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Prepare to Vote

Cumberland County took a creative approach to voter turnout last year—a countywide competition that awarded the municipality with the highest percentage of voters with bragging rights and a trophy. The County Clerk’s Office will run the contest again this year and plans to award the trophy at a ceremony in December.

Before you head to the polls, however, be informed about your choices. As in previous years, SNJ Today brings you profiles of the candidates. This week, State Senatorial and Assembly candidates for the 1st Legislative District describe where they stand on the issues that affect Cumberland County and the region. Next week, we’ll profile county freeholder and clerk candidates.

1st Legislative District Candidates

On November 5, voters in the 1st Legislative District will choose from among two candidates running for State Senate and four candidates running for the State Assembly. On this page, 1st Legislative District State Senate candidate profiles appear in alphabetical order. On pages 4 and 5, State Assembly candidate profiles appear in alphabetical order.

Bob Andrzejczak, Democrat (incumbent)

My path to public office started in 2008. I had joined the Army and reached the rank of Sergeant. I intended to make a career out of serving my country. Unfortunately, two months into my second deployment, my convoy was attacked.

An enemy combatant threw an anti-tank grenade at my vehicle while we were in a market in Baiji, Iraq. The grenade mangled my left leg and, after two weeks and many surgeries, my left leg was amputated.

When I returned home to South Jersey, I wanted to give back to the community that was there for me during this life-changing experience. I joined local veteran and community organizations and became involved, but I wanted to do more.

I met then-Senator Jeff Van Drew. Jeff saw the passion I had for veterans issues and my desire to serve and encouraged me to run for the Assembly in 2013.

In your opinion, what are the three biggest issues facing Cumberland County?

It’s too expensive to live in South Jersey. There are far too many fees and taxes, and especially property taxes, are too high.

We need to make sure that everyone can find a good-paying job that they can support their family on.

We have to ensure that we take care of our returning veterans.

How do you plan to address the issues listed above if elected?

We need to get more for our schools from the state, so that our local townships don’t have to fund our school system through their property taxes. If we can ease that burden, municipalities can bring down their taxes and fees. We are also working to directly cut taxes and stop any new tax increase.

Beyond supporting our farmers, fishers, and tourism industry, we’re working now to bring the hemp industry to South Jersey. It’s an industry that requires growing, processing, and distribution jobs, and it would be a huge economic boon to South Jersey. Beyond that, we’re working to get funding to repair the Wildwood Boardwalk. The Boardwalk is a critical part of our economy and we cannot let it fall to pieces.

We just doubled the veteran income tax deduction for veterans to $6,000. We’ve made beaches free and created new scholarship and job training programs for them. We’ve passed 25 bills to support veterans and are going to keep working to ensure that they are recognized for their service.

Please provide a closing statement:

Assemblyman Bruce Land, Matt Milam, and I have accomplished a lot. As a team, we have expanded a property tax freeze that allows our seniors to retire affordably and with dignity. We passed new laws providing job training and college scholarship opportunities for veterans. We restored funding for women’s healthcare services, so they have access to preventive services, prenatal care, and life-saving cancer screenings. And we’ve supported our local fishing, tourism, and farming industries, which in turn has put more people back to work.

There’s still more work to do, especially to make South Jersey more affordable. This is my home. I grew up here. I want to retire here. But it’s far too expensive and there are a lot of families like mine who are getting pushed out by high taxes. I pledge to continue working to create jobs, bring down taxes, and care for our veterans.

Mike Testa, Jr., Republican

My name is Mike Testa, Jr. and I am a Republican candidate for State Senate in the 1st Legislative District.

My family has deep roots in Cumberland County and South Jersey.

On my Dad’s side, my great-grandparents emigrated from Italy—legally, by the way—to secure a better future for their children and themselves.

My grandfather became the first elected mayor of the City of Vineland and went on to become a judge, despite not even speaking English until the first grade. His son, my father, went on to start and build our family law firm where I now practice.

On Mom’s side, my grandparents were Polish Jews who met in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II and were, thank God, freed by Allied soldiers. After the war, they came to the United States, where my mom was born. They settled in Buena and my family ran a chicken farm that I fondly recall playing at as a kid.

My parents and grandparents instilled in me the same core values that my wife, Julie, and I are trying to teach our own three children—treat everyone as you would like to be treated, help those less fortunate than you, work hard and play by the rules.

In your opinion, what are the three biggest issues facing the legislative district?

1. New Jersey is the highest taxed state in America.

2. School Funding Reform

3. Sanctuary State

How do you plan to address the issues listed above if elected?

1. Sponsor legislation that requires a two-thirds supermajority vote of the legislature to raise any state tax and prevents the Governor and Legislature from relying on one-time revenue injections to balance the state budget.

2. Support school funding reform that reduces property taxes on suburban and rural communities, stops throwing money at failing schools in urban areas, and gives every child in the state an ability to pursue a high-quality education no matter their zip code.

3. Overturning Governor Murphy’s reckless Sanctuary State directive.

Please provide us with a closing statement:

If you are angry about the millions of dollars in funding that was cut from Cape May County school districts, frustrated by the Governor’s decision to strip $56 million in funds from the Wildwood Boardwalk repair project, and oppose putting the rights of illegal immigrants before American citizens, then make your voice heard loud and clear with a vote for Republicans up and down the ballot on November 5th.

Bruce Land, Democrat (incumbent)

I graduated high school in Millville in 1968, which was a big year in the Vietnam War. I ended up in I Corps, not far from the Demilitarized Zone. It was a heck of a way to grow up, but it made me who I am.

Once I got home, I was lucky enough to meet my wife Bonnie. We’ve been together for 44 years and have two good kids, Shaun and Devon, and three grandkids, Kayla, Kaiden, and Morgan. I had a career in law enforcement, retiring as a Captain. And I was fortunate to get involved in the community, coaching youth basketball, baseball, and soccer for 13 years while my kids were in school; and being an active community member in everything from the North Italy Club and the Thunderbolt Club to the American Legion and the Elks. For a lot of years, most people called me Coach.

In your opinion, what are the three biggest issues facing Cumberland County?

As a veteran myself I always tend to favor making sure we take care of our veterans. But we also need to address property taxes, and ensuring we have a strong economy that puts people to work in South Jersey.

How do you plan to address the issues listed above if elected?

While we’ve done a lot for veterans, we can certainly do more. Veterans in other states pay far less in income taxes. They get better benefits and don’t have to pay as many fees. Working together as a team, Bob, Matt, and I will get a lot more done.

New Jerseyans pay more in taxes than residents in almost any other state. We don’t have to. The state has a budget surplus, and we can cut a lot of unneeded spending. That means we can cut taxes for folks here and let them keep more of their income. Down in South Jersey, we deserve to get more funding for our schools, which we’ve fought for. If we can get more school funding, our municipalities also won’t have to have property taxes as high as they are.

Finally, we want to bring jobs here and keep our local businesses strong. We’re working as a team to bring hemp growing to the area, which will create hundreds of jobs. We’re also working to improve access to capital for our small businesses so that they can get the investment they need to grow.

Please provide a closing statement:

Most of us who have served in the military want to continue our service. We take an oath and that oath never ends. So at the ripe young age of 64, I ran for the Assembly.

It’s been rewarding to make such a difference in people’s lives. Together with Bob Andrzejczak and Matt Milam, we’ve passed 25 bills to help veterans, including laws to provide job training and scholarships to veterans and to increase their income tax deduction to $6,000.

We’ve helped seniors stay in their homes by expanding a property tax freeze. We’ve been able to get new funding for women’s healthcare services—preventative services, prenatal care, and life-saving cancer screenings. And we’ve been able to put people to work by helping industries like commercial fishing, aquaculture, and wineries.

We have a great team that is dedicated to fighting for South Jersey. I hope we can earn your vote.

Antwan McClellan, Republican

I was born and raised in Ocean City, NJ. I graduated Ocean City High School in 1993. I attended Virginia State University for a year then transferred to Old Dominion University.

I was offered a full-time Slot Supervisor position at the Sands Hotel & Casino. I worked there for 10 years and was then offered a paralegal position at Slater, Tenaglia, Fritz & Hunt PA in Ocean City. I worked there for 10 years until Superstorm Sandy dumped a foot water into the office and my home. The office moved to North Jersey and I did not wish to move. I was unemployed for a year then got my real estate license with Berkshire Hathaway in Ocean City and was also hired by the County of Cape May in the purchasing department. I worked in purchasing for two years then transferred to work for the Cape May County Sheriff’s Office as personnel director/confidential assistant.

I was on the Ocean School Board for two years, then got elected as Ocean City 2nd Ward Council in 2012 and re-elected in 2016. I have been coaching 7th and 8th grade girls basketball for 10 years. I also coach for the Field of Dreams, which teaches kids with special needs how to play baseball.

In your opinion, what are the three biggest issues facing Cumberland County?

1) Lowering our taxes

2) Bringing more jobs to our district

3) School funding

How do you plan to address the issues listed above if elected?

1) Bring forward legislation to prevent the Governor from raising taxes with one-time revenue ideas.

2) Invest in our infrastructure and complete Route 55.

3) Allow children to pursue a quality education in other districts as we did with school choice in Ocean City.

Please provide a closing statement:

The 1st Legislative District needs younger voices with fresh ideas that are willing to fight for our fair share in this state.

Matt Milam, Democrat (incumbent)

From 1979 to 2018 I served as CEO of our family’s business. I’m the Endowment Vice-Chair for Vineland’s First United Methodist Church, have served on the Cumberland County Economic Development Board, and was a member of the Vineland YMCA Board of Directors from 2004 to 2009.

It was through the Vineland YMCA that I first worked with then-Senator Jeff Van Drew. The YMCA had a loan that they were having trouble paying off. So I reached out to the Senator. I told him my concerns and together we got the bank loan refinanced and saved the Y almost $500,000. Jeff, seeing my passion for the community, asked me to run for the Assembly a few months later.

It was a big decision, but I thought I could knock some common business sense into Trenton and I saw it was a way to help people, and that’s what I’m passionate about.

In your opinion, what are the three biggest issues facing Cumberland County?

Having watched how hard it was for my mom and dad to deal with the healthcare bureaucracy near the ends of their lives, I want to improve life for our seniors. My dad was a Korean War vet, and I want to honor his service by doing everything I can to help make our veterans lives better. And as a small businessman, I feel passionately about helping our local industries grow.

How do you plan to address the issues listed above if elected?

Together with my Legislative District 1 colleagues Bob Andrzejczak and Bruce Land, I’ve been able to expand a property tax freeze that will allow our seniors to retire with dignity and stay in their homes. We’ve passed 25 bills to help improve the quality of life for our veterans, including a doubling of the veterans income tax deduction to $6,000. And we’ve done a lot to improve investment in our local economy and cut red tape.

But we have to do more, especially to make this state more business-friendly. I will protect Medicare and Medicaid for our seniors. As a member of the Veterans Affairs committee I’ll make sure that we are honoring veterans. And I have bills ready to sign to improve investment in our small businesses, reign in excessive state spending, and cut harmful and needless regulations. As someone who has owned a small business, I know how important this is to creating and retaining jobs in our community.

Please provide a closing statement:

I’ve always been drawn to public service. Whether at the YMCA or the food kitchen, I always found that what I’m most passionate about is helping others.

And that’s what people need right now. They need representatives who will do what South Jersey needs. People are tired of the partisanship. They’re tired of the bickering and fighting. They don’t think anyone cares about them and they don’t trust their elected officials.

I want to bring everyone together and get past that. We’ve got a lot of work to do, for our veterans, our seniors, our businesses, and our families. We’re only going to make life better for South Jersey if we can get past the partisanship and start working across the aisle.

Erik Simonsen, Republican

I reside in Lower Township, Cape May County, with my wife Anna and my two daughters Katya and Viktoria along with my mother-in-law Elena and brother-in-law Vadim (U.S. Navy).

I have been elected to Council in Lower Township in Ward 2, Ward 3 and now serve as Mayor.

I have been an educator for 27 years, 18 years as a Special Education teacher and the last nine as an Assistant Principal at Richard M. Teitelman and now Athletic Director. I also served 14 years as a High School Wrestling Head Coach. I am an Ordained Deacon at Macedonia Baptist Church in Cape May, past Vice President and Legal Redress for the Cape May County NAACP, and a former Board Member for Faces for Autism.

As Mayor and a Council Member in Lower Township, I have been able to work with my team and fix long-time infrastructure issues—all of this while maintaining a zero tax increase three out of the last six years. We have our largest surplus and our best bond rating ever and are in the best financial state in the history of the municipality.

In your opinion, what are the three biggest issues facing Cumberland County?

• School Funding Cuts

• Illegal Immigration/Sanctuary County

• Recreational Marijuana

How do you plan to address the issues listed above if elected?

There are several ways to address the school funding issue. Instead of spending millions on undocumented immigrants, we should be taking care of our own students (some of which are undocumented). The State could pay tuition for our special-needs students so that they get the proper services they need while evening out the financial burden on our public school districts. At worst, the school funding redistribution should be implemented over a longer, less impactful timeline.

We should be looking for ways to streamline an immigration system that can pave a pathway for people to become U.S. citizens instead of burdening our legal taxpayers with the bill for illegal immigrants. We have a point system in place for driver’s licenses so that we can properly vet people for the safety of all citizens. While I do not support going out looking for illegal immigrants, I do support the 287g program and the cooperation between ICE and our Sheriff’s Department in reporting illegal immigrants who have committed a major crime and are housed in our jail.

Data and research show that the legalization of recreational marijuana would be a disaster. As a longtime teacher and administrator, I can assure the people that it would destroy our school systems. Legalization would give children easier access to marijuana, which is a proven “Gateway Drug” and would take valuable educational hours and resources away from our teachers and administrators as they would need to combat this issue further in our schools. Our police would also be tasked with determining DUI’s for drivers under the influence of marijuana amongst other issues and expenses.

Please provide a closing statement:

I believe in running for office on merit. My accomplishments within my career, organizations that I have been a part of and in my community speak volumes, and I will continue to serve the people that I represent. A lack of representation is what the people of Legislative District 1 have been given by my opponents. Instead of running on merit or accomplishments, they continue to put out inaccuracies, lies and false propaganda about my running mates and me. I operate transparently and for the people, and my record in the largest municipality in Cape May County, Lower Township, speaks for itself. God, family and community are the values that I rely on and implement for the good of all.

Polling Place Changes

• Bridgeton Ward 04 District 01
Bethany Seventh Day Adventist Church, 32 S. Burlington Rd., Bridgeton, 08302
* American Legion Post #95 has moved to the above location

• Vineland Ward 01 District 04
Vineland Vehicle Maintenance Building, 57 W. Park Ave., Vineland
* Max Leuchter School has moved to the above location

• Vineland Ward 02 District 05
Landis Sewerage Authority (LSA) Office, 1776 S. Mill Rd., Vineland
* Cumberland Christian School has moved to the LSA location

• Vineland Ward 03 District 01
Police Athletic League (PAL)
20 S. Sixth Street, Vineland, NJ 08360
* Vineland Midget Football Clubhouse has moved to the above location

General Election: November 5, 2019

Polls open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Can’t get to the polls? In New Jersey, any voter can vote by mail for any reason or no reason at all using the Vote By Mail ballot. If you are a qualified and registered voter, then you may apply for a Vote By Mail ballot by completing the application in English or Spanish and mailing to the County Clerk’s Office.

The deadline for such requests by mail is seven (7) days before any and all elections (Primary, General, School, etc).

A Vote By Mail voter may also apply in person at the County Clerk’s Office on any working day until 3 p.m. on the day before the election.

Local Candidate Profiles in SNJ Today

In the weeks leading up to each election day, SNJ Today proudly presents candidate profiles and other vital information to help readers educate themselves to make informed choices in the voting booth.

In the pages of this week’s issue, readers will find the responses of candidates for New Jersey’s 1st Legislative District to Senate and Assembly to questions posed to them by members of our editorial team.

In next week’s issue, SNJ Today will profile the four Freeholder candidates running for two seats, as well as two vying for County Clerk. Freeholder candidates Jeffrey Bordley and Douglas Albrecht are running on the Republican ticket. On the Democrat side, incumbent Darlene Barber and Christopher Jennings are running. Democrats currently outnumber Republicans on the Freeholder board 6-1.

The Cumberland County Clerk’s race includes Celeste M. Riley, incumbent (D) vs. Victoria Lods (R).

BOE Races in Cumberland County

All 14 municipalities in the county will select school board members, including the largest—Vineland, Bridgeton, and Millville.

Three of nine seats on Vineland’s school board are up for at-large general election on November 5. Vying for three-year terms are incumbents John Sbrana, Eugene Medio and Nicholas Fiocchi who face challengers Danielle Carroll, Cecile Aschwanden, and Kimberly Codispoti. Running for one unexpired two-year term on the Vineland BOE are Alix Silva, Curtis Davis, and Robert Novicke.

In Bridgeton, three incumbents—current BOE President Ashlee Todd, Angelia Edwards, and Tyrone Williams—are up for re-election for three posts. Likewise in Millville, three incumbents—Robert McQuade, Michael Whilden, and Kevin Asselta—seek re-election to three seats. Current Vice President Michael Beatty looks to fill one unexpired one-year term on the Millville board.