With the upset victory of Robert Villare and Lee Lucas, in the 3rd Legislative District’s Republican primary for state Assembly, state Republicans have largely given up hope of competing there.
As of election night, the only clear victor was Robert Villare, a surgeon from West Deptford. For the other Assembly seat, Lee Lucas, a commercial oven repairman who has run for freeholder and Greenwich council before, led Arthur Marchand, a former Cumberland County Prosecutor, Surrogate and Freeholder, by 66 votes. Greenwich Township Mayor George Shivery trailed slightly behind. So far, nobody has requested a recount, although candidates have 15 days to do so.
“At this point, it is not likely we will commit any monetary resources,” said Assembly Republican Victory Executive Director Mark Duffy.
The political arm of the Assembly Republicans recruited Marchand into the race. He agreed, but only after extracting a promise that they would put a significant amount of money into the district. But those same Republicans think that Villare and Lucas have liabilities that will weigh them down in a race against incumbent Democrats Celeste Riley (R-Bridgeton) and John Burzichelli (R-Paulsboro).
For Villare, the issue is his recent voter registration in Delaware, which leaves him open to challenges about whether he has been a New Jersey resident for the two year period required to serve in the legislature. Villare only registered in New Jersey in March – well after he kicked off his campaign – and was assailed by Republican opponents with questions about how long he has lived in-state. In March, Gloucester County Superintendent of Elections Stephanie Salvatore said she had no record of him ever being registered in New Jersey, though in rare circumstances voter registration records from other counties that are over four years old might not turn up in the system she used. Villare, for his part, responded that he lived in Delaware for a short time but was a New Jersey native.
The concern about Lucas arises from an April letter he sent to the Gloucester County Times. In it, he bemoaned spending stimulus money on the “hopeless,” striking what many considered a social Darwinist tone too reactionary for the general election. He said that the way stimulus funds were being distributed was tantamount to socialism, which “preserves the weak at the expense of the strong.”
“With mathematical certainty, this will cause a decline in the quality of the citizenry…. As a Republican candidate for an Assembly nomination, I by no means believe the government should be spending so much money on the so-called poor. I think it’s more important to preserve the strong,” he wrote.
Lucas’s follow-up letter a month later, in which he clarified the type of people that he considered “inferior,” did nothing to allay those fears.
“We know Republicans will be outspent, in some case three to one or more, in our top offensive districts. No sense expending valuable resources defending liabilities when we have real pick up opportunities in a number of other districts,” said Duffy.
Lucas, however, refused apologize for being politically incorrect and blamed the Republican leadership – including GOP gubernatorial nominee Chris Christie — for essentially supporting the same policies as Democrats.
“In my letters I put out what is the cause of the fiscal problem. If you want to cut spending in the budget you look at the biggest things: the Department of Education and the Department of Human Services,” he said. “One can deduce that the cause of the fiscal problem is aid to the low-income communities… They’re not willing to solve the problem.”
“They expect us to pay for their medical care, and many aren’t citizens,” he said. “They expect us to do this, and we have to be careful not to offend them.”