Dawn Fantasia is a Sussex County Commissioner running for state Assembly in LD-24.
But to her two opponents in the June 6 Republican primary, she’s “Gas Tax Dawn.”
No, that’s not a compliment.
This moniker – and Fantasia’s response – surfaced Thursday night during a debate among the four main candidates for two Assembly nominations in perhaps the most conservative district in the state. It covers all of Sussex and parts of Morris and Warren counties.
Fantasia is teamed up with Mike Inganamort, the mayor of Chester Township.
They are being challenged by the team of Jason Sarnoski, a Warren County Commissioner, and Josh Aikens, the school board president in Lafayette, The issue at hand had to do with New Jersey raising the gas tax by about 23 cents per gallon during the governorship of Chris Christie.
One of the key lawmakers who pushed it through was Republican Steve Oroho, of Sussex County, who is now retiring from the Senate.
This was totally a bipartisan deal as you can see from the involvement of Christie and Oroho.
In a heated campaign, however, such subtleties – of course, it really isn’t a subtlety – don’t matter.
Sarnoski noted that Fantasia actually did a radio ad and a robocall in favor of the increase.
She explained herself by first saying she was a borough council member at the time, and had no vote on the increase.
Fantasia also pointed out the state’s Transportation Trust Fund, which funds road work, was depleted and that relief was needed.
She also noted that the increase was accompanied by many things Republicans wanted, including tax relief for seniors and veterans and eliminating the state’s estate tax, which the GOP likes to call a “death tax.”
Sarnoski wasn’t all that impressed, noting that he’s glad Fantasia admits that she likes the tax increase.
She countered with the observation that Warren County – Sarnoski’s home base – has been getting from $4 million to $5 million a year in gas tax revenue; money that Fantasia said helps the county stabilize taxes.
To which Sarnoski responded, he would have found the money another way to help the county budget if there was no gas tax revenue.
This segment ended with Fantasia saying that attacks against her over the gas tax are “histrionics” and “nonsense.”
Looking to June 6, we must remember that Republican primary voters tend to be quite conservative and likely oppose raising taxes – even with tradeoffs. Do not expect this issue to go away.
There was broad support for such standard conservative positions as being pro-life, parental rights and Second Amendment rights.
However, the chippiness – to be understated – continued in a debate sponsored by Save Jersey and the NJ Globe.
Fantasia claimed that Aikens is not a “real” conservative, because he was once a registered Democrat in Pennsylvania.
Aikens said he never lived in Pennsylvania.
Inganamort and Sarnoski also had a sparring match of their own.
Inganamort spoke of having to endure “daily vicious attacks” from his opponents.
Not so, said Sarnoski, adding, “They’re the ones lying.”
There isn’t much of a Democratic presence in this district, so the primary winners are just about guaranteed to go to Trenton in January.
That may be one reason the race has been so acrimonious, although as others occasionally point out, why are Republicans in New Jersey so intent on beating each other up? The GOP primary in nearby LD-26 offers another example. It’s one thing if you’re in the majority, but quite another if you are in the minority.
Jersey Republicans were enthused when April voter registration stats showed that Republicans had cut the Democrats’ advantage to less than a million.That was a symbolic accomplishment, but goes only so far.