Seventh District Democratic Incumbents Focus on Jobs, Healthcare, Property Taxes

While Dems look rock solid in 7th, they can’t field a slate to take on GOP in nearby 8th District

Credit: Amanda Brown
State Sen. Troy Singleton (D-Burlington)
In South Jersey’s 7th Legislative District, Democratic incumbent Assemblymen Herb Conaway and Troy Singleton are seeking reelection against a challenge by Republicans Bill Conley and Rob Prisco.

Next door, in the 8th, the Democrats were unable to field a slate to challenge the Republicans, incumbent Maria Rodriguez-Gregg and Joe Howarth, running for the seat being vacated by Christopher Brown. The 8th, covers parts of Atlantic, Burlington and Camden counties.

By contrast, the 7th District, bordered by the Delaware River in the west, and stretching from Bordentown in the north to Moorestown and Cinnaminson in the south has been something of a battleground for years. It is one of a handful of districts with split representation — Democratic Assemblymen and Republican Sen. Diane Allen.

Assemblyman Herb Conaway Jr., Democratic incumbent for District 7
Despite some close races, Conaway has represented the district since 1997 and he was joined by Singleton in 2011. Two years ago, the duo won handily even though Gov. Chris Christie, still riding a wave of post-superstorm Sandy popularity, topped the ticket. They took 56 percent of the vote, against a combined 43 percent for GOP challengers Anthony Ogozalek and Jeff Banasz.

In this year’s race, Republican Party campaign officials did not respond to several requests for interviews with Conley, of Cinnaminson, and Prisco, a Riverside councilman.

According to news reports, Conley is the first battalion chief with the Palmyra fire department whose candidacy has created a stir due to an October 2013 Twitter post following the election of Cory Booker to the U.S. Senate. Politico New Jersey reported that Conley tweeted, “Booker your (sic) a lying decietful (sic) piece of filth you’ll fit in just fine with that socialist pond sucking scumbag Obama and his mama Pelosi and uncle Harry Reid you lying two face cockroach.”

If re-elected, Conaway and Singleton promise further efforts on job creation.

Singleton said he and Conaway have boosted local employment by using the Economic Opportunity Act, which provides tax breaks to companies that move into or remain in a town, in return for promises of job creation and capital investment. They worked to attract and retain jobs at major local employers including Burlington Coat Factory, Express Scripts, and Destination Maternity.

“The biggest tool that we used was the Economic Opportunity Act, which made New Jersey and our area more attractive,” said Singleton, who was a cosponsor of the 2013 law.

Singleton, 42, also promised to work to control healthcare costs without diminishing services. An executive in the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters, Singleton proposes increasing transparency in healthcare pricing by creating an independent third-party arbiter who would assess disputed out-of-network charges and determine a fair charge based on what a service is worth and what an insurer is willing to pay. The arbiter’s fees would be built into the costs of the “losing side,” Singleton said.

“Health care premiums are going up, and we need to do something to make sure that we can be innovative to look at this measure, and really find ways to control costs,” he said.
“Let the two sides sort it out and take the consumer out of the mix. We feel pretty strongly that this will be not only good for the healthcare system but will be a way to control costs.”

The assemblyman said he will continue to work for lower property taxes by ensuring that some of the proceeds from the state’s energy tax on utilities go directly to municipalities where the utility operates, rather than initially to the state, which then disburses them under the present arrangement.

“That money should go to the municipality without going through this spigot where it can be turned off,” he said.

Conaway, 52, a physician at St. Francis Hospital, Trenton, said that health insurance will also be among his top priorities if he is reelected. He said he will be pressing for an investigation into a plan by Horizon Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the state’s largest health insurer, to cut premiums discounts to customers who use the new OMNIA Health Alliance of 36 hospitals and 24,000 doctors, a plan that is being reviewed by the state Attorney General’s office for possible antitrust violations.

The plan, which would exclude 36 other hospitals that serve many Medicare, Medicaid and uninsured patients, threatens to reduce the quality and quantity of health care for many New Jerseyans, Conaway said.

“Will this private action result in a dramatic reduction in the number of hospitals that serve the people?” Conaway asked. “This kind of market action needs close scrutiny by the government.”

In other areas, Conaway said he would seek to replenish the Transportation Trust Fund because of the importance of good public infrastructure to public safety and the state’s economy. And he said he would pursue environmental initiatives “because we want to leave the environment in the same state that we found it.”

In a joint financial statement filed with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission on October 3, the two Democrats listed total receipts of $122,532, of which $79,694 was in cash. Campaign expenditure to that date totaled $119,918, of which some $77,000 was in cash.

Cash contributions include $5,000 from the New Jersey Society of Plastic Surgeons PAC on September 5. The ELEC filing also lists in-kind contributions totaling $19,582 from the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee between July and September.