Van Drew and Andrzejczak Willing to Work Across the Aisle to Get Things Done : News Room : The Van Drew Team for Change : Jeff Van Drew, Bob Andrzejczak and Bruce Land
Van Drew and Andrzejczak Willing to Work Across the Aisle to Get Things Done
PLEASANTVILLE — The incumbent Democrats running for re-election in the 1st District are pushing their ability to work with Republicans in Trenton, especially Gov. Chris Christie, to get things done.
The word “bipartisanship” was used freely Thursday as the slate spoke to an editorial board at The Press of Atlantic City in advance of the Nov. 5 election.
“It’s not just about fancy speech. It’s about working hard, reaching across the aisle and getting things done like they’re not doing in Washington,” said Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic.
Van Drew gave plenty of examples of working with Republican lawmakers and the governor to secure fishing quotas, get Garden State Parkway traffic lights removed, build a fishing pier out of the old Beesley’s Point Bridge, stop a saltwater fishing fee, save the Vineland Developmental Center from closing, and other accomplishments.
Assemblyman Nelson Albano called working in a bipartisan way his “greatest accomplishment” in Trenton. He said saving 1,500 jobs at the Vineland Development Center, after a staff member worked on a governor’s task force on the issue, was his proudest moment in office.
“Even though we are the majority, you still need to work with the other side to get anything done,” Albano said.
Assemblyman Bob Andrzejczak, an Iraq war veteran who lost a leg in battle and won a Purple Heart, said there was no room for partisanship in the military.
“When you’re in a war zone you’re not asking if the guy to the left or right of you is a Republican or a Democrat. You just want to get the job done. It’s not about the party. It’s about doing what’s best for the people,” said Andrzejczak.
The Republican challengers are Susan Adelizzi-Schmidt for the Senate along with Sam Fiocchi and Kristine Gabor for the Assembly. They have been campaigning partly on the issue of Christie needing Republican lawmakers in Trenton to get the rest of his reform agenda enacted.
The Democrats seem to be trying to diffuse this issue somewhat by promoting their readiness to work with Christie. Van Drew said he finds Christie “straightforward and honest” and a governor who pays attention to southern New Jersey. He said he has disagreed with him on some issues such as women’s health care and reducing taxes on millionaires, but mentioned a number of issues, such as eliminating the parkway traffic lights, where he worked with him.
“It’s no secret. I’m a conservative Democrat. In many ways leadership is about bringing people together to achieve common goals,” Van Drew said.
Albano answered questions about his behavior during a 2012 traffic stop during which he tried to use his position to get out of the speeding ticket and then wrote a letter to the State Police superintendent complaining about the conduct of the trooper, whose actions were vindicated by a camera in the police cruiser. The Republicans have dubbed it “Troopergate” and have held press conferences on the issue.
Albano said he apologized publicly and regrets his actions, for things he said at the scene and for the letter he sent. He said it was a stressful time, as he was fighting the release from jail of the drunken driver who killed his son.
“People make mistakes. We’re all human beings. We say some things we sometimes regret. My opponents exploited the issue to ruin my reputation,” Albano said.
Andrzejczak, who has been in office only six months since Matt Milam resigned, pushed issues to help veterans and create jobs. He worked on extending the state’s Economic Opportunity Act to the southern counties and said he is drafting a bill to give tax breaks to start-up small businesses. Andrzejczak said he fought to get veterans some health care coverage from local doctors and hospitals so they don’t have to drive to Veteran’s Administration facilities in Delaware, Philadelphia or northern New Jersey. So far this only includes physical and occupational therapy but he wants to expand the program.
“Our veterans fought for their country, and they deserve more when they get home. We are pushing the VA for more. The big issue is the VA is afraid of losing funding,” said Andrzejczak.
The district only includes a small part of Atlantic County, and none of Atlantic City, but Albano noted that many of their constituents work in the casino industry. They support cleaning up tourist areas in the city, even if that means the state taking over code enforcement, so visitors are not afraid to come.
“We need it lighter, brighter, cleaner and safer. If that comes everything else will follow,” said Van Drew.
They also expressed concern that Atlantic City must improve to keep gaming from coming to the Meadowlands, a move that Van Drew said Christie is fending off.
“He won’t be governor forever. It’s urgent. The clock is ticking. There are powerful people who want to do this,” Van Drew said.
Some other highlights from the session:
Van Drew said he supports raising the minimum wage but does not want automatic cost-of-living increases tied to it.
While a political action committee outside the district has spent $258,877 promoting the Democratic slate, Van Drew noted he sponsored a resolution opposing this type of campaign spending, which the candidates have no control over. He also noted an outside group recently wrote a big check to the Republicans.
The team said they worked with Verizon to bring fiber optic cable to remote sections of Cumberland County.
They touted working with the governor’s administration to get dredging done in Fortescue, Cumberland County, after Hurricane Sandy made areas impassable to boaters, the Coast Guard, and the New Jersey State Police.
The group also wants to improve the dredging of other waterways but Van Drew said the key is to find ways to dispose of the dredge spoils.
Albano said his biggest disappointment is the slow growth of the economy.
While progress has been made, Van Drew said his biggest disappointment is high property taxes. He opposes any new fees or taxes.