Many new legislators, but will N.J. cities benefit?

On Nov. 4, voters from all across New Jersey will head to the polls to elect 40 State Senators and 80 members of the General Assembly to the state legislature. Mercer County has received special attention because it is one of a few counties across the state with key competitive elections.

State Senator Peter Inverso represents the 14th legislative district, which includes Hamilton, West Windsor and a large stretch of southern Middlesex County.

Two years ago, when some analysts raised serious concerns about Inverso’s ability to win reelection in a very weak year for Republicans overall, he managed to retain his seat with a margin of four percentage points over a formidable opponent.

Inverso is the only candidate with real plans for controlling suburban sprawl, providing property tax relief, school and municipal aid to municipalities and supporting environmental protection and public safety measures.

Inverso’s constituents know him as someone who protects their interests – particularly those employed in state government jobs as well as low-income families and senior citizens who need health care services.

He has received support from organizations representing a broad variety of interests in his district, including labor, business, environmental and senior citizens groups that have to be thoroughly impressed with a candidate in order for them to lend their endorsement.

Senator Inverso’s opponent, former Assemblyman Skip Cimino, was part of the problem in the legislature before the voter rebellion against higher taxes in 1991.

It’s very difficult to find a better team of legislative candidates running anywhere in the state than in Senator Inverso’s district.

Bill Baroni and Sidna Mitchell are running on the ticket with Senator Inverso for the district’s seats in the General Assembly and they are talking about real issues, particularly pay-to-play legislation and other essential reforms designed to increase voter confidence in state government, but which Gov. McGreevey and the Democratic legislature are currently blocking.

Mercer County Republicans deserve a lot of credit for the effort they’ve put into many worthwhile campaigns which have had several great victories over the years.

They have outstanding candidates this year that care about their communities and the general future of the county. Cathy DiCostanzo, currently serving as Mercer County Clerk, is running to replace Robert Prunetti as County Executive.

She is addressing issues that matter to average Mercer County residents such as economic growth, property tax reduction, assistance to the city of Trenton, enhancing the quality of education and environmental protection.

The voters of Mercer County know her well and have supported her in two prior countywide elections. She’s the only candidate in this race with the ability to implement real solutions to problems.

There are several other key legislative races with their own individual circumstances.

To win over suburban voters, N.J. Democrats are depending heavily on fundraising and running campaigns based on real intellectual dishonesty, not only about their opponents but also about themselves.

This strategy worked well in recent years in Bergen County and elsewhere, but the same strategy will not work for legislative races in Mercer County and in other competitive districts.

N.J. Democrats and their supporters in the N.J. Supreme Court worked hard to establish roadblocks to a democratic legislative election process that reinforces the ideal of a competitive two-party system, especially when the governor is highly unpopular.

Many districts include both cities and Republican-leaning suburbs with diametrically different views on the way the government should operate and the standards they have for their elected officials.

The Supreme Court endorsed the waiving of a constitutional provision on the replacement of candidates last year after state Democrats complained that voters had a right to a competitive election.

Shouldn’t voters in legislative races also have a right to competitive elections?

Even in the face of such obstacles, many state legislative races are competitive because voters in these districts have decided that Republicans share the sentiments of voters on the direction of our state economy, on tax relief and all the issues that indicate N.J. voters want their state to be a decent and affordable place to live.

It means fighting on behalf of businesses, taxpayers, homeowners and anyone in New Jersey who is concerned about where this state is headed under McGreevey and his allies in the state legislature.

On Nov. 4, we will see if we will have a legislative branch with a leadership team that is up to the task of addressing the causes of problems in New Jersey. Granting minority party status to the current legislative leadership is a great start.