Six running for 3 seats in N.J.'s 7th District

Posted: October 22, 2013

The six candidates vying for three open seats in New Jersey's Seventh Legislative District all say they stand for lowering taxes and job creation, but they differ on how they would achieve these goals. Among the candidates are two veteran lawmakers with more than 15 years of experience, two who served on the Delran Township Council, and a political neophyte.

All 120 legislative seats across the state are up for grabs on Nov. 5. The Seventh District, which has one four-year Senate seat and two two-year assembly seats, covers most of Burlington County's riverfront municipalities and a few nearby towns in the county.

Seeking a sixth term in the state Senate is Diane Allen, 65, a Republican from Edgewater Park. First elected to a term in the assembly 17 years ago, she has served 15 years in the Senate. Allen, a former TV anchor/producer and the deputy minority leader, says she is known as "someone who works to cut taxes."

Allen authored an anti-bullying bill in 2003 that was one of the first in the nation and recently became a prime sponsor of the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act, considered one of the toughest in the country. She says she is also proud of her bipartisan approach, saying she has always placed people above politics.

Her Democratic challenger, Gary Catrambone, 55, was elected to the Delran Township Council five years ago and is now its president. He's a vice president of marketing for Loan Logics, in the mortgage industry, and moonlights as a disc jockey for charitable organizations and private parties. But before he joined the firm, he said he had owned several small businesses, including a creative design firm, and understands what legislators need to do to create more jobs. As a legislator, he said he would focus on "helping them navigate the red tape and finding the capital to grow so people will get jobs."

As a councilman, Catrambone said he had "been proactive in addressing issues" such as a neighborhood flooding problem that required working with environmental regulators and a pedestrian safety issue on Route 130 that required working with legislators.

In the Assembly, Democrats Herb Conaway Jr., 50, of Delanco, and Troy Singleton, 40, of Palmyra, are running for reelection against Republican challengers Anthony Ogozalek Jr., 43, of Delran, and Jeff Banasz, 36, of Moorestown, both newcomers.

Conaway, who was elected to the Assembly in 1997, says he is the only state legislator with both a law and medical degree. A doctor who specializes in internal medicine in Willingboro, he was also a U.S. Air Force captain.

Conaway said that he worked to save jobs at Lockheed Martin in Moorestown and other businesses that needed funding and that he had supported various bills designed to bring tax relief and create jobs. If reelected, he said, he would try to bring "property tax relief for seniors," a measure Gov. Christie vetoed but that he would continue to work on.

Running mate Singleton is an executive with the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters and also serves on the Burlington County Bridge Commission. Since he was elected in 2011, he has been a prime sponsor on 38 bills that became law, concentrating his efforts in economic development, job creation, and veterans' affairs. He was lead sponsor of a bill that takes effect this month calling for jobs in the N.J. Turnpike widening project to be dedicated to veterans.

"This allows our veterans to get careers in the construction field," Singleton said, calling the turnpike project "a pretty robust program" that should increase job opportunities for vets. He also supports an energy tax relief program and measures designed to increase shared services among municipalities as ways to reduce taxes.

Their opponents say their main focus is on tax relief.

Ogozalek, 43, was a police detective before he went to law school and became a partner in a Gibbsboro law firm, Beckman Roth Ogozalek & Perez. He said his experience managing the small business, his four years as a Delran councilman, and two years as mayor had given him the experience he needs to go to Trenton to work for taxpayers.

"New Jersey is no longer affordable to live in," he said. He said he and his running mates would focus on "pocketbook issues . . . not creating new taxes and [also] working to roll back taxes." Ogozalek said that Conaway had voted to raise taxes more than 100 times during his 15-year tenure and that he would work to get Christie's tax credit plan passed.

Banasz, 36, is an insurance broker with Cook Maran & Associates and a former U.S. Marine captain who supervised a platoon of 58 during the Iraq war. Though he has never run for office, he said his military leadership and his job, which requires him to deal with business executives, had prepared him to be a legislator.

"I'm against any new taxes or tax increases, plain and simple . . . Gov. Christie has had a really good start, but what we need is sick-time reform and a more equitable school-funding formula," he said, referring to proposals to reduce payments for public employees' accrued sick time and to distribute school aid more evenly among the districts statewide. He also said he would work to help small businesses thrive.

Ogozalek and Banasz, who were endorsed by the county Republican Committee, defeated tea party challengers in the June primaries. Since then, West Jersey Tea Party leaders have said they support the Republican organization's candidates.

856-779-3224 @JanHefler

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