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Legislative District 22

With three times as many registered Democratic voters as Republicans, the numbers show why the 22nd is going to be a very tough climb for the challengers.

The numbers in the 22nd Legislative District describe the uphill climb faced by the Republicans seeking to unseat three incumbent state Senate and Assembly Democrats.

In the Senate race, Sen. Nicholas P. Scutari, in office since 2003, faces Republican Michael W. Class, Middlesex Borough Council president.

Democratic Assembly veterans Jerry Green and Linda Stender face Republicans Joan Van Pelt, an attorney who spent 27 years in the Office of the Public Defender, and Jeffrey First, a health administrator.

The number of registered voters, as of the June primary, show that the district has three times as many Democrats as Republicans, 48,219 to 16,254. The 22nd, which was not changed by the recent redistricting, also has 51,851 unaffiliated voters.

The district runs across Union, Middlesex and Somerset counties from Green Brook in the west to Rahway in the east. While Green Brook has a large Republican voting bloc, it has only 7,203 residents. The district's larger cities, Plainfield, Rahway and Linden, have large majorities of Democratic voters.

This disparity was evident in the primary voter totals, even though all the candidates ran unopposed. Scutari received 5,519 votes and Class got 272.

On the Assembly side, Stender received 5,411 votes and Green got 5,092; while Van Pelt polled 1,211, and First garnered 1,167.

Scutari, an attorney, was a sponsor of the law allowing New Jersey residents to use medical marijuana. He also backed the cuts to state worker benefts and pensions and supported reducing the state tax levy cap to 2 percent.

Sources said Class had considered dropping out of the race. But he has decided to keep running. He said he was motivated to run for state Assembly to provide more visible public service for the district's residents. He said he is concerned about the recent effort to reduce public employee salaries and benefits, and does not support the push to make medical marijuana available. Class said he would focus his attention on job creation.

Green, a political fixture in Plainfield, worked on legislation that would aid cities like his hometown, older urbanized areas fallen on hard times. He contributed to legislation to establish Urban Enterprise zones and supported Plainfield's designation as an Abbott school district

Stender has been at the forefront of legislation that would aid women, like the recent unsuccessful fight with Gov. Chris Christie to place back in the state budget funds that would have supported Planned Parenthood and healthcare efforts aimed at lower income women and families. She ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2006 and 2008.

Van Pelt supports school choice and the use of vouchers, a regionalized approach to planning and energy use, and caps to hold down property tax increases.

First said government should operate according to business principles: simply, expenditures should equal revenues. He said he would question which programs and services are needed, and then make sure they were purchased at the lowest cost.

Michael Daigle is a freelance writer and journalist from Phillipsburg. He has worked for newspapers in Massachusetts, Maine, and for the past 20 years, in New Jersey. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting on housing policy, politics, environmental issues and as a columnist.

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