Polls issued from around the state show an unexpectedly close race with Schundler proving a tough candidate.
Schundler and Franks offer significantly different visions for the future of New Jersey. While Schundler presents a largely conservative agenda, Franks offers what he calls a more centralist approach.
While Schundler promotes lower taxes, the elimination of Parkway toll booths, reduced government spending and school vouchers, Franks proposes term limits for public office, public referenda and rethinking how state government operates. Franks also supports a variety of transportation issues that include a new freight rail tunnel under the Hudson River.
Despite all this, both candidates agree in some areas. Both agree parents should be notified before a minor girl is allowed to have an abortion. Both also want to outlaw partial birth abortions.
Schundler, however, thinks abortion should be outlawed as well, where Franks does not.
Who is Bret Schundler?
Schundler, once a liberal Democrat, has been traveling across the state trying to convince voters he has a new kind of politics - something he calls "Empowerment Republicanism."
Schundler believes the government should guard each person's rights and should give up power over that person. Under Schundler and with the help of a healthy economy, the rate of increasing taxes slowed and more jobs came into Jersey City. Crime also dropped - although recent statistics issued out of federal government show slight increases again. Schundler has sought answers to budget gaps from Wall Street, bringing many business to this side of the Hudson River. He also successfully lobbied Trenton for laws allowing for the establishment of charter schools.
However, Schundler's budget in Jersey City has shown wide gaps in the last few years.
Schundler worked for Democrat Gary Hart's presidential campaign in 1984 to oppose Republican President Ronald Reagan and only converted to the Republican Party in 1991. He helped lead a tax revolt in Jersey City in the late 1980s. It failed, but Schundler made a name for himself. He ran for senate and lost, but got an unexpectedly large percent, which later helped him win a special mayoral election in Jersey City against 18 opponents.
Schundler raised the ire of more traditional Republicans by challenging then-Republican Gov. Christine Whitman over issues such as school vouchers, which he promoted.
Who is Bob Franks?
Bob Franks is a former congressman who has spent nearly 25 years in New Jersey politics. Franks lost to Democrat Jon Corzine last year for the U.S. Senate and made a good showing despite Corzine's outspending him by nearly 10 to one.
Franks is seen by some as the heart of traditional Republicanism in New Jersey. He stepped into the race when the previous choice for that branch of the Republicans, acting Gov. Donald DiFrancesco, became bogged down in questions over past financial dealings. Franks got recruited when DiFrancesco withdrew.
Franks has been credited with helping to orchestrate the 1991 Republican takeover of both houses of the state legislature. Although some political pundits predicted Franks would sweep over Schundler, the fight seems to be closer than many expected, with Schundler criticizing Franks on nearly every issue, and drawing ammunition from Franks' voting record as a congressman.
Franks entered politics as a campaign worker in 1976.
At 28, he was elected to the state assembly in Union County, and served 13 years there, also serving during that time as the state's GOP chairman.
In 1993, he was elected to congress and served four terms there.
During that time, Franks supported proposals that included requiring a balanced federal budget, congressional term limits, budget cuts and less government regulation of business.
But Franks has is also pro-choice, pro-gun control and pro-campaign finance reform. He is known for his ability to work out compromises on issues.
There's a Democratic challenge, too
Although the Republican primary for governor seems to have captured many people's attention, there is a challenge in the Democratic side.
James McGreevey of Woodbridge is being challenged by Elliot Greenspan of Ridgefield Park. McGreevey, who is mayor of Woodbridge, lost to incumbent Republican Christie Todd Whitman in 1997 by less than one percentage point. It was such a close race that some political observers believe neither Schundler nor Franks can beat him in November.
Elliot Greenspan calls himself " LaRouche FDR Democrat," and he is challenging McGreevey for the Democratic nomination. He ran for governor in 1985, and while not particularly anti-McGreevey, Greenspan opposes many of the Wall Street-centered solutions offered by Republican Schundler, and believes McGreevey will not campaign strongly enough in this area.
The challenges for primary in the 31st district, which includes Bayonne and part of Jersey City, are:
Democrat Senator Joseph Charles of Jersey City is being challenged by Robert F. Cavanaugh, a Jersey City councilman.
Republicans clashing include Guy Catrillo running on the Bob Franks' line and Martin J. McFadden running on the Schundler ticket.
Democrats include incumbent Joseph Doria of Bayonne, Elba Perez-Cinciarelli of Jersey City and Melissa Holloway of Jersey City.
Republicans Marie Tauro and Herberto O'Neill, both of Jersey City are running on the Bob Franks ticket, while Ador L. Equipado and Ira F. Jersey, both of Jersey City, are running with Bret Schundler.
Challenges for the primary in the 32nd district, which includes part of Jersey City, all of Kearny, Secaucus and North Bergen:
Democratic incumbent Nicholas Sacco is uncontested.
Republican Frank MacCormack of Secaucus on the Schundler ticket and John Pluchino of North Bergen on the Franks ticket.
Democratic incumbents Anthony Impreveduto of Secaucus and Joan Quigley of Jersey City are uncontested.
Republicans Esther Gatria and Frances Cohen, both of North Bergen, running on the Schundler ticket, Colleen Conroy of Harrison and Karen Kowalski Kelly of Harrison on the Franks ticket.
Challenges for the primary in the 33rd district, which includes Hoboken, part of Jersey City, Weehawken, West New York, Guttenberg, are:
Incumbent Democrat Bernard Kenny is uncontested.
Nancy Gaynor of Jersey City running on the Schundler ticket and James Geron of Guttenberg running on the Franks ticket.
Democratic Incumbent Albio Sires of West New York, Rafael Fraguela of Union City and Jesus M. Vega of West New York are running for Democratic spots.
Republicans Philip DeFalco of Hoboken and Alina Lydia Fonteboa of West New York on the Franks Ticket and Sergio Alonso and Helen Pinoargotty, both of Union City, on the Schundler ticket.
The following are running countywide:
For Hudson County Sheriff
Democratic incumbent Joseph Cassidy of Jersey City and Walter Zapoluch of Jersey City are running for the Democratic nomination.
Republican Fred L Goiricelayo of North Bergen is on Franks' ticket and Carlos Betancourt is on the Schundler ticket.
For Office or Register
Democratic incumbent Barbara Donnelly of Jersey City is uncontested.
Republicans Melba Cariaga of Union City is on the Schundler ticket and Daniel Serata is on Franks' ticket.
Republican candidates come to Hudson
A Hudson County Republican may sound like an oxymoron, but with the success of gubernatorial hopeful and Jersey City Republican Bret Schundler, small but active pockets of partisan support are popping up throughout the Democrat-laden county.
One of the most active of these groups is the Hudson County Young Republicans. Tuesday they hosted a Meet the Candidates event at the Shannon Lounge in Hoboken.
"In the past, when I told people that I am a Republican challenger in Hudson County, they laughed," said 31st District candidate and the treasurer of the HCYR, Ira Jersey, before the event. "That is why we have had to be so active, we have to work that much harder to get the word out there and get our names known. Party building at this level is crucial for success."
The affair gave Republican voters the chance to meet their candidates for the upcoming June 26 primaries. The winners of Tuesday's primary election will go on to face a Democratic opponent in the gubernatorial and legislative races in November.
There are currently 18 Republican candidates in the 31, 32nd and 33rd Legislative districts. District 31includes Bayonne and part of Jersey City; District 32 includes East Newark, Edgewater, Fairview, Harrison, part of Jersey City, Kearny, North Bergen, and Secaucus, and District 33 includes Guttenberg, Hoboken, part of Jersey City, Union City, Weehawken and West New York.
Each district has two Senate and four Assembly candidates.
Half are running with Jersey City Mayor and County GOP Chairman Schundler under the Hudson County Republican Committee banner. The other half are running under the Hudson County Republican Party, which former GOP County Chairman Angelo Valente heads, and are supporting Bob Franks in the primary.
Attendees at the event included the more conservative Hudson County Republican Committee members and Schundler supporters, such as Senate candidates Martin McFadden, 31st District, and Frank MacCormack, 32nd District. Joining the challengers from the Senate for the discussion were Assembly candidates and Schundler advocates Ador Equipado, 31st District, Ira Jersey, 31st District, and Esther Gatria, 32nd District.
On the other side of the Republican coin are the Bob Franks supporters and members of the Hudson County Republican Party. Attending the event were Senate candidate Guy Catrillo 31st District, and Assembly challengers Philip DeFalco, 33rd District and Alina Lydia Fonteboa, 33rd District.
Conservative GOP candidate Schundler is anti-abortion, for school vouchers and against what he calls intrusive gun-ownership laws. His opponent for the Republican nomination, Bob Franks, is a moderate four-term congressman who supports abortion rights and environmental causes.
While there seems to be a slight fissure within party lines, event coordinators are confident that after Tuesday the party will become cohesive once again.
"This primary season has seen a heated battle between two Republican leaders, and their legislative candidates are bound to be lively as well," said Louis Lusquinos, vice-chairman of HCYR. "But after the primary I am sure that we will come together and fight to ensure that we have a Republican governor. We all have the same basic ideals and we will join together to promote them against Jim McGreevey this fall."
In 1995, 15 Republican activists formed HCYR. The organization is one of eight county clubs that are part of the New Jersey Young Republican Federation. HCYR allows registered voters between the ages of 18 and 40 to join, and any other Republican may join as an associate member. The club assists political campaigns, volunteers at a soup kitchen, performs voter registration activities, and advocates Republican ideas throughout the county.