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Candidates: U.S. Congress District 7

With incumbent believed unbeatable by all but opponent, campaigns by two conservatives touch on keystone issues like healthcare reform.

In 2008, the Cook Political Report ranked the 7th Congressional District among the nation’s most competitive House races.

But that was a year when the seat was open -- Michael Ferguson, who had won re-election in 2006 by less than 3,000 votes, chose not to seek re-election.

This year, the race isn’t even on the national radar, with incumbent U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance considered virtually unbeatable by all but his opponent, David Larsen of Tewksbury.

Lance, who lives in Clinton, took 56 percent of the votes two years ago, beating Larsen and two other Republicans. The 7th has been revamped a bit but Lance is still considered the front-runner and has done three mailings to try to ensure his supporters go to the polls June 5.

A state senator for the 23rd Legislative District, Lance joined the upper house in 2002 and served as minority leader between 2004 and 2008. He was first elected to state office in 1991 as an assemblyman and he served for a time as chairman of the Assembly’s budget committee. He is also a lawyer.

Seeking his third term, Lance served from 2009 through 2011 on the House Financial Services Committee. He currently sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Lance’s Chief of Staff Todd Mitchell stated that Lance will “carry to Washington” Gov. Chris Christie’s “job of bringing down property taxes, setting budget caps, and lowering the spending levels of debts.”

Several of Lance’s mailers to date have pointed to the congressman’s votes against the national healthcare program currently before the U.S. Supreme Court and his support of repealing the law.

Rep. Leonard Lance

Economic issues are also key priorities for Lance and his constituents.

“People are concerned about the high cost of gas, oil, and electricity and feel that Obama’s part of the problem,” Mitchell said. “People are wondering, Will businesses be in jeopardy? ... Lance is trying to bring back certainty by renewing Bush tax cuts, and opposing raising taxes to businesses and individuals.”

Lance is also in favor of “stopping frivolous lawsuits to reduce the cost of doing business, such as reducing malpractice insurance.”

In April, he voted against raising student loans.

Jerry Cantrell, president of New Jersey Taxpayers Alliance, lauded the incumbent for his votes on fiscal issues. “While not positioned at the extreme, Lance serves his constituency well by providing the voice of reason and just good old, common sense, when it comes to the peoples’ moneys,” he said.

Environmentalists, though, are unhappy with Lance’s votes, such as his support of a bill to bar the federal Environmental Protection Agency from regulating green house gases.

“When Leonard was in the state assembly and a state senator, he was a friend of the environment and had a good record with open space, the environment and water quality,” said Bill Kibbler of the Raritan Headwaters Association. “He was part of a group of Republicans who considered the environment to be important. However, Lance is now a victim of the National Republication party who don’t see that environmental issues are important.”

Larsen boasts of being a conservative Republican, receiving endorsements of two large Tea Party organizations and New Jersey Right-to-Life. He has never held political office.

He is chairman of the conservative advocacy organization RightDirection.com and has held leadership positions within Americans for Prosperity. He has also been involved with the Heritage Foundation and the Conservative Leadership Caucus.

David Larsen

An alumnus of the College of Staten Island, Larsen is the owner of Larsen Windows and Doors, which he took over from his father. He also founded a construction and home improvement company.

Larsen is staunchly pro-life and supports liberal gun ownership laws. He said he is seeking to limit the powers of government to those written in the Constitution and backs deep budget cuts.

He is not in favor of same sex marriages. In 2007, while in the state Legislature, Lance was quoted as being opposed to same sex marriage.

Larsen also opposes the national healthcare reform. He said it “takes away a person’s right to make his or her own decisions.” If elected, Larsen said his first priority in office would be to make healthcare reform friendlier toward businesses because “Obamacare has shut down businesses with taxes.”

One of this candidate’s favorite quotes is, “A nation of sheep breeds a government of wolves … don’t be sheepful.” To him, it means, “Do not vote to send the same people to Washington, because that prevents changes from being made.”

At a recent fundraiser, Larsen declared, “The clubhouse politics in Washington have dug us into a hole … Political establishment is the problem in this country. As national debt crept up, freedom got swept away.”

Larsen said his parents were among those who left their native Norway during World War II to flee from a government with too much power. They came to the U.S., where power was derived from individuals. But Larsen fears that is changing. “Citizens’ rights were taken away and businesses were told what to produce,” he said. “There’s a bitter price paid when people lose freedom.”

Commenting on his three-and-a-half decades of running successful businesses, Larsen said, “The joy of labor is very real to me. It seems these days that people have an entitlement attitude. They don’t want to work hard ... Today in Congress, we either borrow from China or rob from you to pursue promises insiders in Washington make.” If elected, Larsen promised to support a balanced budget in the same way as he has successfully handled his own businesses’ finances.

He said he would also work to “eliminate agencies that gobble up money and constrain innovation and business.” These agencies include the departments of education and energy.

Both candidates have similar stands on how to handle illegal immigration. Lance is opposed to amnesty for illegal immigrants and stresses border security. Larsen said that “America must be willing to do whatever it takes to secure our borders,” including … manning borders with troops if necessary.

The candidates have somewhat different views on abortion, however.

Lance supports a woman’s right to have an abortion only in limited circumstances. Larsen, on the other hand, supports overturning the Roe v. Wade decision with no exceptions.

During his fundraiser, Larsen criticized Lance for cutting deals and not speaking up enough for conservative values, choosing instead to become a “Washington insider.” Mitchell responded that “Lance has only been in DC since 2008. Four short years in office doesn’t make anyone an insider.”

Mitchell said numerous Republicans, including Christie, have endorsed Lance “in order to send a consistent conservative back to Washington.”

Lisa Zambito is a freelance writer based in Hunterdon County.

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