Clean Elections Close To Home

Record-Breeze — Thursday, September 1, 2005

By Tony Regina, Managing Editor

As fall approaches, so do the elections. This year, the clean elections pilot project is hitting the sixth legislative district.

Established in June of 2004, the project allows public funding for qualified assembly candidates. Public funding enables qualified candidates to run for state office who wouldn't have access to wealthy individual and corporate donors "What it's designed to do is to take the corruption out of the political process," Juanita Howard, a member of New Jersey Citizen Action, said. "It targets more public funding than private donations."

To qualify to run as a clean election candidate, sixth legislative nominees must raise 1,000 five dollar contributions and 500 thirty-dollar contributions from registered voters in their district by Sept. 7. Together, both candidates must have 3000 contributions.

This November, Democratic candidates Louis Greenwald and Pamela Rosen Lampitt will oppose Republican nominees JoAnn Gurenlian and Marc Fleischner. All four have been actively trying to attain contributors throughout the summer.

"We've been aggressively seeking contributors," Jeff Kasko, the Republican's campaign manager, said. "We've tried to do everything. We've gone to door-to-door and organized presentations. We even spent some time at the high speed line stations."

However, attempting to make the cut has been challenging so far, particularly because of the summer.

"We've had to reach out to people in the middle of the summer, a time when everyone has either gone on vacation or isn't interested in hearing about November elections," Kasko said. "It's a pretty tall order to follow."

The Democrats haven't had it any easier.

"We had to overcome a hurdle of educating the public about clean elections," Beth Auswald, the Democratic campaign manager, said.

If either the Republicans or the Democrats do meet the Clean Election criteria, then each member of their party will receive a $65,000 grant from the state. While raising money has proved to be a challenge thus far, Kasko remains optimistic.

"We're not there yet, but we're still hopeful that we're going to qualify," he said.

Auswald believes the Democrats are in a similar position.

"We're close to qualifying," she said. "I think the process was slower in the beginning, but things are starting to pick up now."

Currently, Maine and Arizona are the only states in which clean elections have been wholly implemented. Howard and New Jersey Citizen Action hope that the whole state will follow their path after this year.

"If they see that there are good results, then things might change," she said. To spread the word about the Clean Elections project, New Jersey Citizen Action has taken their message to the streets to conduct presentations.

"We do outreach to community groups," Howard said. "We go out and educate people about Clean Elections."

The Clean Elections pilot project received a major boost. Registered voters can also go online to make contributions.

On Aug. 29, Assembly Majority Leader Joseph J. Roberts announced that the Department of Treasury established a website for online contributions.

"The quick creation of a website by the Department of Treasury shows how committed New Jersey is to ridding the political process of special interest money," he said. "The clean elections website will prove to be a seismic step in the right direction to making the Clean Elections pilot program a success in New Jersey."

Both Kasko and Auswald believe their campaigns will benefit from the website's presence.

"People can now make contributions online, which will help," Auswald said.

"We're still be going around, trying to collect checks. But this site makes it easier for people to contribute," Kasko added.

Both the Democrats and Republicans now have less than a week to qualify.

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