesex counties including New Brunswick and Piscataway. Incumbent Sen. Bob Smith has been in Trenton since 1986 and chairs the Environment and Energy Committee. He is being challenged by Republican attorney Jason Rickards from North Brunswick.
In the Assembly race, two Republican newcomers, Carlo A. DiLalla and Robert S. Mettler, are trying to unseat incumbent Democrats Upendra Chivulka and Jospeh V. Egan. Both Democrats have been in office since 2002 and hold leadership positions: Chivulka is the deputy speaker of the Assembly and Egan is the deputy majority leader. DiLalla is a financial consultant and Mettler is a former mayor of Franklin Township.
District 14 spans parts of Middlesex and Mercer counties, including Cranbury, Monroe, Jamesburg, Plainsboro and Spotswood. Until last year, when Republican Bill Baroni left the state Senate for the Port Authority, District 14 had split representation with a pair of Democrats representing it in the Assembly.
Incumbent Democrat Linda Greenstein is facing a strong challenge from Republican Richard Kanka for her Senate seat. Kanka is a member of the Hamilton Board of Education. He and his wife campaigned to get the legislature to pass “Megan’s Law,” which requires officials to maintain a registry that identifies convicted sex offenders and make that information available to communities where they live. Greenstein is being backed by organized labor, since the District 14 legislators opposed Gov. Christie’s plan to reduce pension and health benefits this summer.
In the Assembly races, Republicans Wayne Wittman and Sheree McGowan will try to unseat Democrats Wayne DeAngelo and Dan Benson.
District 12 includes portions of Middlesex, Monmouth, Burlington and Ocean counties, including Old Bridge. It is one of the districts most significantly affected by the re-districting process – it is currently represented by Republicans whose hometowns were moved into other districts. The new district is expected to be competitive.
Assemblyman Samuel D. Thompson, who leads the Middlesex County Republican Party, is at the top of the GOP ticket. Old Bridge lawyer, Democrat Robert Brown, is attempting to win District 13’s state Senate seat for his party.
The Republican Assembly ticket includes Assemblyman Ronald S. Dancer who currently represents District 30, and Monmouth County Freeholder Director Robert D. Clifton. The Democrats are running William Spedding of Jackson and Catherine Tinney Rome of Old Bridge.
Until this election, District 13 included parts of Middlesex and Monmouth counties. Now it is made up of Monmouth County municipalities that are almost all Republican-friendly. GOP state Sen. Joseph Kyrillos faces four challengers in his re-election bid, including former Hazlet mayor Christopher Cullen, a Democrat.
Republican Assemblywoman Amy Handlin is running for re-election, and Republican Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon – currently representing District 12 – hopes to continue serving in the state house. They are opposed by Democrats Kevin Lavan and Patrick Short, and Constitution Party members William H. Lawton and Frank C. Cottone.
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