GOP Assembly members try to fend off challenge

Staff Writer

GOP Assembly members
try to fend off challenge
Staff Writer

JACKSON — Incumbent Republicans Ronald T. Dancer and Joseph R. Malone are being challenged by Democrats Mitch Dolobowsky and Joseph Grisanti in the race for a pair of two-year Assembly seats in the 30th District.

The race will be Dancer’s first test in a state election since he was appointed a year ago to fill a vacancy created by the death of Assemblyman Melvin Cottrell. Malone has been elected five times.

Dolobowsky is a committeeman in Lakewood and Grisanti is a committeeman in Jackson. Malone is the former mayor of the city of Bordentown, Burlington County, and Dancer is the mayor of Plumsted.

Dancer, 54, is employed as an interviewer at the Ocean County Adjusters Office, which determines the eligibility for county funding of persons committed for psychiatric treatment.

He attended Wesley College in Dover, Del., and received a certificate from the Bloustein School of Governmental Affairs at Rutgers University, New Brunswick.

He is married almost 35 years to his wife Brenda, and the couple has two children, Ronald T. Dancer Jr., 32, and a daughter, Kristy, 21.

Dancer serves on the Plumsted Township Committee and has been appointed to the mayor’s post every year since he was elected in 1990.

Dancer, who describes himself as a fiscal conservative, said he would prevent the state from raiding trust funds in order to balance the state budget at the expense of those on unemployment, disability and workman’s compensation.

Dancer also said he was sponsoring a $25 million supplemental appropriation bill that would enable eligible seniors to enroll in the property tax freeze program, which has been closed to new applicants since 2002.

His top priority, he said, is property tax reform. Malone, his running mate and a five-term Assemblyman, echoed that sentiment.

Malone, 54, and his wife, Valerie, have two sons, Joseph IV, 22, and Michael, 18.

Malone is the director of Somerset Technology Institute, a post-secondary, two-year technology institute. His political career spans a period of two decades, beginning with a run for local office at age 23.

The following year, he was named mayor of Bordentown, a position he held for 16 of the 24 years he held office in that community.

Ten years ago, he was asked by the Republican Party to run for Assembly and he won. He has held that seat since.

An issue important to Malone is the inequitable distribution of state funding.

"You can’t have a school district like Jackson that grows by 400 to 500 students a year and then allow the state to flat fund them — that is to basically give them the same funds as the year before," he said.

Malone said Democrats have continued to spend state funds in a manner that he asserts has been self-serving.

"The Democrats are spending tax dollars in general for their own pet projects, even during a time of supposed budget crisis," Malone said.

However, his Democratic opponents would like to know what Malone and Dancer have done to address the problems they have identified.

"The incumbents have not been able to get the job done with [respect to] the important issues — especially property tax relief," Grisanti said. "We need to look for a different system of funding public education. That’s [the Democratic] platform. We need to find alternate means of taxation. No incumbent legislator [from the 30th District] has been willing to address [that issue]."

Grisanti, 43, was born in Staten Island, N.Y. He was graduated from St. John’s University, and in 1984 he earned his law degree there. A resident of Jackson since 1987, Grisanti opened his law practice in 1994.

He has two sons, Michael, 14, and Joseph R., 17.

Grisanti won a seat on the Jackson Township Committee in 1998 and was re-elected in 2001. He said that if he is elected to the Assembly he will resign his seat on the committee.

"If I’m elected, when I get to Trenton I plan to roll up my sleeves and tackle the property tax issue head-on," Grisanti said. "It’s clear that the system in Trenton is broken, but as an incumbent, you are either part of the problem or you at least turned a blind eye to the problem."

Dolobowsky, 51, agrees.

"They’ve had the opportunity to do something about it and they just haven’t yet," he said. "I think it’s time for some new blood in the Assembly. I feel that Mr. Grisanti and I are that new blood."

Dolobowsky, a two-term Democratic incumbent on the Lakewood Township Committee, to which he was first elected in 1996, is semi-retired since selling his share in Inorganic Ventures, the company he co-founded.

He is married to Robin, his wife of 29 years, and the couple has two grown children, Irwin, 24, and Mindy, 22.

Although Dolobowsky is also running for re-election to the Township Committee, he said he has not yet decided whether he would resign that position is he wins the Assembly race.

"My real love is Lakewood," he said. "This is my home, so I will only do what is best for this town."

The Lakewood committeeman said he also wants to serve in Trenton by fixing what he perceives is wrong with the current system.

"I don’t have a magic formula," said Dolobowsky, "but I believe we need to go to the experts and let them educate us on what’s broken and make suggestions on how to fix it so that we can make it work for New Jersey."