5 Candidates Challenging Assembly Seats

Photo by Jason Allentoff

  OCEAN COUNTY – Incumbents DiAnne Gove and Brian Rumpf face at least five challengers for the Republican line in the state’s 9th Legislative District Assembly race.

  Four of the five are past or present mayors in southern Ocean County communities. Both Lacey Mayor Tim McDonald and Committeeman Mark Dykoff, a past Lacey mayor, said they intend to meet with the GOP screening committee. Stafford Mayor Greg Myhre and former Barnegat Mayor John Novak have also announced their plans to seek approval for the GOP line.

  Berkeley Councilman James Byrnes currently poses the sole challenger from the northern end of the legislative district. Berkeley Mayor Carmen Amato stands as the only GOP candidate seeking to replace Senator Chris Connors in the wake of his retirement.

  Ocean County Republican Chair George R. Gilmore said those who have turned in letters of intention would be scheduled to meet with the screening committee on February 11. Gilmore has not yet named the members of this year’s committee, which will undoubtedly be different than those under the last chair, Frank Holman.

  Recommendations then go to Ocean County GOP elected committee people who will vote on their selection at the mini-convention scheduled for March 8.

  As the head of the Ocean County GOP, Gilmore has extraordinary influence on who gets the line on the ballot. However, with so many candidates, there’s a great possibility that voters will have input by way of a primary election. Meanwhile, here’s some basic information about the challengers presented in alphabetical order.

  Mark Dykoff, who’s served on the Lacey Township Committee for 20 years, has been in the mayoral seat twice. He believes that not enough legislators understand the overall way government works.

  “I’ve been employed in the public sector for almost 15 years,” said Dykoff. “Originally, when I went to work for the State of New Jersey, I worked for the Department of Labor and was an administrator of a One Stop Career Center.”

Mark Dykoff and Timothy McDonald (File Photo)

  According to Dykoff, he gained valuable insight into state and federal programs when working in that job. He now heads up the Recreation Department in Berkeley Township and thinks his job experience and local government work make him an asset on the state level.

  “A lot of people come in and say what’s needed is a new vision,” Dykoff shared. “After 20 years on the Township Committee, I see the learning curve that’s there and have already been through it.”

  Dykoff said Ocean County isn’t getting its share of funding and programs, which he’d work on in the Assembly. He pointed out issues that have particularly impacted Lacey, slated to lose $2 million in school state aid. In addition, the infrastructure presents another area of contention.

  In his second time as mayor, Tim McDonald had some of the same concerns about how the state impacts local towns. The semi-retired financial advisor thinks it’s critical to understand numbers.

  Not only was McDonald upset that Lacey was to lose school funding, he felt the state was obligated to explain the formula used to justify the decrease.

  “This is information every school district should receive,” McDonald emphasized. “Whatever the formula is should be made public. They (legislators) should stand up to Murphy’s administration and say something. We don’t know if we’re getting the right amount and don’t know how to challenge cutting $2 million or $3 million without knowing the formula.”

  As McDonald sees it, the Murphy administration has gone after the school district as a whipping boy – something he says is dead wrong.

  Regarding infrastructure, McDonald pointed out problems with Route 9 traffic. He’d like to be part of the solution and suggested a turning lane down the middle might be beneficial.

  “Cars could then get around you,” said McDonald. “If they had to widen Route 9 and add two more lanes, you’re talking close to 30 feet. You’d have to only use 18 feet for a turning lane, and it would be done.”

  McDonald also sees the power plant as another concern the state needs to address as Holtec nears the completion of the decommissioning process. Oyster Creek is now being considered as a place to build small nuclear reactors to be shipped overseas.

  “I would be pressing to get that done and into District 9 as an assemblyman,” McDonald shared.

  Stafford’s form of government treats the mayoral role differently than those who follow the township model. Rather than committee members selecting the mayor annually, voters make the selection themselves. Gregory Myhre, who works for a network integration company, was first elected as mayor in 2018. His reelection in November resulted in the start of his fifth year as Stafford’s mayor.

Gregory E. Myhre (Photo by Stephanie Faughnan)

  One of Myhre’s chief concerns is that more and more people are leaving the state. However, he believes that there are things he could work towards to making a change.

  As a member of the state legislature, Myhre said he would try to make the state more business friendly. He pointed out that high taxes and some overly strict regulations are chasing people out.

  “When I ran for mayor, I didn’t say I am going to fix this, fix that, or change it this way,” said Myhre. “I’ve tried to do everything with the interest of Stafford residents and taxpayers first and have helped our town reach the great potential that hadn’t been realized.”

  Myhre said that the redistricting after the most recent census changed the makeup of the 9th district. Other municipal leaders in the newly structured district have mentioned they like what they see being done in Stafford; Myhre believes he could do the same work at the state level.

  “I’ve gotten to know a lot of people, not necessarily only from the government side,” Myhre shared. “They have included people who really cared about the town and improving what we have and helping the community as best we can.”

  Attorney John Novak was Barnegat’s mayor for two different years and served a total of seven years on the township committee. His reasons for seeking an assembly seat begin with views he attributes to his past.

  “I have a track record as mayor of Barnegat standing for the sanctity of life,” Novak shared. “And standing for the institution of a man and a woman being married.”

  Novak said during his time as mayor, he did not perform any wedding ceremonies because he knew not to be discriminatory. So while he couldn’t choose who he would marry as mayor, he could decide not to perform marriages.

John Novak (File Photo)

  The fact that abortion laws have moved to give the states power only plays a small part in why Novak would like to become a member of the state assembly.

  “Abortion is very personal to me as I came closer than most of being medical waste in 1958,” said Novak. “Thanks to the courage of my teenage mother, I have three beautiful children and a grandson. Hopefully, I positively touch people’s lives in my 64 years on this Earth. None of that would have been possible if she had taken the easy way out.”

  As Novak sees it, the bigger picture is that New Jersey has a governor who is struggling and straining for national relevance. He suggested that Murphy and California’s Governor Gavin Newsom are in a ping-pong match to see who can “out woke” each other.

  Novak said that people in Southern Ocean County don’t want New Jersey to be the California of the east coast. He cited problems with homeless people defecating and urinating in downtown streets. He said local residents don’t want homeless people and illegal immigrants taking over social services.

  “We don’t want our First Amendment rights to be trampled upon,” said Novak. “We want to enjoy our Second Amendment rights. I think our quality of life is a product of how conservative LD-9 is.”

  “Being in the minority party does not give you the license to look down at your shoes with your head down, wringing your hands, and projecting woe onto me,” Novak shared. “You have to pick up your sword and your shield and charge. If $49,000 a year and a gold seal on your license plate is the only reason you’re in the legislature, you need to evaluate why you’re doing it.”

James Byrnes (Campaign Photo)

  Novak was the only Southern Ocean candidates to say he plans to run as part of a team. He said a ticket comprised of Amato, Byrnes, and Novak, would be a great one to serve in LD-9.

  An attempt to reach Byrnes for comment was not successful at press time of this article. News Editor Chris Lundy was able to reach him after this article hit the print edition.