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Legislative District 6

Sexually explicit tweets could turn what was a snoozer into a hotly contested fight on election night.

The strongly Democratic 6th in South Jersey had been a snoozer until sexually explicit tweets by the Republican Senate challenger surfaced recently.

PolitickerNJ’s story about the tweets has thrust this district, which straddles Burlington and Camden counties, into the headlines.

Phil Mitsch, the Republican real estate recovery expert trying to unseat Sen. James Beach, admits to using sexual innuendo in some of his tweets, which usually provide economic and financial advice. But he said the tweets, at least some of which were directed at a specific follower, are indicative of his dry sense of humor and in no way did he mean them to demean women.

“I directed this at a guy who was having relationship problems” Mitsch said, explaining that he occasionally would provide sex tips in his tweets to improve their placement in search engines.

Assemblywoman Pam Lampitt was having none of it.

“It is absolutely disgraceful that the Republican candidate for Senate would show such callous disrespect toward women,” she said. “This is the year 2011, not 1811. Mr. Mitsch should resign immediately from the ballot for his disgusting anti-women remarks.”

Among the tweets Lampitt found offensive was one that advised: “Your new survival philosophy toward women should be ‘pay, play, now get the F-k away’” and “Tell your women they can’t talk to you but they can moan.”

Mitsch contends the tweets were leaked by the Democrats to try to detract from his receipt of the endorsement of the New Jersey Fraternal Order of Police. Union endorsements of Republicans are rare in the state.

It’s not surprising that Beach, who has held elective office in Camden County for two decades and is co-chair of the county’s Democratic organization, is being snubbed by unions representing police, teachers, and state workers. Last spring, he supported the legislation that cut public employee pensions and raised their health benefit payments.

“NJEA members make these endorsement decisions and they have made it clear that they will not endorse legislators who have impaired their right to collectively bargain and who have imposed thousands of dollars of additional costs on public employees,” said Barbara Keshishian, NJEA president, in announcing the endorsements.

Still, neither the NJEA nor the NJ AFL-CIO, went so far as to endorse Mitsch or the Republicans running for the Assembly, school administrator Greg Horton and lawyer Allen Richardson. Mitsch and the Assembly candidates are not running a coordinated campaign.

Richardson, of Collingswood, and Horton, of Haddonfield, have no prior elected experience and have an uphill battle against Lampitt and the other incumbent Democrat, Assemblyman Louis Greenwald. Greenwald is a 15-year legislator who wields significant power in Trenton as chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee. Lampitt, who has been in office since 2006, chairs the Assembly Higher Education Committee.

The Democrats also have a significant edge in voter registration.

Data from the June primary shows Democrats with an almost 3-to-1 margin over Republicans. Unaffiliateds make up the plurality, with 66,800, but the Democrats’ 61,828 registered voters are not far behind

Four years ago, when the Senate seat topped the ballot, then-Sen. John Adler beat his Republican rival by about 10,000 votes, while Greenwald and Lampitt outpolled their GOP opponents by about 6,000.

Redistricting is not expected to appreciably change that voting pattern.

The 6th lost seven Camden communities -- Audubon Park, Berlin, Chesilhurst, Pine Hill, Pine Valley, Waterford and Winslow. Of those, only tiny Pine Valley voted Republican.

On the plus side, the 6th District gained Maple Shade in Burlington and Hi-Nella, Merchantville, Pennsauken, Somerdale, and Stratford in Camden. Four of those six voted solidly Democratic in 2007, with Merchantville and Maple Shade splitting the ticket -- choosing the Democratic incumbents for the Assembly in the 7th and Republican incumbent Diane Allen for the Senate.

Only the police union backed a non-incumbent in this race, and Mitsch was the only one of the Republicans to get an endorsement. Union voters, taking their anger out on the three Democrats have the potential to make the race a lot closer, but a backlash against Mitsch could negate that effect on election night.

Colleen O'Dea has been a journalist for 28 years, most recently with the Morristown Daily Record. She has covered the Statehouse, education, and the environment -- among other beats.

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