In the state's 32nd legislative district, four people are vying for two Assembly seats and four are competing for one State Senate seat. The election will be held Tuesday, Nov. 6.
The 32nd District includes North Bergen, Secaucus, Kearny, East Newark, Harrison, Fairview, Edgewater and part of Jersey City.
In perhaps the most intense race in the district, Republican Frank MacCormack of Secaucus is seeking to unseat Democratic incumbent Nicholas Sacco of North Bergen for his State Senate seat.
Sacco has been in the State Senate since 1994. He also serves as the mayor of North Bergen and assistant superintendent of schools for that state. As is the case with most Democrats in heavily-Democratic Hudson County, he is the front-runner.
Frank MacCormack, who has made an issue of the multiple political jobs held by Sacco, has previously been a candidate for mayor of Secaucus and served as a commissioner on the Secaucus Housing Authority. He has also served on the Secaucus Board of Adjustment and the Secaucus Board of Education.
MacCormack said he is part of the Bret Schundler gubernatorial ticket and hopes to help bring out the Schundler vote in the 32nd district, and that it was the Schundler philosophy he hoped to bring to the State Senate by beating Sacco.
"If anyone would take the time to see what Bret Schundler has done for Jersey City, they would be convinced that it should be done elsewhere in the state. This man [Schundler] helped save Hudson County from bankruptcy. The developments that occurred in Jersey City allowed the county to hold down taxes."
MacCormack said he wants to use the Schundler model to help other areas in the 32nd District and the state.
"By developing urban areas the way Schundler has, we would be lowering property taxes, preserving open space and stopping urban sprawl," MacCormack said.
Despite MacCormack's optimism, he knows he is running a David and Goliath campaign against Sacco but said that he must try and change the network of Democratic connections that has plagued the county in the past.
"Sacco has a very powerful organization in North Bergen," MacCormack said. "I know that will be hard to overcome."
But MacCormack said he believes that there is a silent majority of voters who would support a change, and that many of the people he's talked to while campaigning feel Sacco should not be re-elected.
"Sacco is part of old Hudson County political machine," he said. "And he is someone that has too many jobs. That is one of the things I want to stop. People in public office should not be allowed to serve in more than one office at a time."
MacCormack has also taken aim at the way the county does business. "What I want is an independent accounting firm to go over all of the county accounts," MacCormack said.
Sacco countered MacCormack's negative attack by saying that more legislators should have municipal and school jobs, so as to better understand the problems leaders on a local level face.
"Many of the people who are passing laws do not know the impact of the bills they are passing," he said. "That's why I have fought some issues so hard."
He said his intimate knowledge as a mayor and as someone involved in the local school system has allowed him to bring to the senate common sense in setting up state mandates. He said while the state did pass a law that would require all state-mandated programs to be funded by the state, no board was ever established to monitor legislation, and thus laws are sometimes passed which put the burden on school districts and municipalities.
"Instead of wishing that there were fewer mayors who also served on the state level, I wish there were more," Sacco said. "Mandates on schools and towns forces local taxpayers to pay more."
He said state mandates for early-grade foreign language classes forced schools to hire additional teachers.
"This cost more than a half million dollars in North Bergen," he said. "In Secaucus it cost several hundred thousand dollars."
Running on his record
Sacco calls MacCormack "a fringe candidate," someone who does not represent the people of the 32nd District.
"That's the reason why he is running such a negative campaign," Sacco said. "I'm not. I'm running on my record."
As mayor, Sacco said he has stabilized tax rate with no appreciable tax increase in eight years. As a senator, he boasts of 100 percent attendance record in Trenton.
"I've worked very hard to bring aid into the district," he said, "to make life better for people who live here."
One of the particular issues Sacco points to as an example of his legislative accomplishments, has been the role he played in developing the county's Urban Enterprise Zones. It was Sacco's initiative that pushed the state to establish the Economic Development Commission, helping to restore the economical viability of formerly-distraught downtown shopping districts.
His role on the state Senate Transportation Committee allowed him to push for the building of overpasses that will hopefully unclogged streets connecting eastern and western Hudson County. An increase in container freight onto the western rail spur - partly due to the development of light rail - had left Paterson Plank Road, Secaucus Road and the few other connecting roadways clogged with traffic. Through Sacco's efforts, federal and state money flowed into the county to construct three bridges over the tracks to allow traffic to flow freely, while not hindering freight trains.
"Two of them are under construction now," Sacco said. "The third in the 69th Street area is tied closely to the light rail and has been delayed a little."
Sacco also takes credit for the state legislation that cut fares for New Jersey Transit trains and buses statewide for senior citizens.
"There are no income restrictions," he said. "All you have to be is a senior citizen."
Boasting also of his accomplishments in fighting crime, Sacco said he was instrumental in passing a DNA testing bill, something he first proposed in 1994 as part of the Megan's Law package for sexual crimes, but has since expanded to cover other crimes as well. He said new technology has made the testing possible.
"Part of that is that the criminal has to pay for the test," he said.
Other candidates and other races
While MacCormack and Sacco may dominate the race for the 32nd District's senatorial seat, the race has two other candidates.
Herbert H. Shaw of North Bergen is running his campaign for state senator on the "Politicians are Crooks" ticket. He ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1992, 1996 and 2000. In 1997 and 1999, he ran for state Assembly. He is a member of the Hudson County Taxpayers Association.
Louis Vernotico of Jersey City is seeking the senate seat on a theme of eliminating primary elections. He previously ran for Congress in 1990.
Voters also will also be asked to elect candidates for the 32nd district's Assembly seat. Four candidates are vying for two seats.
Democratic incumbents Anthony Impreveduto and Joan Quigley are seeking reelection and are being challenged by Republicans Esther Gatria and Frances Cohen.
Impreveduto, of Secaucus, is seeking his eighth term in office. This has made him one of the seniormost Democratic legislators and contributed to his being named Minority Conference Leader. He has served Consumer Affairs and Regulated Professions Committees. He also serves as vice chair for the Joint Legislative Committee on Ethical Standards.
Quigley, of Jersey City, is seeking her fifth term. She serves on the Assembly health, judiciary and state government committees.
Gatria, of North Bergen, previously ran for the House of Representatives in 2000. Cohen, of North Bergen, has not previously run for public office.