A long-serving state legislator from North Bergen vs. an upstart Kearny businessman and former Board of Education member. A Secaucus construction code official and his West New York lower-chamber running mate, against a Realtor/community activist and one other. Those are the races for the state Senate and Assembly in New Jersey’s 32nd Legislative District.
The 32nd Legislative District includes the Hudson County towns of East Newark, Guttenberg, Harrison, Kearny, North Bergen, Secaucus, and West New York.
The 32nd Legislative District includes North Bergen, West New York, Secaucus, East Newark, Edgewater, Fairview, Guttenberg, Harrison, and Kearny.
Heading the incumbent Democratic ticket is State Sen. Mayor Nicholas Sacco, also the North Bergen mayor. He is running against Republican Paul Castelli of Kearny, a businessman.
Sacco’s running mates are Assemblyman Vincent Prieto of Secaucus and Assemblywoman Angelica Jimenez of West New York.
The challenging Republican ticket includes businesswoman Maria Malavasi-Quartello and Lee Marie Gomez, both of West New York and both vying for Assembly seats.
In the Senate race, Sacco is the well known entity, first elected in 1993. He touts his experience in education and his strong anti-crime stance.
“I am running for re-election to continue the progress we have made in ensuring that all New Jersey families can feel safe and secure,” he said. “I sponsored the original legislation that created the state DNA database, which has helped law enforcement convict thousands of criminals, while also clearing many innocent people of charges.”
Sacco also feels he has been a positive force for the businesses in the state’s urban areas.
“I sponsored the law extending the Urban Enterprise Zone program into North Bergen and several other communities,” he said, which helped transform the Tonnelle Avenue corridor from a blighted area to one of viable retail establishments.
Castelli believes he is the better candidate for the Senate seat because he more closely resembles the district’s constituents.
“The reason I am running is because I believe that the residents of the 32nd District need a representative that will reflect their values and principles,” he said, citing what he said was overspending, overtaxing, overborrowing, and overregulation in the state between fiscal years 2003 and 2010. “As the Christie Administration has done in the last four years, I will implement fiscal responsibility and accountability.”
Castelli also said he feels his service on the Kearny Board of Education since makes him uniquely qualified to address school issues. He listed as his accomplishments “being the chief architect for two district budgets that were the first to pass in 12 years” and being the “primary agent in overhauling the entire health and pension plan for teachers by moving from state to private coverage.”
Prieto was first sworn into the Assembly in 2004, first filling an unexpired term, and was elected to his first full term the following year. He was recently voted chairman of the Hudson County Democratic organization.
“I am the chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee and a member of the legislative leadership team that helps shape the state’s policy agenda,” Prieto said. “This a valuable asset for Hudson County … I will continue to use my influence to back policies that help improve the economy, support public education and reduce middle class taxes here in Hudson County.”
Prieto cited his work on the Meadowlands Tax Sharing one-year measure to bring tax relief to North Bergen and Secaucus as one of his accomplishments.
Working to restore tax rebates for seniors and middle class families are also among his goals.
“I will be at the forefront of these and other progressive priorities,” he said.
The Weehawken native and longtime West New York resident and Realty business owner has been a community-minded individual all of her life, something she credits her late father, Mario Malavasi, a onetime town committeeman, with teaching her.
She has served on the West New York Board of Adjustment, was a town committeewoman, and established a neighborhood block watch in her district. But she may be most known for overseeing the Coats for Kids program, which has been helping Hudson County families since 1995.
If elected, Malavasi-Quartello’s focus would be on the state’s seniors and children.
“First and foremost would be to protect the elderly from abuse and exploitation,” she said. “In addition, to make certain that our children will be provided the proper education and tools needed to be successful in New Jersey.”
Among her many community honors received is the New Jersey Head Start Program Award.
Assemblywoman Jimenez is completing her first term in the Assembly. She serves on the Education, Health and Senior Services, and Housing and Local Government committees. Jimenez is a member of the New Jersey State Democratic Committee, and is still active locally, serving as a member of the West New York Housing Corporation and chairwoman of the West New York Democratic Municipal Committee.
“These last two years have been a wonderful experience and I am running for re-election to be a voice for working women throughout our state who are struggling to get by,” Jimenez said. “I am committed to working to help them by decreasing the tax burden on the middle class and restoring access to preventive health care services.”
She is also working on an initiative with Sacco to regulate jitney buses in the county after the death in West New York of an 8-month-old baby in July. The baby was killed when a jitney crashed into a pole, sending it down on the child’s stroller.
Gomez said she is running to serve on the state education committee and work to upgrade New Jersey’s schools.
“We need to prepare our future generations to face a competitive global economy,” she said.
The economy is always on her mind in the business world, and she said that in that venue she’s constantly considering the bottom line, and believes that thinking would serve her well in the Assembly.
“If elected, besides my involvement in education issues, I would work on making government less costly to the average person’s household budget. I’m all about the numbers.”
Another initiative she would undertake would be helping Hudson and Bergen counties and other northern New Jersey communities recover from Hurricane Sandy.
“I think I can do a better job, and I’m asking the voters to give me that opportunity,” she said.
Editor’s Note: Gomez was asked for a photo, but one was not received by press time.
Joseph Passantino may be reached at JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.