UPDATE: In the 17th District, State Senate and Assembly Incumbents Vie to Represent Democrats

State Assemblyman Joseph Egan (left), Sen. Bob Smith and Assemblyman Joe Danielsen Credits: State Sen. Bob Smith

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — A trio of incumbents is betting that its track record will help them clinch the Democratic nominations for state Senate and Assembly today, June 6, in the primary elections.

New Jersey’s 40-member Senate and 80-member General Assembly combine to make up the state Legislature. Its members work to enact laws, serving all Garden State residents and constituents in their individual districts.

The 17th legislative district is comprised of portions of Middlesex and Somerset counties. The area covers New Brunswick, Piscataway, North Brunswick, Milltown and Franklin.

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State Sen. Bob Smith and state Assemblymen Joe Danielsen and Joseph Egan are each vying for the Democratic nod today as running mates. If they win their primary elections, they will represent the party in the general elections this fall.

The incumbents are running on a ticket sponsored by the Middlesex County Democratic Organization and the Somerset County Regular Democratic Organization.

They’re facing opponents from the Central Jersey Progressive Democrats, a faction founded last year on the ideals and policy goals of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Today’s winning candidates will square off against Republican opponents in the fall.

Primary elections offer partisans the chance to choose their candidates in the November general election. Registered Democrats may vote in their party’s primaries, and Republicans may do the same for their party.

Unaffiliated voters may ask for a ballot from either party at their polling stations. By doing so, however, voters become registered with the party in whose primary they voted.

Polls are open until 8 p.m. For information on where to vote, click here.

TAPinto New Brunswick sent questions to each Senate and Assembly candidate from the 17th legislative district. Smith, who was reached through a leader of the Middlesex County Democrats and email, didn’t respond.

Below are answers from the sitting Democrats from Middlesex and Somerset counties. Their responses may have been edited for grammar, style or brevity.

Bob Smith, Piscataway resident running for state Senate*

Describe your background and why you are qualified for the office.

It has been my great honor to serve as state Senator from 2002 to the present. I chair the Environment and Energy committee, and I believe I have made the greatest contribution in that area, including the Highlands Act, a constitutionally dedicated source of stable funding to open space acquisition and farmland preservation, recycling enhancements and electronic waste management and many other environment and energy initiatives. I hold advanced degrees in chemistry and environmental science.

What do you consider the most pressing issue facing the state, and how would you address it?

After 11 credit downgrades during the Christie administration, I believe our fiscal crisis is the major issue facing our state. The way that New Jersey will dig itself out of this financial hole is to adopt policies that encourage new research and development industries to locate in New Jersey, including enhancing partnerships with our higher educational institutions.

If you are elected, what would you do to specifically help the constituents of the 17th legislative district?

Two current projects that the 17th district team is working on will substantially improve the quality of life in our area. We are working to provide funding for the new North Brunswick train station and financially assist the new cultural center in New Brunswick.

Joseph Egan, New Brunswick resident running for state Assembly

Describe your background and why you are qualified for the office.

I am a long-term incumbent with experience in local and state government. I understand the problems facing working families, and I have dedicated my career to helping them.

What do you consider the most pressing issue facing the state, and how would you address it?

The major issue in New Jersey is jobs and the economy, and I will continue to fight to improve both.

If you are elected, what would you do to specifically help the constituents of the 17th legislative district?

I am dedicated to continue to fight for a fair minimum wage. Success on this issue will help to solve the property tax problem in New Jersey.

Joe Danielsen, Somerset resident running for state Assembly

Describe your background and why you are qualified for the office.

I am a lifelong resident of Franklin Township, where I reside with my wife and three children. I am currently your state Assembly representative in the 17th district.

I have prioritized public service to our community as a way of giving back. Starting with volunteering for the Franklin Township Fire Department, which I have continued to do for two decades, I then volunteered to join the Franklin Township Planning Board. I have consistently supported economic development and have helped attract business to Franklin Township while maintaining and preserving the local character of our diverse community. I have focused on public safety and have improved the safety and response capabilities for all of our volunteer firefighters and first responders.

As a small businessman, I believe that to build a “new” New Jersey, we must grow the economy at all levels. My voting record reflects a philosophy where I put the needs of senior citizens, the protection and support for women and children dealing with domestic violence, strengthening our state’s economy and issues dealing with our forgotten veterans as priorities. In addition, I have worked tirelessly to improve funding for our K-12 public schools and higher education institutions, while also seeking tuition aid assistance to make education in New Jersey affordable for all of our students.

What do you consider the most pressing issue facing the state, and how would you address it?

Over reliance on property taxes to fund public schools is a pressing issue in New Jersey. I have been working with my colleagues and five school districts to create a plan to reduce our taxes, while ensuring and strengthening the quality of education for all future generations of students.

The most pressing issue in Franklin Township is the Compressor Station 206 at Trap Rock. I have been working on this issue for 18 months, by organizing the municipalities in opposition, gaining the support of the Somerset County freeholders, local community action groups in the 17th district and our leaders in Congress, and hosting discussions with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. My office met with Williams-Transco on both the health and safety concerns regarding the pipeline.

I strongly support the efforts of my colleague state Sen. Bob Smith, chairman of the Senate Environment & Energy Committee, who has been outspoken for and a leader in the fight toward renewable sources of energy and more energy efficient and environmentally sound legislative priorities.

My running mates, Sen. Bob Smith and Assemblyman Joe Egan, have supported legislation to force President Trump to release his tax records and prohibit any candidate who has not done so from being on the state ballot. I continue to oppose anti-immigration policies, divisiveness in this nation and positions of isolationism harbored by his administration.

If you are elected, what would you do to specifically help the constituents of the 17th legislative district?

It has been my privilege for the past three years to serve my constituents in every way possible.  While legislation is always a priority, both for my district constituents and all of New Jersey’s residents, 95 percent of the work accomplished in my office is case work helping those who feel left behind because of a lack of housing, difficulties rectifying the shut-off of gas and electric, domestic violence or simply in need of a helping hand through the myriad of state agencies to get a resolution for their concerns.

I will continue my service to the community by hosting my annual free job fair. The most recent one brought nearly 75 vendors and over 450 participants. Many left with improved resumes and potential job connections, which will help to increase our economy.

I hosted a veterans clinic, which organized public and nonprofit veteran agencies and higher education institutions. The purpose was to facilitate connecting them with help to find solutions to their concerns.

I am able to bring real solutions to the real issues facing constituents on a daily basis. I have always prided myself on being part of the solution not part of the problem.

I want to continue to honor my commitment to be “always at your service.”

*EDIT: This story has been edited to include responses from state Sen. Bob Smith. TAPinto New Brunswick incorrectly reported that he hadn't submitted answers. In fact, he had, but the email was marked as spam and thus missed by our staff. We regret the error.

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