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Legislative District 19

Matthew Kassel | October 7, 2011

Home to two Democratic powerhouses, the 19th is going to be a very steep uphill slog for Republican newcomers.

District 19 pits a pair of Democratic powerhouses against Republican newcomers and a Tea Party candidate.

Joseph Vitale is the long-time Democratic Senator (since 1998), known for his leadership in healthcare legislation. He created what is now known as NJ FamilyCare, among many other healthcare programs. Vitale also held the post of interim mayor of Woodbridge in 2006.

Vitale is squaring off against Republican Paul Lund, Jr., a teacher of math and science at St. Patrick High School in Elizabeth.

John S. Wisneiwski, a consistent critic of Gov. Chris Christie, is the state Democratic chairman and deputy speaker of the Assembly, where he has served since 1996.

The Democrats are also fielding Craig J. Coughlin, who is finishing his first term in the Assembly. He served as a municipal court judge in Edison Township from 2005-2009.

Republican newcomers Angel J. Leon and Shane Robinson are running on the bottom of the ticket. Robinson ran unopposed in the Republican primary and has been endorsed by the Bayshore Tea Party. He has lived in Sayreville for 15 years and serves on the Sayreville Board of Health.

Middlesex County Democratic Chairman Peter J. Barnes, Jr. said, the district is "traditionally Democratic." Redistricting didn't add any Republican municipalities to the 19th. In fact, it left the district untouched.

Still, the Republicans are hopeful.

"This is a tough district, but we've got candidates that are working hard," said Samuel D. Thompson, chairman of the Middlesex County Republicans, who has served in the Assembly since 1998 and is running for Senate in District 12. "I personally believe almost anything can happen this year."

Matthew Kassel is a freelance writer focusing mainly on politics and culture. He is an editorial assistant at Community News Service, a local newspaper group in Mercer County.

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