State Senate elections in New Jersey should favor the incumbents, with credible opposition unfortunately being a rare commodity in most cases.

Looking at the field in South Jersey, The Inquirer has the following recommendations:

It's hard to believe that 10 years ago, Steve Sweeney was a relatively unknown freshman legislator from the Third District. Today, he's Senate president and the Legislature's most powerful Democrat. But Sweeney, 52, reached across the aisle to work hand in hand with Gov. Christie on state-employee pension and health-care reform, judicial appointments, and school funding.

Sweeney's opponent in the district that includes Salem County and parts of Gloucester and Cumberland Counties is Michael Mulligan, 51. The Pilesgrove lawyer is no match in this race. The Inquirer endorses STEPHEN M. SWEENEY.

In the heavily Democratic Sixth District, Republican challenger Phil Mitsch faced an uphill battle even before his racy comments on Twitter became the defining moment for his campaign. Mitsch, 62, of Merchantville, a former real estate broker, calls himself a sort of "Dear Abby" who gives financial as well as sex advice, and blamed the tweets on his dry sense of humor. Whatever.

Voters would be better served by reelecting James Beach to represent the district, which covers a large chunk of Camden County. Beach, 65, of Voorhees, is a member of the budget committee and chairs the Senate Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. The Inquirer endorses JAMES BEACH.

In the Seventh District, which includes parts of Burlington County, incumbent Diane Allen, of Edgewater Park, is being challenged by Beverly Mayor Gail Cook. Give the Democrats credit for putting up a strong, energetic candidate to challenge the hardworking Allen. A vocal advocate for the poor, Cook has a deep understanding of policy.

But former TV news reporter DIANE ALLEN has served her district well since first being elected in 1998. A fiscal conservative, but a social moderate, she has sponsored hundreds of worthy bills and has a solid legislative record.

In the Fifth District, which includes parts of Camden and Gloucester Counties, incumbent Democrat DONALD NORCROSS gets the nod. The freshman senator has refused to be a backbencher. He has introduced a flurry of bills, including nine that became law.

Opposing Norcross is Republican Keith Walker of Camden. A teacher, Walker once served as assistant business administrator for that city. But beyond his passion for his town, Walker hasn't made a strong enough case for his election.

In the Fourth District, which also includes parts of Gloucester and Camden Counties, The Inquirer endorses the Democratic incumbent, FRED MADDEN. A former superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, the Sewell resident has shown the ability to understand and act decisively on complex issues affecting the entire state.

Opposing Madden is Republican Giancarlo D'Orazio, a recently elected Washington Township councilman, who isn't quite ready for a seat in the Legislature.