Asbury Park Press

Assembly Majority Leader Taking Trip To Maine

Asbury Park Press — Saturday, May 1, 2004


State Assembly Majority Leader Joseph J. Roberts Jr. will travel to Maine next week to learn about Maine's system of publicly-financed legislative elections.

Roberts, D-Camden, has proposed New Jersey create a pilot program of "clean elections" similar to Maine's, and he said he wants to see how the program works there and what New Jersey can learn from that state.

In Maine on Tuesday and Wednesday, Roberts said, he will meet with the speaker of the Maine House of Representatives, election regulators and good government organizations.

"I am really excited about this," said Roberts. He said his proposal for New Jersey is "the greatest opportunity to once and for all totally remove the adverse impact of money in legislative races in New Jersey. And what we need to pay attention to is a state that has done it and done it very successfully.

Only Maine and Arizona have publicly-financed state legislative elections, Roberts said.

Under Roberts' plan, in exchange for public financing, candidates in two districts in the 2005 legislative elections would be required to participate in at least two public debates and their status as "clean" would appear on their campaign literature and by their names on the ballot.

The Democratic proposal calls for a commission to assess the experiment after the 2005 election. The commission could authorize expanding the pilot program to two more districts in 2007.

Staci Berger, Campaign Director for New Jersey Citizen Action, which is a strong supporter of publicly-financed legislative campaigns, said she will join Roberts in Maine.

"I think it shows tremendous credibility on his part that this is something he wants to do."

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