10 Dynamics That Will Shape the LD38 Race

n the LD38 Assembly race, incumbent Democrats Tim Eustace and Joe Lagana are facing Republican challengers Anthony Cappola and Mark DiPisa. Which issues will impact the outcome in the highly contested Bergen county district?

DiPisa and Capolla are running for the LD38 assembly seats.
DiPisa and Cappola are running for the LD38 assembly seats.

In the LD38 Assembly race, incumbent Democrats Tim Eustace and Joe Lagana are facing Republican challengers Anthony Cappola and Mark DiPisa. While taxes are front and center in the Bergen County races, which issues will impact the outcome in the highly contested district?

  1. Local mayor and council races. In Bergen County’s municipality-heavy landscape, eight of the 14 LD38 towns will be having mayoral races this year. Those races—not to mention the inclusion of Holly Tedesco-Santos on the Paramus council ticket—may help to boost numbers during an election year that has generated little excitement so far. In Fair Lawn and Paramus, the local races in particular could really shape the larger election.
  2. Port Authority. Since the Bridgegate scandal rocked New Jersey, Port Authority reform has been a hot topic in the legislature. While both Democrats and Republicans in LD38 have expressed similar views on reform there are points of departure. Republicans think that transparency and voter input are critical while Democrats think legislative oversight is a crucial component.
  3. Labor. The Democratic candidates have significant labor support. Republicans may play this to their advantage, presenting Lagana and Eustace as a rubberstamp for labor-friendly policies. On the other hand, labor support might bring Democrats out on top because of the vote-getting power those groups hold.
  4. Gaming in the Meadowlands. With Atlantic City struggling and New Jersey looking for more sources of income and tourism, the proposition of bringing casinos to North Jersey is being heavily considered. Though it is not on the ballot this year, the issue has the potential to become a hot topic during the next term. Republicans think that anything that can improve economic standing of North Jersey should be considered, while Democrats would support the idea if it helps to fuel job growth. In March, both Eustace and Lagana voted “yea” to a bill that establishes a workforce training program for former casino workers.
  5. LBGT issues. Republican Congressman Scott Garrett (R-5) thrust LGBT issues in New Jersey into the spotlight. In LD38, LGBT issues could be a point of discussion because Assemblyman Tim Eustace is openly gay and both he and Lagana advocate for LGBT issues. Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-21), who is a strong ally to Cappola and DiPisa, recently made a donation to openly gay Republican candidate for Assembly in LD34. The Republican candidates say they believe every resident deserves equal protection under the law.
  6. Environmental issues. Several environmental laws could change policies in LD38. One such law regards changing oil shipping regulations on freight lines that cut directly through the district. Eustace has gone on the record calling for more regulations to make the trains safer. He has also been a champion for other issues like support of the environmental protection budget. Republicans take a similar stance. According to their campaign, the safety of residents is the “number one concern” here. They feel that Congress should review current safety standards and enact stronger ones if needed.
  7. The gas tax. With the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) dwindling, a gas tax is a proposed solution to fix the state’s crumbling roads and bridges. The Republican LD38 candidates have received significant support from Bramnick who has mentioned he would support levying a gas tax in New Jersey provided such a tax was imposed with cuts to other taxes. In LD38, the Republicans have put forward a hardline stance against raising taxes across the board and have stated that they will fight to oppose a gas tax increase. Will they be able to reconcile that difference? The Democrats also do not favor a gas tax.
  8. Presidential politics. With Governor Chris Christie seeking the presidential nomination, and with polls both nationally and in his home state showing low approval ratings, the Democrats might benefit from a lack of desire among some to vote for someone they feel might push his policies.
  9. The lottery. The New Jersey lottery was privatized in 2013. Now, after the company that runs it has been low on earnings for the past two years, the Assembly is calling for hearings on the matter. It is likely that this issue will still be on the agenda as the next term starts in January making it an important one for both the sitting assemblymen and candidates. Republicans think the issue needs to be further explored while Democrats think that the privatization needs to be scrutinized to bring New Jersey’s lottery revenue up to par with other states.
  10. Education. While Eustace and Lagana have the support of the NJEA, the Republicans do not feel that education in LD38 is on an equal playing field with much of the state. According to their campaign, they are looking to change the funding formula so that the district’s schools can improve without increasing taxes.

Assemblyman Joe Lagana.

10 Dynamics That Will Shape the LD38 Race