The three Democrats running for reelection in the Sixth Legislative District have pursued various causes during their tenure: reducing gun violence, improving access to higher education, and supporting veterans.
Challenging them on the ballot Tuesday are three Republicans, all of whom would be newcomers to elected office, with backgrounds in law and medicine, who say Trenton needs change.
State Sen. James Beach, Assembly Majority Leader Louis D. Greenwald, and Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt represent the district, which includes parts of Camden and Burlington Counties and has more than twice as many registered Democrats as Republicans.
On the Republican side are Sudhir Deshmukh of Voorhees, who is running for the Senate, and George Fisher of Haddonfield and Chris Leone-Zwillinger of Cherry Hill, who are seeking seats in the Assembly.
Beach, 67, of Voorhees, has served in the Senate since 2009, when he was appointed to replace John Adler, who had been elected to the U.S. House. Before that, Beach was Camden County clerk for 12 years. He was a freeholder in the early 1990s.
As chairman of the Senate Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, "I've done a lot to try to assist our veterans and active military," Beach said. Bills he sponsored that became law require the state to certify veterans as emergency medical technicians if they have equivalent military training, and allow a waiver of the commercial driving-license skills test for veterans with training.
A former teacher and football coach in Camden, Beach now works for the AllRisk property damage cleanup company.
His challenger, Deshmukh, is running because "we need jobs," he said. "Without jobs, everything falls apart." He hopes to support Gov. Christie in the Legislature and wants to "dispel the myth" that the Republican Party "is for white men."
A retired corporate patent lawyer who was born in India and earned engineering and law degrees in New Jersey, Deshmukh, 69, said the state needs to do more to retain college graduates, promoting growth in industries such as pharmaceuticals.
"We need to create a bigger pie so we have more sustainable economic development for the state," he said. "Young people are going to go to places like Texas. . . . I attained the American dream, but it's slipping away." Deshmukh called Beach a "phantom" in office.
Greenwald, 46, of Voorhees, has been floated as a potential gubernatorial candidate. Last year, he and Christie offered dueling tax-cut plans. He has served in the Assembly since 1996 and was chairman of the budget committee from 2002 to 2011.
Greenwald said he was proud of his advocacy of legislation to reduce gun violence, including a measure to reduce magazine capacity that has stalled in the Senate.
Greenwald said he would continue that push. "In a citizens' legislature that is part time, we are there to tackle the tough issues," he said. "Those aren't always the popular issues."
The son of the late Maria Barnaby Greenwald, mayor of Cherry Hill in the 1980s, Greenwald is vice president and corporate counsel of Carlisle & Associates, a health-care consulting firm.
He cites as a main accomplishment a $5 million investment by the state 10 years ago to bring a branch of the Cancer Institute of New Jersey to South Jersey. The investment has helped patients and spurred partnerships, Greenwald said.
Greenwald is poised to remain majority leader next session, with Assemblyman Vincent Prieto (D., Hudson) becoming speaker. Greenwald said a power-sharing arrangement that splits leadership of the houses between North and South Jersey prevents him from becoming speaker. South Jersey already has the Senate, led by Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester).
Lampitt, 52, of Cherry Hill, has served in the Assembly since 2006. She got involved with politics through the Cherry Hill Zoning Board, then as a councilwoman. "I cared about what my town was like," said Lampitt, who works for the University of Pennsylvania as a director in hospitality services.
In the Assembly, she focuses on "quality-of-life issues that can impact a number of people."
She sponsored a bill that became law creating a statewide agreement for students to transfer credits from community colleges to four-year institutions, and said she worked to preserve funding for a program that gives free community college enrollment to students who graduate in the top 15 percent of their high school class.
Lampitt said she tries to advocate for "those who don't necessarily have a voice," sponsoring legislation to increase transparency at state psychiatric hospitals. If reelected, she plans to work to help developmentally disabled young adults who have aged out of services.
Leone-Zwillinger, 62, said she was running to combat too-high property taxes. "We are really overspent in New Jersey, and there are a lot of ways we can cut waste without cutting services," she said.
A lawyer who practices criminal and child protection law, Leone-Zwillinger began as an undercover police officer. She later went to law school and worked for the Attorney General's Office on child protection cases.
She said more can be done to pool resources of municipalities, a view shared by the Democrats.
Leone-Zwillinger also advocates for term limits. The district's representatives have "been there a long time," she said. "And we haven't had any success with that."
Fisher, 88, is a retired endocrinologist who started a book publishing company. Once a prominent critic of the health-care reform proposed by Hillary Rodham Clinton when her husband was president, Fisher said he wants to support Christie and serve as a "strong physician voice" in the Legislature, predicting that the Affordable Care Act "is going to turn into a state problem."
Fisher says lawmakers introduce too many bills - "I perceive that the Legislature is allowing itself to be overwhelmed" - and that state governments suffer from a lack of citizen participation.
"I graduated from Yale in two years. People say, 'Why in the world would you want to get mixed up in this state politics thing?' " Fisher said. "I am trying to demonstrate that people past retirement can still be vigorous."