On June 3, registered voters across New Jersey nominate candidates for both chambers of the N.J. state legislature. One race in Morris County is especially worth noting. Jay Webber, a Chatham attorney, is challenging Republican State Sen. Robert Martin in the twenty-sixth legislative district. Largely white-collar and affluent, Martin’s district is the home of many large corporations and wealthy executives.
Unlike other primaries across the state which involve organizational lines, influence from Democrat party bosses, and special election bitterness, Morris County has turned into the state’s most perceptible ideological battleground.
In the heart of the most Republican county in New Jersey, this district primary involves both the question of issue positions as well as the question of leadership – the need for a firm and unified opposition voice against the governing party in Trenton.
Martin’s record leaves a lot to be desired. His election year pageantry is unconvincing considering all the credibility gaps and contradictory statements in his press releases. He claims to be a fiscal conservative while his voting record indicates his support for nearly every bill that comes with a price tag.
He was one of two Senate Republicans to oppose NJSAVER, a tax relief program, and one of the few protections property taxpayers have against higher taxes, yet he claims to support it now that the Governor is reducing the size of property tax relief programs.
In the past, Martin mentioned that endorsements are largely insignificant, yet one of the first actions the Martin campaign took after Webber declared his candidacy was to release a list of county and local officials who endorsed his campaign.
On the issues, Webber is considerably more compatible with GOP voters. He opposes sending a highly disproportionate share of state tax dollars to failing urban governments and schools. He will employ a much more frugal approach and represent Morris County values on economic and budget issues.
A strict constructionist, Webber will support N.J. Supreme Court nominees on the Republican side who can accurately interpret our state constitution.
The current Court has harmed our state’s image across the country, yet Martin actually spoke in praise of its activist tendencies on everything from education spending in urban areas to suburban sprawl.
One of Martin’s claims is that he has made an impact on the issues expressly because of his elective experience – he joined the Morris Plains Council in 1983 and departed to the General Assembly for eight years, after which he was elected to the State Senate
Be that as it may, Webber has strong qualifications outside elected office with a Harvard law degree and experience as a budget staff member for former Congressman William Martini, elected in the Republican Revolution of 1994.
Webber ran Martini’s 1996 reelection campaign and, although unsuccessful, Martini received 48 percent of the vote in a dreadful year for N.J. Republicans, even though the district included the heavily minority communities of Paterson and Passaic.
Martin’s allies say the Republican Party’s financial resources should be concentrated in competitive districts. I couldn’t agree more, but the 26 is a fiscally conservative district and it deserves fiscally conservative legislators.
If Martin were to vote in Morris County’s interests, this primary would not be necessary. State Republicans need legislators who will stand up to Democratic Senate Co-President Dick Codey and the Trenton liberals.
State Senate seats don’t come cheap for N.J. Republicans and Morris County, which is critical to a GOP majority in the State House, cannot afford ineffective leadership. Morris County is home to one good State Senator, but I think it deserves two.
I am confident that Webber would make a great contribution in terms of providing leadership for the party as well as building a voting record that Morris County voters can be proud of.
He would develop a constructive working relationship with the GOP legislative leadership team as well as conservative and moderate Republicans in the State House.