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Legislative District 18

Republicans will be challenging incumbent Democrats in the Senate and the Assembly in the heavily Democratic 18th.

Although the redistricting of New Jersey's political map is expected to increase competitiveness in at least two districts in the upcoming November election, the 18th is not one of them.

District 18 was slightly reconfigured last spring. The town of Spotswood, in Middlesex County, was moved into District 14, with the 18th picking up Highland Park, which moved from the 17th.

Four years ago, Spotswood split its votes -- choosing the Democrat for the Senate and Republicans for the Assembly. Highland Park, on the other hand, voted solidly Democratic across all seats in 2007, the last time the state Senate race topped the ballot.

In the Senate, the Democratic incumbent, Barbara Buono, from Metuchen, faces a challenge from Edison Republican, Gloria Dittman. Edison is the largest municipality in the district and is Dittman's home base, but the township has tended to vote Democratic by wide margins and Buono is well known, having served in the Assembly from 1994-2001, and in the Senate since 2002. Buono was also considered for the Lieutenant Governor post under John Corzine, and is said to have had an eye on the governor's mansion.

In the Assembly, Republicans Marcia Silva and Joseph Sinagra are challenging Democrats Peter J. Barnes III, and Patrick J. Diegnan, Jr, incumbents since 2007 and 2002, respectively.

"Marcia Silva is a real dynamite candidate, extremely impressive," said Samuel D. Thompson, chairman of the Middlesex County Republicans and an Assemblyman in District 13 since 1998. The redistricting shuffle moved Thompson to District 12 --where there are no incumbents in the Senate -- and he is seizing the chance to run for a seat in the upper house.

Thompson called Silva "very driven," saying she would control spending and lower taxes. "The opponents have been in there for a number of years, and they have constantly increased taxes and state debt," Thompson said. "They're tax-and-spend Democrats, and we can't afford that kind of stuff."

In a surprise move, Democratic East Brunswick Mayor David Stahl, chose to endorse Republican candidate Silva. Stahl, a prosecutor, owns an office building in East Brunswick with Silva, who is a public defender. "I think some career politicians in Washington and Trenton just don't get it. This election year, however, I believe there is a candidate for the Assembly who actually gets it," said Stahl in a press release praising Silva.

Still, Peter J. Barnes Jr., father of Peter J. Barnes III and chairman of the Middlesex County Democrats, said that he did not expect the mayor's endorsement to make a difference.

"We don't anticipate that there will be any upsets," said Barnes Jr.

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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