In the 29th legislative district, two Republican candidates are hoping to unseat the incumbent Democrats who hold the state Assembly seats - with the June 7 primary elections a few weeks away and the general elections slated for Nov. 8.
The two Republican challengers are Elaine L. Guarino of Newark and Lisa T. Kistner of Belleville. They face L. Grace Spencer and Alberto Coutinho, who both currently represent the district which encompasses parts of Newark and Belleville.
Kistner, a 28-year resident of Belleville, is married with two boys and a girl and works as a secretary for Belleville School Number 8. She has been working in the school system for more than 20 years.
Kistner said she is running because she wants to help Gov. Chris Christie pass his agenda, especially when it comes to lowering taxes.
“People are moving out (of New Jersey) because of taxes,” Kistner said, noting a brother-in-law of hers moved to North Carolina in part because of taxes. “We got to do something.”
Kistner said she believes the two percent cap is a good start but wants to continue the push to control expenses. She said she would like to reform the pension system by working with people such as teachers.
“I’d work in hand and hand with teachers,” she said. “They are hard workers. It’s not an easy job to come to school and work with the students. We need to give something to them, but we have to figure out how to make it affordable for the taxpayers of New Jersey.”
As for running as a Republican in the 29th district, which histiorically leans Democratic, Kistner said it would be good to have more Republican representation in the state house.
And because she is from Belleville, it would be good for the town to have a voice, she said.
“Belleville is a very diverse town. You need a little more diversity in the state house as well,” she said. “If you look at the representatives (in the 29th district), they are all from Newark. So what’s going to happen to the people of Belleville? Who’s going to speak for them? That’s why I want to represent them.”
Kistner’s counterpart, Guarino, has deep roots in Newark’s North Ward. The retired saleswoman, who worked for Bell Atlantic for more than 30 years, currently lives in her childhood home. Her father, Ralph Guarino, was a recreation director for the Newark school system for more than 40 years.
She has two siblings, a sister and brother, both teachers. She also has two nieces and two great nephews and two great nieces.
Guarino said she wants to make a difference in her hometown and the state by controlling taxes, instituting pension reform, school reform, combat crime, provide more services to seniors, and a whole host of issues.
“We need to reduce taxes,” she said. “I would like to clamp down on the spending the government is doing. They are doing too much.”
A way to combat that would be is to cut redundant positions and to prevent officials from holding two jobs so they don’t collect two pensions, she said. Guarino said she would also cut school expenses.
On school reform, Guarino said she would make sure teachers are qualified and would make school days longer because kids, she said, “Got too much time on their hands.”
To make the state more business-friendly, Guarino said crime will have to be reduced and neighborhoods cleaned up in order to attract more companies.
An issue closer to her heart is the plight of senior citizens, she said. Around her neighborhood, Guarino said she sees an older woman collecting cans on the streets for extra money.
“I give her a couple dollars. I always do,” she said. “It breaks my heart to see her doing this.”
For the woman in her neighborhood and others like her, Guarino said she would provide more subsidized housing and medical services.
“Everybody is forgetting about the seniors,” she said.
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