TRENTON — Both of the 1st Legislative District’s new Republican representatives were humbled by the magnitude of their newfound responsibility as they were sworn in Tuesday as members of New Jersey’s 219th General Assembly.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Assemblyman Antwan McClellan, R-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic, following the bi-annual ceremony inside the Patriots Theater at the War Memorial in Trenton. “I can’t explain the outpouring of love once elected, even prior to being elected, that everybody in the community has given me, (from) my family, my friends, and also the constituents. I’m still on cloud nine.”

McClellan, of Ocean City, and Erik Simonsen, of Lower Township, defeated incumbent Democrats Bruce Land and Matthew Milam. The pair ran alongside state Sen. Michael Testa, R-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic, who defeated incumbent Democrat Bob Andrzejczak in last year’s only state Senate race. Testa was sworn in Dec. 5.

The 1st District was the only one to switch from Democratic to Republican representation during the last election.

Simonsen, R-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic, said the experience of becoming a member of the state Legislature was “exciting,” but “I’m just kind of itching to get to work.”

Taxes, education and seniors are priorities for the two freshman state lawmakers, who were among seven first-time members taking the oath of office Tuesday afternoon.

“Taxes are definitely an issue,” McClellan said. “We have a lot of people leaving (our area), and we want to make sure they stay.”

Simonsen, who will sit on both the Assembly’s education and state and local government committees, said he wants to focus on finding bipartisan solutions to some of New Jersey’s biggest problems.

“When I took over as mayor (of Lower Township in 2016), there was a lot of divisiveness in my town,” he said. “Just being able to work with different people … and trying to come to the best conclusion for the people (taught me a lot).”

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Staff Writer

I cover Atlantic City government and the casino industry since joining The Press in early 2018. I formerly worked as a politics & government reporter for NJ Herald and received the First Amendment: Art Weissman Memorial NJPA Award two years in a row.

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