In a spirited contest with somewhat altered boundaries, three Assembly incumbents have been pitted against each other for two seats in the Third Legislative District.
There’s a state Senate race in the 3rd this year, too, but it’s a standard incumbent vs. challenger one.
The Assembly race features familiar faces, enough of them to make a decision difficult. The Democrat incumbents are John Burzichelli of Paulsboro and Celeste Riley of Bridgeton. The Republicans are incumbent Assemblyman Domenick DiCicco of Franklin Township — whose hometown was moved into the 3rd from the 4th District — and Dr. Robert Villare of West Deptford, whom the Times endorsed for a seat two years ago.
It’s a narrow call, but this time voters should return both Burzichelli and Riley.
Burzichelli is among the more colorful and vocal Trenton lawmakers; he fights some good fights that others ignore. He can get too focused on the excesses of the New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association and, more recently, on substandard programming by the new operators of what used to be the New Jersey Network. But few others are looking at these agencies with a magnifying glass. It’s a plus that he’s finally giving up his grandfathered-in dual officeholder status as mayor of Paulsboro.
The choice of Democrat Riley over Republican DiCicco is partly a geographic one. Give one-term veteran DiCicco respect for choosing to run in new territory, but it is, after all, new territory. This is a three-county district, and Riley’s familiarity with the Cumberland County section is a definite asset.
In addition, Riley, a public school teacher, had more on the line than most lawmakers when she voted for public worker benefit reforms earlier this year. It does show some courage to support needed legislation that most of your co-workers hate.
Unfortunately, returning Riley means the Legislature would lose DiCicco’s voice in calling out spendthrift state-backed authorities, notably the Delaware River Port Authority. It also means bypassing Villare, a genuine conservative with some reasonable ideas for in-state health care changes.
The Senate contest is not as close a call. Democrat Stephen Sweeney of West Deptford turned a seat from under-regarded South Jersey into a two-year stint as Senate president, earning him not only clout, but the respect of his larger-in-number North Jersey peers.
New Jersey has been amused by some unrestrained verbal battles between Sweeney and Republican Gov. Chris Christie. But when all was said and done, New Jersey had in place a real 2 percent cap on local spending, and changes to worker benefits that should yield significant savings.
Republican Senate challenger Michael Mulligan, from Pilesgrove Township, is the only Salem County resident on either ticket. He’d bring geographical balance, plus some money-saving ideas, such as using expensive fire apparatus for more years than New Jersey’s arbitrary laws now permit. But that’s not enough cause to remove Sweeney, who has turned into a master negotiator on worthwhile initiatives. Bluster and all, he deserves re-election.
Gloucester County Times
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