In the third district, which has been largely ignored by state Republicans after their preferred candidates were defeated in the GOP primary, two daily newspapers have endorsed Republican challenger Dr. Robert Villare for State Assembly over the newly-elected incumbent, Celeste Riley (D-Bridgeton).
The Gloucester County Times and the Courier-Post today endorsed Villare, a surgeon, over Riley, who won a special election convention earlier this year after Douglas Fisher resigned his Assembly seat to become state Secretary of Agriculture.
Both newspapers are backing a Democrat, five-term incumbent John Burzichelli, for re-election.
The GCT says that Villare "would be an asset to the Legislature as it copes with coming real-world health care changes in Washington."
"Unabashedly conservative, Villare's views are unlikely to dominate the Assembly, no matter how the statewide results go next Tuesday. But anti-tax, anti-big-spending policies aren't given sufficient voice in Trenton, and their loudest advocates often can't be taken seriously," the editorial said. "In contrast, Villare's measured comments, for example, against excessive state school aid for urban ‘Abbott' districts could influence this debate going forward"
Burzichelli, the GCT said, has "some difficulty moving good ideas through both houses," and as Mayor of Paulsboro, he is a dual officeholder. But "at least Burzichelli thinks about this stuff coherently, which is more than can be said for some of his Trenton colleagues" and says he is too competent a lawmaker to remove him" because he holds two elective offices.
"Riley shows genuine interest in solving socio-economic problems that are pronounced in her part of the district, and would provide good constituent service. But Villare is the more dynamic newcomer and deserves a shot," the editorial said. "The other Republican in the race, Lee Lucas of Gibbstown, has been disowned by his own party's leadership. He wears this as a badge of courage, but GOP leaders are right to reject his extreme survival-of-the-fittest views. Voters should, too."
The Courier-Post is less worried about Burzichelli's ability to move legislation through the Senate, now that his running mate, State Sen. Stephen Sweeney (D-West Deptford) is poised to become the new Senate President.
"Burzichelli envisions more combined government services to save taxpayers money: He thinks countywide police could be the next thing coming. We'd like to see him push that in Trenton."
But unlike the GCT, the Courier-Post called on Burzichelli to give up his mayoral post.
"We're endorsing Villare because he has a lot of fresh ideas. He wants to fix New Jersey's Medicaid program, which he says is one of the worst in the country. As a doctor who serves as medical director at Memorial Hospital in Salem, he knows the ins and outs of this issue and would be the right person to work on this reform in Trenton," the editorial said. "Villare really gets that the size and expense of government needs to be cut if property taxes are ever going to be lowered. Trenton needs people who are clear about that."