I chose to examine the 7th District congressional race because it was local to Woodbridge Township, the town where I live and work. There were four candidates running: Bob Franks, Republican; Maryanne Connelly, Democrat; Darren Young, Libertarian; and Richard C. Martin, NJ Conservative Party. This race was essentially text book. Bob Franks, Republican, the incumbent with a much larger bank account and a good amount of name recognition won with 52% of the vote beating Maryanne Connelly, Democrat who had 45% of the vote. The other two candidates whose total votes made up only 3% did nothing and the FEC had no record of contributions or expenditures. Thus focus of this paper will be exclusively on the race between Connelly and Franks.
My goal is to begin this paper by reviewing this race from the perspective of an interested but not active constituent. By this I mean someone who cares enough to read newspapers, watch televised debates, read direct mailings and talk to candidates should they make themselves available but not enough to go out of their way to contact the candidates.
The first part of this paper is written from that perspective. I will then take a look at the differences in the candidates' stands on issues, their finances, and the respective directions in their campaigns. Finally, I will take a look at the results and try to evaluate what could have been done differently to better inform voters and possibly create more interest in the process itself.
Tell me why I should vote for you I thought that by being a resident of Colonia NJ, a town in the 7th congressional district, I would have more then enough information available to me to make an informed decision. I could not have been more wrong. I can only speculate as to the reasons for this as I was not involved in either campaign. Woodbridge Township has approximately 31,476 registered voters, not all of whom live in the 7th district. 11,859 of these are registered as Democrats, 3071 are registered as Republicans, and 43 are listed as Independents. Obviously Woodbridge Township strongly favors Democratic candidates. The local government is comprised of a Democratic Mayor, a town council that is 100% Democratic, a Democratic state senator, a Democratic state assemblyperson and a Republican congressman. It is no surprise then that although Connelly did lose the district-wide election she did win in Woodbridge by a vote of 8,678 to Franks 6,394. Also Pete Dalina, a local tavern owner and father of one of our councilmen was running for County Freeholder. This probably brought out more democratic voters. This was a long-winded way of saying that it really would not matter who the democrats put on the ticket, that person probably would have won in Woodbridge. Using this as the basis for making decisions as to where to spend money in a campaign it would then not make sense to devote a lot of resources to Woodbridge Township with the exception of GOTV which is not usually paid for by the candidates anyway.
Most of the information I was able to gather was from coverage given by the free media. The first I read of Maryanne Connelly was on September 24 when the Home News Tribune ran an article about women congressional candidates. Connelly and Theresa de Leon were the only two women running for congress in New Jersey this year. The focus of this article was mostly about Connelly and her background as a retired AT&T employee and Fanwood mayor, but never touched upon any issues. There were a few articles mentioning Bob Franks but they were mostly in the context of his position on the Budget Committee and his opinions on the Bill Clinton sex scandal. It was not until the last two weeks of October that more information was being printed. This information was obviously fed to the writers of the articles by the candidates' offices. They contained basic background material and brief synopsis of the individual candidates' positions on issues.
I learned from a newspaper article that two public debates were being held. One was being televised on News 12 New Jersey. At that time that station was not available in my area. Fortunately News 12 would let me purchase a copy for the price of only a tape.
The format of the televised debate was actually quite good. It started out with reporters and commentators asking questions they felt needed to be asked. They then proceeded to take phone calls from the general public. Unfortunately they only received two calls. This was probably the best source I had for obtaining information on the views of the candidates from the candidates.
I received one mailing. Actually it was not even from either of these two candidates. It was from the Democratic Party and the focus was on Pete Delina who was running for Middlesex County Freeholder and mentioned Maryanne Connelly as being positioned on Line A along with himself and others. From Bob Franks or the Republican Party I received nothing. I did hear one radio as for Maryanne Connelly in which Hillary Clinton was speaking on her behalf. Again, nothing from Bob Franks.
On a positive note both candidates did have web pages which clearly stated their positions and gave you the opportunity to email them. I e-mailed both of the candidates asking for more information pertaining to their individual platforms. I did get responses from both candidates. From Bob Franks who was using his congressional e-mail address I received a canned "thank you for caring" message in which none of my questions or concerns had been addressed. From Maryanne Connelly I received a personal response in which she addressed or tried to address every one of my concerns. It was "signed" Maryanne Connelly. This was impressive whether or not it was really her sending the message.
Lastly I attended the Woodbridge Township Street Fair. Bob Franks had a booth set there dedicated to his congressional campaign. Maryanne Connelly did not. The Woodbridge Democratic Committee was handing out her literature. I did not see either candidate there personally but I was told that they both showed up. I did however speak to representatives from both booths. Nobody knew much of anything except the names of the candidates. I asked a few questions about issues that might affect the people of Woodbridge but never got any answers. From Bob Franks' representative I got a single piece of literature and a balloon and was told to call campaign headquarters for more information. From the Woodbridge Democratic Club I received a single piece of literature and a lot of "I don't knows." Very impressive.
Who are these people and what do they stand for? No paper on a political campaign is complete without taking a look at the backgrounds of the candidates. Going into the election Bob Franks was a third term congressman who served on the House Budget Committee which prides itself on producing the first balanced budget in years and serves the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He co-chairs the Northeast Midwest Congressional Coalition, the Congressional Task Force on Manufacturing, and the Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus. Prior to his congressional career he served in the New Jersey General Assembly and was Chairman of the Assembly Policy and Rules Committee. Franks also served as Republican State Chairman in 1988 and 1989 then again from 1990 to 1992. He lives in Berkeley Heights.
Maryanne Connelly was one of only 2 female candidates running in New Jersey. Connelly has been the Mayor of Fanwood since 1995, served on the Fanwood City Council for 9 years and was Police Commissioner of the City of Fanwood. She is also Past President of NJ Elected Women Officials, Chair of the Board of Trustees for Benedictine Academy, and a member of Human Resources Planning Society Organization of International Consultants. She is retired form Human Resources of At&t where she was employed for 28 years.