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Assembly Race: Legislative District 19

Newcomers share vision of governor in bid to unseat Democratic incumbents.

Republican rookies Shane Robinson and Angel J. Leon ran unopposed in the 19th District Republican primary, but they will have a lot more trouble on Tuesday.

The GOP candidates are opposing Democrats Craig J. Coughlin and John S. Wisniewski, both incumbents in the Assembly in this staunchly Democratic district.

Leon is unbowed and on the attack.

“The Democrats haven’t met a tax they don’t like,” he said.

Born and raised in Perth Amboy, Leon works as an assistant director at a funeral home. He is an active member of the Knights of Columbus and of his parish.

The issues important to him are job creation, lower taxes, and school choice. He is seeking to make the district more “business friendly” and to create “more opportunities for families to choose schools for their kids.”

Hi running mate, Shane Robinson, serves on the Sayreville Board of Health. Robinson said he decided to run because he strongly agrees with Gov. Chris Christie’s policies.

“I share a common vision with the governor and would like to see more of his programs get passed,” Robinson said.

He plans to fight for lower taxes to attract businesses back into the state. The Bayshore Tea Party, a group that he sympathizes, endorsed him.

“I’m in line with any group of people who wish to see New Jersey’s governor rein in spending and lower taxes,” Robinson said. “I think that is a wide swath of New Jersey’s population.”

Coughlin, a lawyer, is finishing up his first term in the Assembly. Before taking a seat in the lower house, he served as a municipal court judge in Edison from 2005 to 2009. He was a councilman in South Amboy from 1987 to 1993 and, prior to that, was a member of the city’s board of education.

Coughlin, a Woodbridge resident who has lived in the 19th his whole life, said he understands the needs in the district. To him, the two most critical issues are jobs and property taxes.

“We need to find a way to reinvigorate the job market,” he said.

Coughlin has been trying to pass a bipartisan bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Joseph Kyrillos that would give tax credits to manufacturers moving into New Jersey to do business.

He stressed the importance of a strong middle class. “We need to make sure that we continue to do the things that strengthen the middle class,” he said. “The middle class is the backbone of the state and the nation.”

Coughlin’s running mate, John S. Wisniewski, is Deputy Speaker in the Assembly, where he has served since 1996. He runs his own law firm in Sayreville, where he has lived his entire life and has been practicing for 24 years.

Wisniewski acknowledges the hot button issues like property tax and education, but said resolving “the tone of government” is most important to him.

“We have a lot of thorny issues to address. You’ve got to talk to people who disagree with you and work to fashion a compromise,” he said.

“The current administration uses the word compromise as a dirty word,” added Wisniewski.

As chair of the Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee, Wisniewski fought successfully to stop the privatization of the New Jersey Turnpike.

The incumbent Democrat believes his opponents, if elected “will be a part of the Christie lockstep voting block.”

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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