For most voters in the 6th Congressional District, 2012 looks a lot like 2010, even though redistricting has altered the shape of the district.
Incumbent Frank Pallone, a Democrat, is once again being challenged by Republican Anna Little. Libertarian Len Flynn, Herbert L. Tarbous of the Reform Party and independents Mac Dara Lyden and Karen Zaletel join them on the ballot. All are at least occasional candidates, having run for state or federal office, or both, in the past.
Both major party candidates say the November election is important for the nation’s future. Little, a Middletown native who lives in Highlands, says she is running because the “nation is in crisis.”
In a written response to a questionnaire, Little said, “Our economy is on the brink of destruction" and “elected officials have lost touch with the people.”
Pallone disagrees. He says his 24 years in Congress and a focus on environmental, health and economic concerns make him an asset.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us to rebuild our economy and protect the health and safety of all Americans, which is why New Jersey needs prepared leaders in Congress who have the experience, insight and passion to make our state and nation better places to live and raise a family,” he said.
The new congressional map may have shifted the 6th District eastward, but it did not alter its partisan make-up. As of May there were nearly three times as many registered Democrats in the district than Republicans, according to data from the New Jersey Division of Elections. Of 408,028 registered voters in the district, 143,714 are Democrats, 54,326 are Republicans and almost all of the rest are unaffiliated.
While many had predicted the Pallone-Little matchup two years ago would be close because the challenger had Tea Party backing, it was not. Pallone won with about 54 percent of the total, 11 percentage points higher than Little. Turnout in 2010 was 40 percent, but that is expected to be higher this year because of the presidential race. During 2008, the last presidential election year, 71 percent of those registered cast ballots and Pallone took 59 percent of the vote against Republican Robert E. McLeod.
Pallone, who is married with three children, has served in Congress since 1988, including five years representing the 3rd District. After redistricting in 1991, he ran for the 6th District seat and won and has represented it ever since. Before serving in Congress, Pallone served in the state Senate and was a councilman in Long Branch, where he lives.
If re-elected, Pallone said he wants to continue his focus on environmental issues, while creating jobs. “Economic growth can best be achieved through the Democrats’ Make It in America agenda,” he said. “Part of this agenda is to support domestic manufacturing of renewable energy infrastructure such as windmills and solar panels.”
He wants to place limits on offshore drilling, “including a prohibition in the Atlantic,” expand funding for the federal Environmental Protection Agency's Brownfields program and "work to pass my Superfund Polluter Pays Act, which ensures polluters, not taxpayers, pay for cleanup at toxic sites.”
According to Project Vote Smart, a nonpartisan research organization that tracks congressional votes, Pallone has a 100 percent rating from groups that support abortion rights and most labor union groups. He also has a near-perfect voting record on environmental issues, according to national environmental groups.
The National Journal rates him as mostly liberal on economic and budget issues, while taxpayer groups like the National Taxpayers Union and Citizens Against Government Waste have given him ratings of between 0 and 16 percent over the last five years.
Little, a former Monmouth County freeholder and mayor and councilwoman in Highlands, has been endorsed by the Conservative Party of New Jersey, NJ Right to Life PAC and a number of Tea Party groups, according to her Website.
An immigration attorney with a law degree from Seton Hall University, she said she supports “secure U.S. borders (and) establishing reasonable immigration processing times for legal entry" to the country. She said she wants to cut government spending and reform the tax code, which she said will create jobs. Little supports repealing the Affordable Care Act – which she calls “socialized medicine” – and instead calls for “free-market access to health insurance by individuals” and tort reform, which she contends would reduce health-care costs.
“Most Americans are either out of work, working two or more jobs to make ends meet, or in fear of losing their jobs,” she said. “Our children entering college do not believe there will be a job for them when they graduate. Socialized medicine has been forced upon us and our religious liberty taken from us.”
Flynn, Tarbous, Lyden and Zaletel could not be reached and did not respond to written requests for information. According to vote-nj.org, an online voter guide, Flynn is 60, with a Ph.D. in organic chemistry, and works as a regulatory and scientific consultant.
Tarbous, 54, of Piscataway, works in the telecommunications industry, according to his biography posted on the New Jersey Reform Party website. On that site, Tarbous is quoted as saying: "I believe the two-party political machine created by the Democrats/Republicans endangers our safety. The two-party machine is driven by money, lies, and corruption. We need to overhaul this system to preserve our security, our prosperity, and our freedoms in the complex world of the future.”
Lyden listed a New Monmouth mailing address in his filing with the New Jersey Secretary of State's office. Last year, Lyden ran unsuccessfully for a state Senate seat in the 13th Legislative District.
Zaletel, of Keansburg, was also on the ballot for the 13th District state Senate seat and lost.