The 15th District is made up of 10 communities in Hunterdon and Mercer counties: East Amwell, Ewing, Hopewell Borough, Hopewell Township, Lambertville, Lawrence, Pennington, Trenton, West Amwell, and West Windsor.
This is a blue district, as voter registration is 47 percent Democratic and 13 percent Republican; most other district voters are unaffiliated.
Three Democrats are vying for two Assembly slots on the November ballot. Incumbents Verlina Reynolds-Jackson of Trenton and Anthony S. Verrelli of Pennington are in their first terms. Alex Bethea of Trenton, who made an unsuccessful third-party bid for the Assembly in 2017, is also on the ballot.
Only one Republican filed: Jennifer Williams, who lists a Trenton post office box as her address.
CANDIDATES IN CONTESTED PRIMARY
NJ Spotlight asked all candidates in contested races to fill out a brief survey about themselves and why they are running. These are the responses we received from 15th District candidates.
VERLINA REYNOLDS-JACKSON: DEMOCRAT
Occupation: Grants administrator for County of Mercer
Education: Bachelor of Arts, The College of New Jersey; Master of Science, Central Michigan University
Why are you running for the Assembly? As an incumbent in Legislative District 15, I have been a prime sponsor on over 100 pieces of legislation and co-sponsored over 225 pieces of legislation. I have advanced numerous bills through committee focusing on a wide range of issues that are affecting the 15th District and the state: issues such as preserving the environment, access to affordable healthcare, enhancing voter protections and strengthening economic justice. My 2019 campaign plan will be to continue the excellent progress made in these areas in addition to providing better services for our seniors and military veterans.
What are your three top priorities if elected?
Providing better services for our seniors and military veterans;
Preserving the environment which includes improving our water systems and banning fracking;
Making sure healthcare is affordable and available to everyone who needs it.
What makes you the best candidate? I am the most qualified individual to serve the state of New Jersey and specifically the 15th District. My background and experience as a former City of Trenton Councilwoman has provided me with the requisite tools and knowledge to help improve the quality-of-life challenges that my constituents face in the 15th District and within the state. I will continue to vigorously advocate on behalf of the people that I proudly serve.
Hometown: Hopewell Township
Occupation: Senior representative, Keystone Mountain Lakes Regional Council of Carpenters
Family: Married to Donna, father to Alyssa
Education: Notre Dame High School, Sam F. Secretario Carpenters Training Center
Why are you running for the Assembly? I am running for re-election … because the hardworking people of the 15th District deserve to have a strong voice in their state government. I understand the toughest issues working families face in New Jersey, and I know what it takes to fight for working people. I believe in creating real opportunity so that everyone in our state can live well and retire with dignity. I bring a working-class perspective that guides my work at the New Jersey General Assembly.
What are your three top priorities if elected?
Enhancing mental health/addiction services — New Jersey needs to improve access to mental healthcare and addiction services because these programs save lives. I co-sponsored a law that strengthens mental health condition and substance use disorder parity laws in New Jersey by requiring health insurers to provide an equal level of coverage for mental health and substance abuse services. Mental health is just as important as physical health, and we must eliminate the stigma surrounding mental illness and addiction. I will continue working on legislation to make these life-saving services more accessible for all who need them.
Expanding economic justice — Economic opportunity should be within reach for everyone, not just the people at the top. I strongly supported the $15-minimum wage increase passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor this year. This landmark legislation will increase the weekly incomes of over 1 million New Jersey residents, allowing hardworking people to provide for their families and gain a foothold in the middle class. I co-sponsored a new law that will allow more workers to participate in the Paid Family Leave Program when they need to take time from work to care for a loved one. As a long-time union leader, I know the value of prioritizing people over corporate profits. I will continue to be a fierce advocate for progressive legislation that holds corporations accountable to protect workers, consumers, and our environment.
Restoring aging infrastructure — It is well past time that New Jersey invest in long-needed upgrades to our aging infrastructure. Crumbling infrastructure is unacceptable especially when it provides shaky foundations for the local roads, public transportation, highways, and drinking water that we all rely on. It is excellent news that the 15th District secured over $5.1 million in transportation funding from the state in 2019. With this funding, our municipalities can get to work on critical road improvement projects in Hunterdon and Mercer counties. These projects will create new jobs and put local people to work. I will continue to support legislation to improve New Jersey Transit, prevent hazardous materials in our drinking water, and encourage the use of green infrastructure to preserve our environment.
What makes you the best candidate? I know the 15th Legislative District extremely well because I have lived here my whole life. I’ve lived in Trenton City, Ewing Township, and Lawrenceville Township. Currently, I reside in Hopewell Township with my beautiful family. I know firsthand there is no place better to raise a family than right here in the 15th District. Our diversity makes this community such a vibrant place to live from Trenton City and West Windsor in Mercer County across the board to East Amwell, West Amwell and Lambertville in Hunterdon County.
I am dedicated to serving my community, and I have been an active member in Mercer County politics for many years. My life-long work in public service has taught me how to bring people together to get things done that will improve the lives of everyone I represent.
ALEX BETHEA did not respond to the survey request.