Ever the battle in the 12th district

As State Sen. Ellen Karcher prepares to introduce a bill banning dual office holding in the senate tomorrow, Assemblywoman Jennifer Beck from her statehouse vantage point down the hall refuses to see the legislation as little more than Democratic Party tomfoolery.

Beck, who’s challenging Karcher for Karcher’s 12th district seat in the senate, fired what Democrats interpreted as an Aaron Burr-like blast at Assemblyman Michael Panter last week when Panter introduced the assembly version of the bill, which passed.
Now the bill’s over in the senate where Karcher expects the upper house to also sign on to what she sees as an important reform measure.
The politics here are inescapable.
Around the Garden State, the robot-motion safety dance of general election politics goes on in most districts, but the 12th is a war-zone –a Gettysburg of critical high ground where the Democrats in the coming months are expected to throw a lot of sandbags and firepower to ensure that the party doesn’t lose territory.
The fact that Panter and Karcher – running for re-election in this most pugnacious of districts – are the chest-first leaders trumpeting a dual office holding ban is a laughable piece of political theater, in the GOP’s and Beck’s view.
But Karcher said she’s been on the case since 2004, in her early days as a senator, when she introduced bills that would effectively ban dual office holding – not just for new office holders but for all elected officials, including current office holders.
“I have cajoled and lobbied in my caucus to move those bills,” said Karcher, even in the face of skeptical dual office holders intent on guarding their own turf.
Karcher said it’s tough in her caucus when she has to tell dual office holding lawmakers to their faces that she thinks what they’re doing is wrong. Rather than get nothing, she said she ultimately seized on an opportunity to work with Sen. (and former Newark Mayor) Sharpe James to craft the bill that will go before the senate tomorrow, and which bans dual office holding after February of next year.
“Am I disappointed?” said Karcher. “Yes. But this is the farthest we’ve come in 40 years. It diminishes what we’ve done when people get up on a soapbox.”
Beck calls Karcher a “reformer in name only,” who sold out to the bully boy leadership of her party and who must now depend on that leadership for resources in a campaign that Beck insists will be waged with a critical consideration of the senator’s record.
“They talk a good game,” Beck said of Karcher and Panter, “but they crumble under pressure of their leadership with this attitude of something’s better than nothing. My position on dual office holding is you either think it’s right or it’s wrong.”
For her part, Karcher says Beck has transformed her legislative seat into a jockey’s saddle as the assemblywoman’s every move carries the suggestion of a political horse race, in Karcher’s opinion.
“What is her record?” said Karcher. “From my understanding, there really is none.”
Beck fires back that it was her advocacy that threw the spotlight on the travesty of flat funding for the district’s school system over a five year period, an issue to which Karcher only later responded, the assemblywoman said.
Ever the battle in the 12th district