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Candidates: Legislative District 12

No more sugar coating as Democrat challenges Christie, GOP incumbent in Senate race.

In the newly redrawn 12th District, all of the candidates are technically “new,” although two current Assembly members are on the Republican team and most of the candidates have been involved in politics at different levels for a number of years.

On the Senate side, Assemblyman Samuel D. Thompson, a Republican who is now representing the 13th District, was thrown into the newly redistricted 12th that includes parts of Middlesex, Monmouth, Burlington and Ocean counties.

Thompson, of Old Bridge, has been involved in politics since he went to the Republican National Convention as a delegate in 1988. Elected to the Assembly a decade later, Thompson has worked at both the state Department of Health and Turnpike Authority.

His opponent is Democrat Robert Brown, also of Old Bridge and a retired police officer and lawyer. Brown has run unsuccessfully for the Assembly in the past. He has pitted himself against Gov. Chris Christie for this race and pledged to lose 40 pounds, challenging the governor to do the same.

“I ask the governor to share in the sacrifice and cut his fat first before cutting other people’s benefits,” Brown said.

Brown said his main goal in the legislature will be to lower taxes.

“Taxes are just too damn high and there is no use sugar-coating it,” he said. He wants to take the income tax and the property tax and part of the sales tax and put it in a pool and divide it equally per student to relieve the property tax pressure on the suburban districts.

“If I do anything as a senator, it will be lowering property taxes so people can breathe a little easier,” he said.

Brown has tried to make an issue of the fact that Thompson receives a state pension and is also in the legislature.

But Thompson counters, “Brown has a unique understanding of what constitutes double dipping. I gave up a job making $90,000 a year and ran for the legislature. It’s like taking a second career.”

Among the measures he has sponsored in the legislature, Thompson was a prime sponsor of bills that set up NJ Kid Care and NJ Family Care to provide health insurance for low-income families and legislation to double the income eligibility limits for senior property tax freezes.

“The record I have established in the legislature is the reason people should vote for me,” Thompson said. “I want to continue to battle to bring jobs to New Jersey and to relieve the property taxes that have made New Jersey unaffordable.”

“Jobs, the economy and taxes with special emphasis on property taxes” are the most important issues in the race, he said. “We need to create reasonable incentives for businesses to locate in New Jersey and continue to eliminate unnecessary regulations and red tape.”

On the Assembly side, Thompson’s running mates are Assemblyman Ronald S. Dancer, who now represents the 30th District, and Robert D. Clifton, the Monmouth County Freeholder Director from Matawan.

They are facing Catherine Tinney Rome, a former Wall Street Investment firm manager, and William Spedding, a retired municipal public works director.

Horse racing has become an issue in the race because of its importance to the new district, but the candidates disagree on how to help the industry.

Dancer, son of the late standard bred racing driver Stanley Dancer, wants to allow slot machines at the race tracks. He challenges the governor’s desire to protect the casino industry by not allowing expansion of slots to other areas of the state. Most of the candidates agree, except Brown, who would confine slots to Atlantic City.

However, Rome notes that Christie’s stand shows his allegiance to big business.

“Christie is a big business governor,” she said. “He is not for the people. That is why he is propping up Atlantic City.”

A first-time candidate, Tinney said she wants to re-establish full homestead benefits for all homeowners and immediately ban dual office holding.

Spedding, her running mate, agrees with Rome on reducing the property tax burdens, and he advocates shifting more of the tax burden to the state and away from local governments. Without the Homestead Rebate, you are actually raising property taxes, he said.

“If you can raise local property taxes, it is dishonest to say you aren’t raising taxes,” he added.

“Christie increased property taxes by cutting state aid to municipalities and schools with the support of every Republican,” added Rome.

Both Democrats also support promoting consolidation of local services and initiating new job creation programs.

“Reducing taxes, reducing regulations and producing jobs are the major issues” in the campaign, said Dancer, who has been in the Assembly since 2002. “I have a proven track record in the state Assembly as a consistent voice and vote against new or increased taxes, having voted ‘no’ 115 times in an attempt to halt the job killing taxes during the Corzine and McGreevey administrations.

“We must end the practice of sending more than 50 percent of all state education aid to just 31 inner city schools, while the remaining 574 rural and suburban schools divide up what is left. School tax dollars are an estimated 65 percent of our highest in the nation property taxes,” continued Dancer, the mayor of Plumsted Township. He is a former horseman who works in the Ocean County Adjuster’s Office.

Clifton is serving his third three-year term as a freeholder in Monmouth and was the mayor of Matawan. He is employed by Comcast Cable Corp. as director of government and community affairs.

“I have a proven track record of reducing the size of government and government spending at both the municipal and county level,” said Clifton. “In the last seven years in Monmouth County we have reduced the work force by close to 600 positions without reducing critical services. We have led the way in shared services creating million of dollars in saving for both municipal and county taxpayers.

“As an assemblyman I am looking to continue to create opportunities to bring new jobs to New Jersey and reduce taxes.”

Karen DeMasters is a freelance writer living in Belmar who covered the Statehouse and New Jersey politics for more than a decade.

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