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Incumbents Face Spirited Foes in Contests for 7th District Legislative Seats

But Connie Danley said she would vote Democratic, despite her approval of Allen’s record, because she is a “die-hard Democrat.”

“I know she (Allen) does a good job, and I would probably vote for her if she was a Democrat,” said Danley, a medical secretary.

Anthony Ogozalek

Even if some towns have stabilized property taxes, the GOP’s Ogozalek said he believes the Democratic incumbents in the Assembly are vulnerable because of voters’ concerns over taxes and overregulation of business.

He said nonresidential real-estate developers should not have to pay a 2 percent fee to support affordable housing, and that businesses are often deterred from setting up in New Jersey because of regulations imposed by the state. He blamed heavy regulation for Ocean Spray’s recent decision to relocate from Bordentown to Pennsylvania.

Asked whether he expected to benefit from belonging to the same party as the popular governor, Ogozalek said he would campaign on his own merits but would welcome any support that he gets for sharing a party affiliation with the governor.

“People want Chris Christie to follow through on his reforms, and he needs a Republican Legislature,” said Ogozalek, a former investigator in the Burlington County Sheriff’s Department and a graduate of Rutgers School of Law in Camden.

Jeff Banasz

His running mate, Jeff Banasz, said the two Assembly seats are winnable by Republicans because, unlike in 2011, this is a gubernatorial election year, and both GOP candidates will benefit from Christie also being on the ballot.

The Republicans are also encouraged by the fact that Singleton beat his nearest Republican challenger by only 1,259 votes in 2011, suggesting that it won’t take much to turn the result around this time, Banasz said.

He said attracting job-creating businesses to New Jersey is his top priority, and that would help to solve other pressing problems, notably education funding.

“A lot of other things can be fixed if we have a favorable business climate,” said Banasz, who led a platoon of 58 Marines in Iraq in 2003.

By advocating tax incentives for New Jersey businesses, in line with Gov. Christie’s policies, Banasz said he and Ogozalek will be able to tap into popular discontent with the high taxes and red tape left over from the administration of Governor Jon Corzine and earlier Democratic administrations.

Banasz accused Conaway of representing the tax-and-spend regimes of the past, suggesting he can be beaten, despite his long incumbency. “He never met a tax he didn’t like,” Banasz said.

But Brigid Harrison, a professor of political science and law at Montclair State University, predicted the incumbents will be re-elected. She said Conaway is well-known and long-serving, and that Allen has personal popularity that transcends party loyalties.

Singleton’s survival is “a bit trickier,” Harrison said, but he, too, is likely to prevail simply because of his incumbency.

The odds of a Republican upset could be shortened if Christie ramps up his support for the local candidates but there’s no evidence so far of that happening, Harrison said.

Christie’s apparent reluctance to give stronger support to local Republicans may reflect his contentment with having a Democrat-controlled Legislature because it gives him a scapegoat when things don’t go his way, Harrison argued.

And showing that he can work with the dominant party in the state house would burnish the governor’s bipartisan credentials if he runs for president in 2016, she said.

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