Republican Assembly candidates in the second district attacked Assemblymen Vince Mazzeo (D-Northfield) and John Armato (D-Buena) for “yes” votes they cast on a bill that would eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for a series of drug and property crimes, as well as official misconduct and related offenses.
“The last thing the State of New Jersey, and especially Atlantic City, needs is more politicians getting off scot-free,” former Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian said. “I ran for mayor to clean up city hall after decades of special deals and kickbacks robbed Atlantic City of our full potential. I cannot imagine why Armato and Mazzeo have wasted the government’s time twice on this self-dealing nonsense and now fully support the effort to put the abusers of public trust ahead of the public itself.”
Despite their relatively short lives, the mandatory minimums bills have a storied history in Trenton. Their initial version only removed sentencing guidelines for non-violent drug and property crimes, but State Sen. Nicholas Sacco (D-North Bergen) amended the bill to also remove minimum sentences for official misconduct.
Gov. Phil Murphy balked at the changes, which went against the recommendations of the Criminal Sentencing and Disposition Commission, upon whose advice the bill was based.
Democrats passed the bill anyway. Mazzeo and Armato were the only two members of their party in the chamber to vote against it when it came before the Assembly in March, though two other Democrats abstained.
Murphy vetoed the bill, as he signaled he would, and he did so again after an identical bill was sent to his chamber this month. Mazzeo and Armato cast “yes” votes that time, evidencing a shift on a policy advocates say has disproportionately impacted New Jerseyans of color.
“Vince Mazzeo and John Armato should be applauded for working to end the cycle of abuse for low-level offenders,” said Paul Weborg, their campaign manager. “Meanwhile, as someone who represented Atlantic City for four years, Don Guardian should know better than to throw his support behind a system that has destroyed juvenile lives due to a lack of judicial discretion. It’s no wonder Atlantic County voters ended his career, just like Vince Polistina and soon-to-be Claire Swift who will join the Team of Losers.”
Polistina is running against Mazzeo for State Sen. Chris Brown’s (D-Ventnor City) seat in the upper chamber. Atlantic County Commissioner Caren Fitzpatrick has the Democratic nod for the incumbent’s Assembly seat.
It’s worth noting: Mazzeo and Armato did not sponsor any version of the mandatory minimums bill, but that’s little detriment for the Republicans.
“As someone with law enforcement experience at the NJ Attorney General’s Office, I cannot believe Assemblymen Armato and Mazzeo would take tools away from prosecutors who are aggressively pursuing corrupt politicians,” said former Deputy Attorney General Claire Swift.