Two Seats, Five Candidates in District 11 State Assembly Race
Pension reform and supporting small business and working, middle class are at the top of the candidates' priorities lists.
In District 11, five candidates -- two Democrats, two Republicans and one Independent -- will vie for the two New Jersey Assembly seats up for election Nov. 8.
Each of the 40 electoral districts in New Jersey elects one State Senator and two Assembly representatives to the New Jersey Legislature. As with Congress on the national level, these are the people who make the laws for New Jersey. Click here to see which district you are in. The State Senate is upper house of the legislature and the General Assembly is the lower house.
Legislators in both the Assembly and the Senate receive a salary of $49,000 for what the state regards as a part time position. Legislative elections are held in November of odd-numbered years, with members serving two-year terms.
District 11 includes: Allenhurst, Asbury Park, Colts Neck, Deal, Eatontown, Freehold Borough, Freehold Township, Interlaken, Loch Arbour, Long Branch, Neptune City, Neptune Township, Ocean Township, Red Bank, Shrewsbury, Shrewsbury Township, Tinton Falls and West Long Branch.
Who's on the ballot?
Currently those seats are held by Republicans Caroline Casagrande and Mary Pat Angelini. Democratic challengers are Vin Gopal and Kathleen Horgan. Also challenging is Independent candidate Dan Jacobson.
Here is a brief profile of each candidate in the race for Assembly and a look at what each has said they would focus on if elected to office:
- Age: 26
- Occupation: Small business owner
- Lives in: Long Branch
- Party affiliation: Democrat
Vin Gopal's experiences as a small business owner, which includes several community publications and a retail store, is what he said drove him to run for the General Assembly. While large corporations are able to receive numerous tax incentives due to support from legislators, "small business is underrepresented," said Gopal. The first-time candidate continued, "New Jersey has an unfriendly business climate."
Gopal said that it's the small pizzerias and delis that struggle to make the high rents and comply with onerous local zoning ordinances and could benefit from municipalities becoming "more business friendly." He said, "It's frustrated me watching politicians from both parties worrying about getting elected and advancing themselves."
- Age: 66
- Occupation: Assistant to the Board of Trustees of amfAR
- Lives in: Red Bank
- Party affiliation: Democrat
"This is a very personal journey," said Kathleen Horgan of her campaign to win a seat in the Assembly. The Red Bank Councilwoman said that her late husband had spent many years being involved in local government and after his death, she picked up the civic baton and began to volunteer her time. "In a sense, I'm carrying on his work, but on my own terms."
Horgan said that while she agrees there need to be changes made in Trenton, she believes "the working middle class and seniors need to be taken into consideration." She feels the tax burden has been shifted "from millionaires on to the backs of seniors." The Democratic candidate supports collective bargaining and thinks that workers that form the "backbone of our society" -- like teachers and police officers -- are being "maligned" in an effort to "remedy the mistakes of the past." Horgan said, "It's all about party idealogy and not about the people."
- Age: 34
- Occupation: currently a legislator, mother of two young sons, former attorney
- Lives in: Colts Neck
- Party affiliation: Republican
Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande said that her number one goal for another term in office would be to build on the legislative accomplishments "that made history" this term, citing the two percent cap on property taxes, public employee benefit reform and arbitration reform. If elected to a second term, Casagrande said that she would be looking for tools for consolidation for municipalities including civil service reform. "We need to force discussions that are long overdue," Casagrande said and get "creative with mayors and councils" who have found their budgets cut down to the bone. If towns are able to consolidate a few top heavy supervisory positions, "I think we will find savings."
Casagrande also said that public employee benefit reform needs to impact sick and vacation pay, citing what she calls was an "egregious" pay out of a former Long Branch superintendent of schools. "A one shot payout like that can bankrupt a government unit," she said. "This needs to be handled once and for all, with no loopholes."
- Age: 56
- Occupation: legislator, executive director of the non-profit Prevention First
- Lives in: Ocean Township
- Party affiliation: Republican
If re-elected, Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini said she would work to continue the pension and health benefit reform that the state passed last year. "It's a huge nut to crack as far as working toward lower property taxes," she said. One of the next steps, she said, would be tightening up the laws on unused sick and vacation pay for public employees. Lowering property taxes, Angelini said, will require more reform, especially in the area of civil service. Angelini said she would like to work on incentivising shared services for municipalities and remove obstacles in the way of those towns who want to join up their services. As an example, Angelini said, a town whose police force is a civil service model can't join forces with a neighboring town where the police are not civil service.
Angelini, who is in her second term in the legislature, said that she is proud to have been the prime sponsor of the anti-bullying legislation that was passed recently and is now being implemented in schools. She said that if she is elected to a third term she would also focus on tenure reform and teacher evaluations. "We need to bring the union to the table and have an honest conversation," she said. Angelini said in her conversations with teachers, they have told her that they know tenure reform is needed. "It's time to shut down the rhetoric and sit down with teachers."
- Age: 50
- Occupation: owner/publisher, Tri-City News, former attorney, former state assemblyman 1990-1991
- Lives in: Asbury Park
- Party affiliation: Independent
Daniel Jacobson describes himself an Independent with a moderate libertarian streak. "Government should be as far removed from the economy as possible," he said. "I believe it should be restricted to protecting the vulnerable ... and doing things which the public can't do, like building infrastructure."
Jacobson said his primary focus is the economy and his goal is to "go to Trenton and raise issues that no party will raise." As an example, in regards to the recent pension reform legislation, he said, "Republicans said the plan would solve all the problems. Democrats said it was the end of collective bargaining. The reality is that it is a modest positive start. It has a long way to go toward fixing that system." Jacobson said that while he would have voted in favor of the plan, had he been in the Assembly, not being bound by a party line would have freed him to question where the money to fund the pension system would come from.