Republicans face challenge for Assembly seats

Six candidates are vying for two, two-year terms in the state General Assembly.

Incumbent Republican Assemblyman Parker Space is seeking re-election to a seat he has occupied since 2013 when he was appointed to fill a vacancy. His Republican running mate, Harold Wirths, was the state labor commissioner from 2010 to 2016 and is seeking his first term in the Assembly.

Democrats Kate Matteson and Gina Trish are both running for state office for the first time. Trish ran unsuccessfully for a municipal position in 2012.

Green Party of New Jersey Co-chair Aaron Hyndman is running with Kenneth Collins and both are seeking their first elected position. Collins is not actively campaigning for the seat but his name will still appear on the November ballot.

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Parker Space

Age: 48

Hometown: Wantage. I have lived and worked in Wantage my entire life.

Family: I have been married for 24 years to my wife, Jill. We have three children, Hunter, 22, Lindsey, 21, Kelsey, 18. Both daughters are out of state attending college.

Education: High Point Regional High School Class of 1987

Occupation: Owner of Space Farms Zoo and Museum; Farmer; Owner of Extreme Pizza of Wantage, its first franchise in New Jersey; New Jersey state assemblyman.

Experience: I have served as an Assemblyman since 2013, serving on the Labor Committee and Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. I am a member of State Legislators for Legal Immigration (a network of legislators working together in demanding full cooperation among our federal, state and local governments in eliminating all economic attractions and incentives for illegal aliens, as well as securing our borders against unlawful invasion). I am the New Jersey Angling, Hunting, and Conservation Caucus Assembly Republican co-chairman. Sussex County freeholder from 2010 to 2013. Wantage Township committeeman from 2004 to 2010 and served three years as mayor.

Are you currently serving on a council, board or committee? Yes

I have been a Wantage Township volunteer firefighter for 28 years and served as chief. I also serve as the Republican State committeeman for Sussex County since 2009 and as a Sussex County Republican committeeman. Both are elected but volunteer positions.

Campaign website: www.district24taxpayerteam.com and Facebook at: www.facebook.com/orohospacewirths

List your top 3 issues and what you would do regarding each issue.

My top three issues are property tax relief (fair school funding), government regulation and combating illegal immigration.

1) The No. 1 issue we face in New Jersey is high property taxes. I am a sponsor of what is known as the Fair School Funding Formula Constitutional Amendment which will lower the biggest part of our property tax bill which is money to fund local education.

It is a simple constitutional amendment. All of the money that comes in from the state income tax and the small sales tax dedication that goes to the Property Tax Relief Fund is divided by the number of students and that is the per pupil state aid figure that goes to each school district.

No more special funding for urban districts at the expense of Sussex, Warren and Morris counties. And because it amends the State Constitution, it removes interference from the liberal State Supreme Court.

2) We need fewer regulations on businesses in order to keep them here or try to entice others to move to New Jersey. Our state is over-regulated. I have proposed legislation to fast track permits; remove barriers to economic growth in the Highlands; to prohibit new regulations on manufacturing facilities for 10 years; and to permanently prohibit COAH fees on new businesses.

3) Everyone has heard the phrase "illegal means illegal." I support E-Verify which would keep illegal workers from taking jobs from legal residents in the State. I oppose sanctuary cities and state Democrats' plan to make New Jersey a "sanctuary state." I have also authored a tough Voter ID bill to prevent voter fraud.

What else should we know?

I am the third generation to run our family business which started in 1927 (90th anniversary this year). I am a life member of the National Rifle Association and a member of both the N.J. Farm Bureau and the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB). My running mates, Steve Oroho and Hal Wirths, and I are endorsed by the NFIB Save America's Free Enterprise Trust (NFIB SAFE Trust), the NRA Political Victory Fund and N.J. Right to Life State PAC. I love to shoot, hunt and ride my motorcycle and spend time with my wife and kids.

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Harold J. "Hal" Wirths

Age: 52

Hometown: Hardyston. I have been a resident of Sussex County for my entire life, having lived in Franklin, Wantage and Hardyston.

Family: I have been married to my wife, Debbie, for 31 years. We are the proud parents of two college-aged daughters, Courtney and Erin.

Education: Associate degree from Upsala College

Occupation: Self-employed investor and bank director

Experience: From 2010 to 2016, I served as commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development. I implemented aggressive fraud-fighting efforts, saving taxpayers over $800 million.

I served on the Economic Development Authority, State Ethics Commission, State Employment & Training Commission, and State Health Benefits Design Committee.

For nearly 20 years, I owned/managed two furniture stores. I'm an original founder of Noble Community Bank, which today is part of Highlands State Bank. I serve on the Board of Directors.

I was a Sussex County freeholder for nearly a decade. I recently finished service on New Jersey's Parole Board.

Are you currently serving on a council, board or committee? Yes

I am a Sussex County Republican Committeeman with over 30 years of service.

Campaign website:

www.district24taxpayerteam.com and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/orohospacewirths/

List your top 3 issues and what you would do regarding each issue.

1) Property tax relief. I agree with Senator (Steven) Oroho's and Assemblyman (Parker) Space's support of the Fair School Funding Constitutional Amendment. The current school funding formula championed by Democrats needs to be scrapped and a constitutional amendment is the only way we can guarantee that liberal politicians and unelected judges don't take our school funding. The current formula takes roughly 60 percent of state education dollars and gives it to just 31 school districts; over 600 split up the rest. This is unfair to our students and taxpayers. Tax abatements and PILOTS in urban areas need to be reformed. With all the new condos and Wall Street type businesses, Jersey City cries poverty to the State. Because the City routinely hands out 30 year tax abatements to the "One Percent." Their taxable land drops and they come crying to the state for more school aid. Our taxpayers should not be subsidizing millionaires in urban areas.

2) Experienced tax cutter. Under my leadership as labor commissioner, we eliminated a $213 million federal tax hike that New Jersey employers were facing in January 2014. Due to the growing health and solvency of the Trust Fund, New Jersey employers have realized $380 million in tax relief -- the largest single unemployment tax reduction in modern New Jersey history. Parker Space and I are the only two Assembly candidates who have actually lowered or repealed a tax.

3) Fighting for conservative and Constitutional Values. I will stand up and fight against high taxes and excessive regulation and for the Second Amendment, the unborn and our unique way of life in Sussex, Warren and Morris counties. Trenton liberals need to stop meddling with us whether it is in our churches, our schools, our wallets, our land use or our gun cabinets, and let us live our lives.

What else should we know?

Being Labor Commissioner allowed me to develop relationships with legislators and staff, enabling me to hit the ground running as an Assemblyman to better assist the district.

My father, Wally Wirths, introduced me to public service. My mom enrolled me in the Big Brother Program and I became Wally's Little Brother. We were very close and later became father and son, the first such adoption in the country. It was unique because my relationship with my mom remained unchanged. Some of my fondest memories were growing up on a farm in Wantage and being able to raise my family there.