Monday, February 12, 2007

The Fightin' twelfth

(I wrote this for Blue Jersey's Forty District Strategy. I'm also posting it here because it gives us a nice little picture of the Center of NJ. -Sharon)

The 12th Legislative District is cut across Central New Jersey, including a little of Mercer County but much more of Monmouth. Towns in the 12th are: Colts Neck Township, East Windsor Township, Englishtown, Fair Haven, Freehold Borough & Freehold Township, Hightstown, Little Silver, Manalapan Township, Marlboro Township, Millstone Township, Oceanport, Red Bank, Shrewsbury Borough & Township, and Tinton Falls.

The district has a population of 215,000 (2000 Census) and is mostly suburban/urban- only 452 live on areas considered "farm." The population is 80% white, 6% African-American, 7% Hispanic and 6% Asian. There is a striking contrast in economic situation in the twelfth; Colts Neck has a median household income of $309,190 and virtually no poverty, whereas Shrewsbury Twp. has a median hh income of $36,875, and both Freehold Borough and Red Bank both have 12% of the population below the poverty line.

Much of the district is being developed (or recently has been.) If you ask anyone who has lived here 25 years or more, you'll get the stories about how "all this used to be farmland." Some of the big issues here, therefore, are sprawl, property taxes, and road congestion. Consolidation of towns is also an issue, as the district contains several "doughnut" boroughs which are completely surrounded by other towns, including Englishtown, Freehold borough and Hightstown. It also contains a successful example of regional school district consolidation- the Freehold Regional High School District, which contains six high schools covering eight municipalities.

The district is represented in the Senate by Ellen Karcher (D) and is one of only three districts to have split representation in the Assembly: Michael J. Panter (D) and Jennifer Beck (R). In 2003, Karcher won her seat by beating Senate Co-President John Bennett III, who was under scrutiny for double-billing some legal work. In the 2005 Assembly race, incumbent Panter very narrowly defeated Little Silver Councilman Declan O'Scanlon while the other incumbent, Dr. Robert Morgan, fell to Beck. Karcher is seen as somewhat vulnerable and, of course, Beck is running for the Senate seat; she has a primary challenger, Manalapan Township Committeeman Joseph Locricchio. O'Scanlon has announced that he will run for the Assembly again, as have Fair Haven Borough Council President Thomas Gilmour and Manalapan municipal attorney Caroline Casagrande. Panter and Karcher are running for re-election, but Panter's running mate has not been selected yet.

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