Residents of the 31st District – which includes all of Bayonne and approximately half of Jersey City – will be voting two representatives to the state Assembly this November.
The election pits two Republicans from Bayonne against two Democratic incumbents who are allied with the political machine.
Republicans Daniel Edward Beckelman and Michael J. Alonzo hope to beat incumbent assemblymen Charles Mainor and Jason O’Donnell.
Beckelman, at 25, is one of the youngest candidates in the state.
He said he hopes to draw on the Bayonne and Jersey City residents who quietly vote Republican every year.
“I want to give voters a choice.” – Daniel Edward Beckelman
Originally from Bergen and Essex counties, Beckelman moved to Jersey City in 2010, and earlier this year moved to Bayonne.
Beckelman is a Republican political activist in urban northern New Jersey and currently serves as one of the executive directors for the Hudson County Republicans. He has a degree in political science and journalism from The College of New Jersey. Calling himself a moderate conservative in ideology, Beckelman was vice president of the New Jersey College Democrats.
But in summer of 2006, he joined the GOP. Beckelman was active in campaigning for Tom Kean Jr. and victorious Ewing Mayor Jack Ball. He was elected treasurer of TCNJ’s College Republicans in 2006 and is the only person in the school’s recent history to have served on both the Democratic and Republican e-boards during his college career.
In 2008, Beckelman served as campaign manager of Roland Straten’s campaign in New Jersey’s 8th Congressional District. In 2009, Beckelman was co-coordinator of the campaign in Belleville Township for Gov. Chris Christie. After moving to Jersey City in 2010, Beckelman was appointed co-executive director of the Hudson County Republican Organization.
He said he knew about Hudson County Republicans and started to work with them when he arrived in the county.
“I want to give voters a choice,” he said, hoping to break the stranglehold that Democrats have maintained in the county.
He said he wants to present voters with ideas, and hopes that they vote for him based on these rather than party labels.
Jobs and unemployment are perhaps top on the list of concerns among people he’s talked to, as well as taxes. Even before the recession hit in 2008, New Jersey wasn’t showing a lot of economic growth. He said incentives to create jobs and tax breaks are among some of the solutions. He said he would like to work with technical start up companies.
He also said he wants to see the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail line expanded to the western slope of Jersey City and other sections in order to provide easier access to places like Hoboken and New York. He sees it as an important tool in helping to increase economic growth in Jersey City.
Beckelman said he is in favor of school choice, which would allow parents to send their kids to religious or private schools and get some benefit from the taxes they pay.
“Charter schools are a good option,” he said. “They are more open to the public.”
He has been campaigning door to door, targeting voters in low turnout areas.
He said he’d like to see people earning more, and the state promoting more technology based businesses, and alternative energy resources.
He said he chose to come back to Hudson County where his grandfather owned a business in Jersey City for many years.
Came from the area
Michael J. Alonso has been campaigning on a theme of “rebuilding New Jersey one home at a time.”
He attended St. Vincent’s Elementary School and then Marist High School in Bayonne before going on to New Jersey City University to pursue a career in criminal justice and politics.
Life sidetracked him a little, and he currently owns a children’s entertainment company in Bayonne.
He said when he last ran for Congress in the 10th Congressional District two years ago, which has a small slice of Bayonne, he didn’t really know the ins and outs.
“I learned a lot from that,” he said.
Like his running mate, he said he wants to give voters a choice.
The fate of Social Security and other related programs for senior citizens concerns him, but he feels that he can have the greatest impact for local residents if he serves in the state Assembly.
He also believes that the biggest issue today is the need of jobs, and sees the need for Bayonne and the district to become more business friendly.
Alonso doesn’t agree with his running mate on everything, particularly on the concept of charter schools, but believes that schools should return to the concept of teaching kids about trades such as plumbing and carpentry, and that opportunities should be provided to allow them to get hands on experience.
He said the loss of this knowledge hurts the community and that these are the kinds of jobs that are always needed.
“Homes will always need to be fixed,” he said.
But he said the cost of educating children has to be lowered, and part of this is a result of state mandates.
He also is critical of how local businesses become overburdened with fees. Even if they are small, they mount up and could make a difference as to whether a business makes money or not.
Businesses already suffer from insurance fees, and other fees such as those related to the accepting of credit cards, and the government can help by making the cost of doing business less by not imposing additional fees.
He said he and Beckelman are part of the next generation of politics, and hope to rebuild the Republican base from the ground up. They recently built the Bayonne Republican Club, and are in the process of rebuilding the local party so that it will provide residents with alternatives that do not currently exist.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.