With few competitive legislative races on the horizon this November, Republicans in the 14th District are hoping to knock off what they say is a vulnerable Assembly Democrat and give the GOP one more seat in the lower chamber
Republicans say Dan Benson, who replaced Democrat Linda Greenstein when Greenstein moved to the state Senate, could present an opportunity for them and they have begun targeting Benson in releases designed to paint the short-time incumbent as another tax and spend Democrat.
The campaign is creating a strange dynamic in the 14th as Republicans have so far left Democratic Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo out of their attacks.
In their most recent release, Republican challengers David Fried and Wayne Wittman call on Benson to introduce legislation that would ban legislators from collecting more than one public salary. The release makes no mention of DeAngelo, who has served in the Assembly since 2007.
A release from the campaign sent out last month called on Benson to oppose any increase in the gas tax. That release also made no mention of DeAngelo.
Fried said he and DeAngelo are friends and he respects the Democratic incumbent. As for Benson, the Republican challenger said his term should end in November.
“I can’t speak for my running mate, but Wayne and I have a good relationship and I have a lot of respect for him,” Fried said. “But we’re looking at Dan’s record. As a Hamilton councilman, Dan was part of a team that left a $12 million deficit,” he said.
Benson was already gone from the council in Hamilton when the township was forced to deal with the structural deficit. Republicans blamed the debacle on former Democratic Mayor Glen Gilmore, who ran alongside Benson in 2001. DeAngelo served on the same council and also was a running mate of Gilmore
As for his performance as an assemblyman, Fried said Benson took part in a rally headlined by the Rev. Jesse Jackson Wednesday calling for maintaining the status quo on state worker benefits and salaries.
“How can everything stay the same when there is a $100 billion deficit (in the pension and health care funds), Fried said.
For his part, Benson preferred to tout his own team’s quality.
Wayne and I served on (Hamilton) council together and Linda and I have run together before,” he said. “The 14th is always going to be a competitive and spirited race. Linda, Wayne and I are running as a team and we know we’re going to work hard to win as team.”
As for his appearance at the Jackson rally, Benson said standing up for collective bargaining is a major tenet of the Democrats’ platform but added that clearly some changes to the current system need to be made.
“In the 14th district we stand up for collective bargaining and making sure that changes that are fair are done at the bargaining table. I think everyone expects there will be some changes but I think the best way to achieve those is with everyone at the table.”