The Democratic incumbents in the 1st Legislative District race have taken exception to the Republicans blaming them for high unemployment rates and a slow economy in the three-county area.
"I got elected and I caused a recession," said state Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic, responding after the Republican Party issued a statement saying unemployment had doubled under the incumbents and they failed to make the economy a priority.
Van Drew said unemployment has been a problem in the district since before he took office and has gotten worse with such factors as a national recession and a decline in the Atlantic City casino industry. He noted the problems have happened under the watch of an all-Republican Cape May County Freeholder Board and Republican Gov. Chris Christie.
"It's an absurd notion that Gov. Christie, or one senator and two assemblymen are responsible for all of the economic woes in South Jersey. It's just as ridiculous as blaming the Cape May County Freeholder Board, which has been controlled by one party for over a century. They're working just as hard. It's time to stop pointing fingers. We can only fix things by tossing party labels aside and coming together," Van Drew said.
The Democratic slate running for re-election includes Van Drew, Assemblyman Nelson Albano and Assemblyman Bob Andrzejczak. The Republicans are fielding Susan Adelizzi-Schmidt for Senate along with Cumberland County Freeholder Sam Fiocchi and Cape May County Freeholder Kristine Gabor for Assembly.
Earlier this week the Republicans held press conferences outlining their eight-point Jobs and Economic Development Plan. They said there are more than twice as many people unemployed in the district since Van Drew and Albano took office and re-electing the Democrats would mean the higher taxes and fees that "fuel out-of-control government spending."
The Democrats issued a release Thursday defending their record. Andrzejczak noted he introduced a bill in June, with Albano as a sponsor, creating the "First District Economic Development Task Force" that would look into the reasons for high unemployment and low incomes in the district. The bill, which is currently in committee, would result in recommendations on how to improve economic conditions. The 11-member task force would include freeholders, presidents of community colleges, economic development directors and lawmakers from the district.
Van Drew noted his slate supported Christie's cut of business taxes to spur economic growth. Van Drew was criticized by a union leader, but in April Christie singled Van Drew out for praise as a Democrat supporting the plan.
Van Drew noted the team also was instrumental in saving 1,500 jobs at the Vineland Developmental Center, which was slated to be closed. The Democrats issued a list of other job-saving measures they took part in, including:
•Defeating a plan to tax saltwater anglers
•Supporting a 10 percent tax cut for middle-class families and seniors
•Working with Christie on the Economic Opportunity Act that would create thousands of jobs
•Stopping out-of-state factory fishing vessels from fishing off New Jersey
•Removing a corporate tax on the tour buses that bring tourists to the shore
•Working with the real estate industry to remove the bulk sales tax
•Working with the BPU, Verizon and Christie to retain the telecommunications that small businesses in western Cumberland County rely on.
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