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Assembly Race: District 33

Transportation, schools top issues for Dems with edge in Hudson County.

Due to redistricting, there is only one incumbent, Assemblyman Ruben J. Ramos Jr., for the two Assembly seats in the 33rd District, which is strongly Democratic.

Ramos, a Democrat, has served since 2008. A lifelong resident of Hoboken, he spent a decade on the city council. He is a middle school social studies teacher in Paterson and believes education is a major topic in the district and state.

“I would like to make sure the education dollars are going toward students’ needs,” he said. Due to budget cuts three years ago, Ramos said, the students in his school “had no music or art teacher whatsoever.” He has been working to bring back those programs to the schools in his district.

Ramos is also focused on transportation issues. More people commute by public transportation from the 33rd than from anyplace else in the country, according to Ramos. He is working to pass a bill to provide tax credits to those who use public transportation.

“People can look at my record and see that I definitely listen to people and to both sides of the issue,” he said.

Democratic candidate Sean Connors, who has been a Jersey City police detective since 1994, first ran for public office in 2007, when he unsuccessfully sought a ballot position for the Senate seat. In 2008, he ran and lost by a slim margin for a freeholder seat as an independent. His third try was the charm -- two years ago he won a seat on the Jersey City Board of Education.

Like Ramos, Connor places a high priority on transportation issues. “The road system in Hudson County has taken a beating over the last several years,” he said.

Connor would also like to see increased funding for education and said social benefits such as welfare and food stamps need to be reallocated. “Our resources are diminishing and we want to make sure all our benefits go into the hands of the people that deserve it,” he said.

Opposing Connors and Ramos are Republicans Christopher Garcia and Fernando Uribe.

Uribe is a faculty member at Berkeley College who also teaches part-time at Montclair State University. He is a political science professor who has worked for more than a decade in government agencies in New Jersey, including in the office of the public defender. “I’m not a career politician,” Uribe said. “I pride myself on being an academic.”

Uribe, who said he shares many of the governor’s views, would like to deal with spending issues in Trenton.

“The 33rd is hungry for new voices and new faces,” said Uribe, who has managed his campaign primarily from the grassroots level, taking advantage of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to convey his message.

“If I can get one of these seats,” Uribe said, “then clearly I’m putting myself in a position to work in a bipartisan manner.”

Garcia, his running mate, was not available to comment. Russell Maffei, executive director of the Hudson County Republican Party and chair of the Jersey City Republican Party, said that Garcia would “pursue responsible spending.”

A Union City resident, Garcia works in a hospital as a medical professional.

“He’d be in tune with cutting red tape, lowering taxes. He’s in agreement with the governor on charter schools,” said Maffei. “I think having another medical pro — and someone who is not a doctor — would bring a unique perspective, because health care is a current issue.”

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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