New Jersey voters will fill seats in the United States House of Representatives in all twelve legislative districts in November, plus one Senate seat. This column will attempt to provide at least a snapshot of each of the twenty-six major party candidates in these races. Any reader who would like to see coverage of any third-party candidate in any of these races should please contact the author with at least the identity of the candidate and the race in which he is running.
This article covers the major candidates in the 12th legislative district; the series will count down from there to the first, and then cover the senate race. Whether this sequence has been chosen because the author lives in the second legislative district and wants to delay coverage of that until more campaigning has produced better information, or because having lived with the problems of always being at the end of alphabetical lists wanting to invert the list in this case, the reader might guess.
The entire series will be indexed here as articles are added.
The 12th Congressional District includes significant parts of northern Mercer County (including Trenton), western Middlesex County, and a slim southeastern edge of Somerset County.
Dr. Alieta Eck made a name for herself last year, running against Steve Lonegan in the Republican primary of the special Senate election. The question is whether she made enough of a name for herself to be recognized in this election, as she makes a run at the House seat vacated by the retirement of Congressman Rush Holt.
Eck's major issue is the Affordable Care Act, that is, Obamacare. She is a medical doctor and co-founder of a free clinic which has provided services to the poor using volunteer medical personnel and community support, and she believes that medical care in this country needs to be fixed, but the currently controversial law is not the way to fix it. She has testified in Congress on these problems, and hopes that she can work within the system to provide a better answer. She has been the chief executive of a national organization of physicians (Association of American Physicians and Surgeons), who encouraged her to run based on her ability there.
On other issues, she toes a conservative line. She would help the middle class and small businesses with tax reductions and reform, coupled with reductions in government spending, passing a balanced budget amendment, and eliminating "earmarks". Also in this vein, she wants to reduce government regulation generally, and particularly to end the practice of delegating regulatory rules creation to bureaucrats instead of having elected officials include them in legislation. She favors pulling the Federal Government out of local education, putting it in the hands of the states and local communities and encouraging innovation and school choice programs.
To many, though, her real credential for becoming a "public servant" is that she has long been one: she founded and operates a non-government free clinic, donating her time to providing real medical care to the poor and uninsured.
Opposing her on the Democratic side is New Jersey State Assembly Woman Bonnie Watson Coleman, who has previously worked in various administrative positions within the government. She has been endorsed by several unions. Education is her top priority issue, having worked on the Assembly Education Committee; she sponsored legislation to increase the age requirement for compulsory school attendance to 18. She also holds strongly liberal positions on numerous issues, supporting the LGBT agenda and the DREAM Act, and tighter gun control. She argues for a reduction in fossil fuel use in favor of sustainable energy, as part of a strong overall environmental policy, and pushed for a law to require solar energy systems in some new home construction. She is also on record as calling for federal action against climate change.
As part of a strong women's rights activism, she is pro-choice. She speaks of economic justice, and the guarantee that everyone can earn a living wage, and sponsored a bill to raise the New Jersey State minimum wage. As part of the war on violence, she wants more money for law enforcement and particularly for operations and tactical units.
This is the district in which Democratic Congressman Rush Holt is the incumbent; he is retiring this year. He has been known as one of the most progressive liberals in Congress, but also one of the most intelligent--a prominent Princeton physicist, he beat IBM's Watson computer in Jeopardy prep games. It remains to be seen whether the district will support another extreme liberal with considerably less education (a Bachelors) or another highly-educated professional (a medical doctor with a degree from pharmacy college) who is considerably more conservative. Prior to Holt taking office in 1999, the seat was held by Republican Mike Pappas. The district appears to be mostly middle class with a strong minority population (over forty percent) and moderately strong high school and college graduation rates.
The author is attempting to contact all candidates in New Jersey Congressional races, and will in the weeks ahead provide featured coverage of those who respond.