District 12 draws towns from four counties, stretching from Old Bridge in Middlesex, through portions of Monmouth and Burlington, and down into Jackson and Plumsted in Ocean.
In a sort of mini Domino Effect, the reconfigured 12th is partially a result of the redesign of the neighboring 11th District, which created a drastic redrawing of boundary lines and shuffling of candidates in the 12th and 30th Districts.
Last spring’s redistricting to account for population changes charted by the 2010 census left the 12th District without an incumbent senator and moved two assemblymen from other districts into the 12th to vie for re-election. One of those is Assemblyman Samuel D. Thompson, currently in the 13th, who has taken the opportunity to try to move up into the Senate.
Although he has served in the Assembly only since 1998, Thompson has been involved in politics for years and currently chairs the Middlesex County GOP. He is facing Robert Brown, a lawyer from Old Bridge, who ran unsuccessfully twice for the Assembly in the old 13th District.
Thompson’s running mates are Assemblyman Ronald S. Dancer, who currently represents the 30th, and Robert D. Clifton, who is the Monmouth County Freeholder director. Dancer is finishing a decade in the Assembly and also serves as the mayor of Plumsted. Clifton, of Matawan, is the director of government and community affairs for Comcast Cable Corp.
Brown is running with William Spedding, of Jackson, and Catherine Tinney Rome, of Old Bridge. Spedding, who is retired from a job with NJ Transit, is directing much of his campaign against Gov. Chris Christie. Rome, who is making her maiden run at elected office, headed up an investment firm for 22 years.
Some of the issues the candidates are talking about are how to help the horse racing industry, which is important to this district, property taxes, and school funding.
Presently, the 12th is represented by Republicans, whose hometowns were moved into the 11th or 13th Districts. The GOP dominance is somewhat unusual, given that Democrats have outnumbered Republicans.
In its new configuration, Democrats still outnumber the Republicans, 31,377 to 28,830, but that represents a smaller difference between the parties than in 2009, the last time a legislative race was on the ballot. And there are more than 70,000 voters in the district who are unaffiliated.
This could set up the parties for a hotly contested battle, since none of the candidates are well-known throughout the district.
Nevertheless, incumbents, even in new seats, still have the advantage in an off-year election predicted to draw little attention. Little more than half of the voters contacted for a recent Monmouth University-NJ Press Media Poll said they knew a legislative election was coming up, and only 3 of 10 said they have a lot of interest in the races.
The vast majority of voters in both parties said they will vote for their party’s standard bearers. This is at the same time that 52 percent of Democrats are unhappy with the job the legislature is doing, while only 33 percent of Republicans disapprove of what’s happening in Trenton. In districts where candidates are better known, the conventional wisdom is that everyone hates the legislature in general, but likes his local legislator.