Home>Highlight>Steinhardt slams Mazzeo, Houghtaling, Downey for stop-gap budget votes

State Republican Chairman Doug Steinhardt. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

Steinhardt slams Mazzeo, Houghtaling, Downey for stop-gap budget votes

NJGOP state chairman continues early attacks against vulnerable Democrats

By Nikita Biryukov, July 03 2020 3:21 pm

New Jersey Republican State Committee Chairman Doug Steinhardt continued to lob bombs at some of the state’s most vulnerable Assembly Democrats.

The chairman on Friday attacked Assemblymen Vince Mazzeo (D-Northfield) and Eric Houghtaling (D-Neptune) and Assemblywoman Joann Downey (D-Freehold) over yes votes the legislators cast on a three-month stop-gap budget signed into law earlier this week.

“Atlantic County has the highest unemployment rate in New Jersey, and suffered another gut-punch this week when Gov Murphy shut down more economic activity,” Steinhardt said. “Somehow, Assemblyman Vincent Mazzeo thought this was a good time to raise taxes on the elderly and middle class in LD2 by zeroing out the senior freeze and the homestead benefit.”

On Thursday, Steinhardt launched a similar attack against Assemblymen Andrew Zwicker (D-South Brunswick) and Roy Freiman (D-Hillsborough) in an effort to soften up Democrats in one of an increasingly-small number of purple districts in the state.

The thrust behind Friday’s attacks appears to be little different.

“Neptune Food Bank Fulfill NJ just yesterday posted footage of a line of vehicles over a mile and a half long waiting for food. At nearly the same time, Democrat elected officials representing this town and the surrounding area were voting to hike taxes on these same people,” Steinhardt said. “Assemblyman Houghtaling and Assemblywoman Downey shamefully voted to gut the senior freeze and the homestead benefit, which raises taxes on the elderly and middle-low income New Jerseyans.”

The second legislative district, which Mazzeo represents, was host to one of the state’s most competitive legislative race in 2019.

Though Mazzeo won re-election by a mostly-comfortable 2,305-vote margin that year, his running mate, Assemblyman John Armato (D-Buena Vista), secured a 986-vote victory over former Brigantine Mayor Philip Guenther and Atlantic County Freeholder John Risley only after election officials counted provisional and late-arriving mail-in ballots.

The second is one of only two districts in the state to elect a senator and assemblymen belonging to different parties.

State Sen. Chris Brown (R-Ventnor) has held the district’s seat since 2018 and served in the Assembly for six years before then.

Both Armato and Mazzeo have declined to rule out a bid against him in 2021.

“Making matters worse, this week Governor Murphy fully funded his union cronies’ pension program, and cut a sweetheart deal with public employees to guarantee jobs amidst unprecedented turmoil,” Steinhardt said. “Mazzeo is clearly on board with Murphy’s private sector pain and public sector gain plan.”

Republicans will likely have a harder time budging voters on Houghtaling and Downey.

For one, the LD11 Democrats faced little trouble winning re-election in a district that, before 2015, hadn’t elected a Democrat in decades.

In 2019, they won without much contest, defeating Freehold Township Board of Education president Michael Amoroso by about 2,500 votes and beating former Bob Hugin staffer Matthew Wooley by roughly 3,000.

At the same time, Monmouth Democrats have expanded on local gains made under State Sen. Vin Gopal’s (D-Long Branch) tenure as county chairman.

It’s possible that redistricting will make either district more or less Republican, but it’s clear Steinhardt is eyeing Assembly seats his party failed to win last year.

“As we move towards the 2021 election, NJGOP will make sure that voters in LD11 know that in the midst of a global pandemic and recession, Downey and Houghtaling voted to jack up taxes on the elderly and middle class,” the chairman said. “We’re confident their constituents will punish them for that at the polls next fall.”

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