Bergen Runs for Assembly
Springfield Township Attorney among Democratic challengers for Republican incumbents.
Will the fourth time be the charm?
Springfield Township Attorney Bruce Bergen is again running for the State Assembly following three unsuccessful campaigns for a seat at the Assmbly. Former Cranford Mayor Norman Albert, a veteran campaigner himself, joins him on the ticket.
The pair challenged Jon Bramnick of Westfield and Nancy Munoz of Summit in 2009 and Bramnick and Munoz' late husband, Eric, in 2007. Bergen has sought an Assembly seat with other running mates in previous elections and Albert unsuccessfully ran in 2003 on a ticket with former Millburn Township Committeewoman Ellen Steinberg, who is now challenging two incumbent Democratic assemblymembers in a Essex and Morris district.
Bergen recognized that having a "D" next to your name on a District 21 ballot makes for a tough race.
"Realistically, it's an extremely Republican leaning district," Bergen told Patch. "That's just how the district is set up."
Last week's redistricting made slight changes to the towns covered by the 21st district, including removing the district's only toehold in Essex County—Millburn—to a new district and halving the number of towns in Morris County from four to two. The district did pick up Chatham Borough in Morris County, along with Bernards Township and Far Hills in Somerset County. The district is dominated by Union County towns, along with the two in Morris and several in Somerset.
"The recent redistricting didn't change anything substantially," Bergen said. "If anything, it made it more Republican."
He added: "It made it an uphill battle for our candidates."
Warren Township resident Paul Swanicke is challenging Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. of Westfield for the Senate seat in the 21st district.This is Swanicke's first run for elective office.
Bergen said his platform was not yet fully formed, but that philosophical differences between the Republican and Democratic candidates would become apparent in the course of the campaign. He said the race would give voters a chance to express displeasure with statewide politics.
"There are some concerns about some of the things that the Governor is doing in New Jersey, particularly concerning education and his choice to forgo taxing the richest and most well-off," Bergen said.
Albert, the first assistant Union County counsel, served one term on the Cranford Township Committee in the 1990s and was mayor in 1995, before losing his bid for a second term. Bergen has served as Springfield's township attorney off and on since the '90s and unsuccessfully ran for Congress in the early '90s. Swanicke is an attorney based in Warren Township and is a former partner in the law firm of Wilentz, Goldman and Spitzer.
Kean was first appointed to the Senate seat in 2003, following a two year stint in the Assembly. He was elected to the seat in 2003 and 2007 and became Senate minority leader in 2008. Kean was the unsuccessful Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in 2006, losing to Sen. Bob Menendez, and was defeated by former Rep. Mike Ferguson in a 2000 Republican primary for Congress.
Bramnick was appointed to the Assembly in 2003 and has been elected to four terms since. An attorney in Scotch Plains, Bramnick is a former Plainfield city councilman and the Westfield Republican chairman. He serves as the number two Republican in the Assembly and lost a race for Westfield Town Council in the 1990s. Munoz, a nurse, was appointed to the Assembly in May 2009 following her husband's death and was elected to her first term in November of that year.
Bergen, who serves on the Board of Directors of the New Jersey Institute of Local Government Attorneys, said that his years of experience as Township Attorney provide him with valuable perspective on state government actions.
"When the governor chooses to cut state aid and aid to schools, I know directly how much damage it will do," Bergen said.
Bergen faced recent controversy in his current appointment as Township Attorney, following a rule passed by the last year's governing body requiring Township Attorneys to live elsewhere than Springfield. Arguing the change to the law was unconstitutional, the current Committee appointed Bergen despite the change.