Congressional races attract challengers

The lineup begins for those seeking to oppose incumbents.

By: Jennifer Potash
   The general election is still more than nine months off, but the campaigns for the 12th and 7th Congressional Districts are starting to take shape.
   Rep. Rush Holt (D-12) of Hopewell Township is not expected to face a primary opponent. The district includes Princeton Borough, Princeton Township and West Windsor.
   The Republicans, however, may have a primary. Bruce Afran, a Princeton Township attorney, and William Spadea, vice-president of career development at Weichert Realtors, are both seeking the nod from the GOP. Mr. Afran and Mr. Spadea have launched exploratory committees and filed statements of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission.
   Mr. Spadea, a former national chairman of the College Republicans, also set up a Web site and promises to stand with President George W. Bush on national security and foreign policy.
   A self-described "common-sense conservative," Mr. Spadea supports greater efforts against terrorism such as more stringent airport security and tougher border and immigration controls.
   As a member of Congress, Rep. Holt has stood in the way of the president’s war on terrorism and is a "liberal interloper," Mr. Spadea said.
   Mr. Spadea also supports the president’s tax cuts as a stimulus for economic recovery and creating new jobs.
   In the political arena, Mr. Afran is known under a multitude of banners.
   He ran for the U.S. Senate in 2000 as a Green Party candidate and opposed Princeton Township’s deer-management plan. He is also a civil rights attorney and adjunct professor at Rutgers University Law School in Camden. He is also active with the Princeton Jewish Center.
   A staunch supporter of President Bush’s foreign policy and a moderate on social issues, Mr. Afran believes he will be able to attract voters who may have backed Rep. Holt in the past.
   "It’s been two years of inactivity on meaningful legislation," Mr. Afran said.
   He supports a woman’s right to choose an abortion under the Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision and allowing gays and lesbians to marry.
   "Equal rights means equal rights for everybody," Mr. Afran said.
   Opposition to the Patriot Act, passed by Congress in the weeks following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, is a rallying cry for many Democrats. Mr. Afran said the greater travesty to civil rights is not that law but 1996 anti-terrorism legislation signed by President Clinton, which allows for indefinite detentions of suspected terrorists and trials without juries.
   Running as a Democratic challenger in the Republican-leaning 7th Congressional District may be an uphill battle for Stephen G. Brozak of Westfield.
   Mr. Brozak, an investment banker and retired Marine lieutenant colonel, is seeking to challenge Rep. Michael Ferguson in November. No other Democrats have yet emerged for the primary in June. The district includes Montgomery and Rocky Hill.
   The national Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has encouraged Mr. Brozak’s campaign and he has received about $100,000 so far.
   While Rep. Ferguson won a comfortable victory over Democrat Tim Carden in 2002, Mr. Brozak said voters in the 7th District chose Jim McGreevey over Bret Schundler in the 2001 gubernatorial election.
   After his most recent military service, which took him to Iraq, Mr. Brozak said he questioned the decision-making process leading up to the war.
   A graduate of Columbia University with a bachelor’s degree in East Asian studies and a master’s degree in business administration, Mr. Brozak is a partner of WBB Securities, an investment research firm.
   He supports a woman’s right to choose an abortion, gun-control and allowing gays and lesbians to serve in the military.
   "I’m a center-of-the-road Democrat," said Mr. Brozak.
   The composition of congressional districts does change, but Rep. Ferguson is confident he reflects the values of his constituents, said Chris Jones, chief of staff for Rep. Ferguson. The congressman will run on his record of supporting tax cuts and "standing shoulder to shoulder with President Bush to shore up our national security," Mr. Jones said.