Gustafson spent $10,000 for the cable TV buy, raising more than half of the money after the first quarterly finance reporting deadline in mid-April. At that time, she hadn’t raised the $5,000 minimum to meet the threshold for required filing and neither had any of her opponents.
But Gustafson claims to have far more political and campaign experience than her challengers, none of whom have any, save for Lee Lucas, who won the primary in a 2009 General Assembly race but lost in the general election then lost the primary the following year when he ran for Andrews’ seat in Congress.
“You just can’t jump into congressional politics. You have to be prepared,” said the 62-year-old Gustafson, whose own political history begins and ends at an unsuccessful run for Collingswood borough council and two runs for school board -- once successful, one not. After winning on her second try, she served on Collingswood’s school board for three years.
Gustafson grew up in Washington D.C. to a military father who worked at the Pentagon, and she hails from a family that traces its New Jersey roots to before the Revolutionary War. She received an associate’s degree in retail merchandising at Marjorie Webster Junior College in Washington. She’s pursued a career as a retail buyer, executive, and owner and now works as president of a children’s clothing distribution company with her husband, with whom she has five children.
Gerald McManus, 47, has lived his entire life in South Jersey. From his birth in Camden to a childhood in Stratford and Lindenwold (where his father was a councilman) and a current residence in Winslow Township, he also stayed in-state to earn a bachelor’s degree in Economics from Rowan University. Because his father passed away when he was 10, McManus worked as a janitor throughout high school to help his mother support the family.
After graduating from college, he entered the vending business, as his parents had before him, and five years later founded his own vending company. He sold it in 2002 and later became a residential real estate professional. He follows current events closely, as evidenced by his frequent -- and specific -- references to international politics, economic statistics, and quotes from the Wall Street Journal.
“If anybody is going to win it’s because they know the issues,” he said. “’Gee, Claire, you played field hockey; Gee, Garry, you played football.’ If Garry has better ideas and beats me because of it, God bless him. But I know the issues better than they do and I think my (agenda) is the clearest there is.”
But in an interview this week with NJ Spotlight, he tempered his rhetoric. He professed that he didn’t use the “n-word” in a fight against his white neighbors as alleged in 2006 and he doesn’t find it an acceptable term for white people to use against African-Americans. He doesn’t condemn poor people, as the media has reported. Instead, he feels that, “If you’re an unwed mother on government assistance and you choose to continue to have more kids, I consider that lifestyle inferior.” And while the Associated Press quoted him saying that he skipped the debate because, “They're not going to vote for a fiscal conservative like me. They want to know what all the free handouts are going to be," he told NJ Spotlight that he forgot about the debate but regardless feels he’d be wasting his time giving speeches to people who wouldn’t likely vote for him.
It is true, as reported, that the married high-school graduate who grew up in Woodbury Heights is choosing not to raise money or set up any Internet or social media presence because he believes a primary isn’t worth the effort.
Lucas, does, however, believe it’s worth talking about the two issues that matter most to him: the economy and immigration. Tying the two together, he opposes fair-trade agreements and supports imposing tariffs on China to keep companies from outsourcing, and he’s miffed that the American government didn’t close its borders to legal immigrants when unemployment rates started rising in 2008. As for undocumented immigrants, he says, “Don’t fine companies that employ them; put the executives in jail. Even if it’s just 30 days in the county system, you’d have 10 million people walking back to Mexico within a month.”
Gustafson feels the federal government should bring jobs back to cities like Camden and its surrounding small towns like by encouraging young entrepreneurs to open mom-and-pop microbusinesses downtown with the help of tax credits and programs to promote these opportunities.
“We have an amazing city that is the welcome mat into New Jersey from Philadelphia,” she said of Camden. “We should have retail and jobs on the waterfront to make it the jewel that it is. And in South Jersey’s towns like Collingswood, the restaurants are doing well. So if we could bring back just five retail locations per town.”
Gustafson tires of overspending by the federal government and hopes to be able to force Congress to reduce the debt. She also wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act and favors strong Constitutional rights, such as the Second Amendment.
McManus says to create jobs, he’d like to steer the country toward energy independence and a fair tax, which would eliminate the business and income tax while boosting lower-income citizens by providing them with a “prebate” that would reimburse them ahead of time for sales taxes so they’d have more money to spend.
“We’d allow businesses to do more and encourage them to expand here in the U.S. It’s going to help cut social spending, as the social safety net is strained, to say the very least,” he said before adding that a fair tax would, in his opinion, increase competition in the workforce, which would lead to higher wages.
Cobb wants to assist workers and small businesses by lowering taxes and decreasing regulation. In cities like Camden, he would encourage unemployed mothers to build resumes and identify career strengths by performing volunteer work in the community, and he suggests that citizens shift spending in Washington to the local level.
He also seeks to pass reforms that would stop the bi-state Delaware River Port Authority from spending toll funds on economic development projects in the Philadelphia and South Jersey region -- a controversial practice that the scandal-ridden agency stopped several years ago. However, this month, state lawmakers from New Jersey and Pennsylvania simultaneously introduced legislation to officially prevent this sort of spending, which Cobb says benefits powerful Democratic party politicians and their cronies. If passed, the bills would need approval from both governors, Congress and the president.