Labor endorsement sparks district 1 battle

Assemblyman Jeff Van Drew denied that he went underground last year in the midst of the public service employee debate. That was the hard charge Sen. Nicholas Asselta made today moments beforeAsselta received the support of the state AFL-CIO in his re-election bid.

Facing a challenge in the 1st district from Van Drew, Asselta drew a distinction between his own and his opponent’s response to Sen. Stephen Sweeney’s call last year for public service employees to man up and accept a 15% salary and benefits cut.Asselta claims he was on the front line of indignation, while Van Drew was missing in action.

“I clearly said I supported our public employees,” Van Drew responded today. “I said at the time that politicians shouldn’t blame employees of New Jersey for what is the fault of politicians.”

Having addressed the labor convention in Atlantic City on Monday, the Democrat shrugged off the AFL-CIO’s subsequent endorsement of his rival, and called the union leadership’s relationship with the Republican senator “personal…social.”

Asselta’s labor record doesn’t run as deep as Van Drew’s, said the challenger.

“It’s one thing when you’re squeezed for a vote, it’s another to move legislation,” Van Drew said. “I’m glad the senator voted for paid family leave, for example, when it was brought up for a vote – but I’m the 3rd or 4th prime sponsor of that bill.”

The 6-year assemblyman says he has a 100% pro-labor voting record, has front lined it on prevailing wage and outsourcing issues, and can look back on walking the picket line with nurses, bricklayers and food and commercial workers at various stages of his public career.

A dentist, Van Drew says he once held union jobs in a cement factory and as a meat cutter.

Though Asselta beat him to the punch with the AFL-CIO endorsement today, Van Drew said he is endorsed by the Building Trades and South Jersey Labor Council, and says he’s won a district race before without the backing of the AFL-CIO. Labor endorsement sparks district 1 battle