Republicans have controlled the three districts making up much of Ocean and Burlington counties and beyond for many years, but an array of challengers are hoping to change that, pledging to turn the state’s economy around by reducing taxes and fighting for the middle class.
The 30th boasts five contenders vying for two spots in the General Assembly, including an independent running under the banner of Economic Growth who contends that “both parties have really failed New Jersey.”
District 30 encompasses 14 communities in Monmouth and Ocean counties: Avon-by-the-Sea, Belmar, Bradley Beach, Brielle, Farmingdale, Howell, Lake Como, Lakewood, Manasquan, Point Pleasant, Sea Girt, Spring Lake, Spring Lake Heights, and Wall. About 30 percent of registered voters are Republicans, 18 percent are Democrats, and most of the others are unaffiliated.
Both Republican incumbents seek re-election. Assemblymen Sean Kean, 52, an attorney from Wall, served in the Assembly from 2002 to 2007, then served one term in the Senate before redistricting moved him into the 30th and he ran for the Assembly seat. First elected in 2008, Assemblyman David P. Rible, 48, of Wall is former police officer and owner of a locksmith business.
The Democratic ticket includes 43-year-old Jim Keady of Spring Lake and Lorna Phillipson, 62, of Spring Lake Heights, who filled the vacancy created when Jimmy Esposito left the ticket to become the Democratic candidate for Ocean County freeholder last July. Phillipson has received the backing of Vin Gopal, Monmouth County Democratic chairman, and Wyatt Earp, Ocean County chairman. Keady has also been backed by Gopal and the Monmouth Democrats.
Kean said the state’s biggest issue is the economy. He wants to “get things rolling and keep competitive” with neighboring states. “We’ve seen a massive exodus of wealth to other states, and we don’t receive the resources we need,” Kean commented. “We need to control property taxes and expand the budget. The economy has been stagnant.” Kean said he will work to keep New Jersey viable and in a position that will allow the state to bounce back, and contends “unfit Democratic policies” have put the state at a disadvantage.
As the Assembly Republican conference leader, Rible guides the discussion on legislation in the GOP caucus and helps to implement the party’s agenda. Revitalizing the economy and reducing property taxes and the estate tax are his top concerns. “These taxes are a big burden on families in New Jersey,” he said. “It’s all about affordability, property taxes, and jobs.” He added that bringing more revenue into the state will allow families to remain in New Jersey.
Rible and Kean are cosponsoring A-4674/S-3057, the “Superstorm Sandy Homeowners Protection Act,” that Rible said “changes some of the rules” regarding Sandy recovery.
The legislation would improve the accountability and transparency of the dispersal of aid through the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation, and Mitigation and Low-to-Moderate Income Homeowners Rebuilding programs created in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy, according to Rible.
“Though it has been nearly three years since the Jersey Shore was devastated by superstorm Sandy, there is still much work to be done, families to get home, and lives to rebuild,” he said, adding that while the programs have helped, they are flawed.
Sandy is close to Keady’s heart, as well. He was the person who — when speaking about Hurricane Sandy victims — was told to “sit down and shut up” by Gov. Chris Christie a year ago. Keady vowed that his “commitment to NJ’s Sandy families goes well beyond” that moment.
“When in the State House, I will advocate for legislation, programming, and funding to get our Sandy families back home and to make sure that our state is best prepared for future storms,” he said.
Keady, a former councilman in Asbury Park, is also the founding director of Educating for Justice, a nonprofit that advocates for Nike’s factory workers in Indonesia. He wants to get the New Jersey economy back on track by “focusing on, investing in, and supporting Main Street businesses.” Keady also cites the environment and women’s rights as vital issues. He said that he is the only candidate in the 30th District who has been endorsed by the New Jersey Sierra Club, and pledged to “protect and promote” the beaches, rivers, bays, lakes, parks and open spaces in the district.
Phillipson is a business leadership and strategy consultant to technology startups and a former bank trading executive and adjunct professor in banking and finance at New York University. Issues Phillipson promises to work on include legislation to support economic growth, as well as “better job opportunities, better pay, improved infrastructure, and more accountability in government.” Throughout her career, she has also advocated for income equality, social justice, arts and education, animal and child welfare, reproductive rights, the environment, food safety, and town planning.
Although she doesn’t have any political experience yet, she maintains that her career has given her a strong knowledge and understanding of financial and economic policy.
A former Republican, Phillipson’s political views developed through her connections with U.N. diplomats from Canada and Denmark and business connections from many other countries. In 1997, while serving as a member of the Women’s National Republican Club international committee in New York City, she greeted Democratic U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson when he came to speak to the members.
“After his visit, I switched from Republican to Democrat, when I realized the GOP had moved too far from my views and values,” she stated, adding she went on to volunteer for Richardson’s unsuccessful 2008 presidential bid.
Economic Growth candidate Hank Schroeder, 57, rounds out the 30th District contenders. A resident of Sea Girt, Schroeder has spent 35 years in the hospitality business and also works at a local grocery store. He ran for governor in 2013 and for the U.S. Senate last year. He said that his job experience has allowed him to see “constant economic collapse” firsthand.
“I feel that someone needs to step outside the box and put a stop to all new spending,” he said. “For New Jersey to succeed, we need to eliminate state income taxes and reduce corporate taxes.”
Schroeder believes that the state has a “lost” generation of people between 25 and 55 years old who are downsizing businesses or losing their jobs, moving home, and becoming discouraged that they can’t make ends meet. He lays blame on both the Republicans and Democrats, asserting that by “taking away tomorrow’s pensions, they are taking away tomorrow’s economy.” He would like to see all parties unite to promote economic growth.
“Inclusion is a must, exclusion is unacceptable,” he commented.
Both Schroeder and Kean point out that voter turnout in odd-year elections is typically low. “Only the very interested will come out,” Kean said, “which fortunately makes it an educated electorate that votes.” Schroeder said that voter turnout this past June was the lowest in a New Jersey primary election in 90 years. He sees this as a sign that the district needs a representative who can be a voice of the district’s working class.
District 12 includes 14 communities in Burlington, Middlesex, Monmouth, and Ocean counties: Allentown, Chesterfield, Englishtown, Jackson, Manalapan, Matawan, Millstone, New Hanover, North Hanover, Old Bridge, Plumsted, Roosevelt, Upper Freehold, and Wrightstown.
Running for reelection are GOP Assemblymen Ronald Dancer, 66, and 46-year-old Robert Clifton. Dancer, of New Egypt, is an interviewer in the Ocean County Adjuster’s Office who has been in the Assembly for 14 years. Clifton, of Matawan, is director of local government affairs for Comcast Cable who is finishing his second term in the lower house.
The Democrats are David W. Merwin, 60, of Laurence Harbor and Robert Kurzydlowski, 44, of Keyport. Merwin works as a code enforcement and housing officer for Old Bridge and Kurzydlowski is a police detective with the Old Bridge Police Department who serves as school resource officer for the school district. Green Party candidate, 51-year-old Stephen Zielinski Sr. of Freehold rounds out the ballot. Zielinski is a small business owner of a company that manufactures food products.
District 10 encompasses 10 Jersey Shore communities in Ocean County: Bay Head, Brick, Island Heights, Lakehurst, Lavallette, Manchester, Mantoloking, Point Pleasant Beach, Seaside Heights, and Toms River.
The district is represented in the Assembly by a pair of Republicans who are seeking reelection. They are Assemblymen Dave Wolfe, 73, of Brick, a professor at Ocean County College who has served in the lower house since 1992, and 54-year-old Gregory McGuckin, an attorney who lives in Toms River.