Joe Lukac comes from Manville, that little but tough former factory town with the railroad tracks running through it and the water tower where people used to go to settle their differences with their fists.
There is nowhere else quite like the town, built by coal miners and their sons and daughters, who died in the mines of Pennsylvania, as one of Joe’s great grandfathers did six months after coming to America from Slovakia, or pushed east for jobs in the Johns Manville company town.
The town proved cruel to many, who died from asbestosis, or who found themselves living over a former creosote site and/or routinely flooded, but the people continually battled through the hardships by sticking together and serving their country in the toughest times, as Joe Lukac’s two grandfathers did in WWII, one of them in a B-17 Bomber who did time in Stalag-17, or as Lukac did himself, for 12 years in the combat engineer corps.
“If you can serve your community, you do it, it doesn’t matter how you do it, that’s how I’ve been raised,” said the Republican candidate for the Assembly in LD16, a 27-year member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 102 and supervisor at a Linden plant, remembering his father’s words of advice.
Lukac knows the particular challenges of the 16th, which shifted to a 15K-Democratc Party voter registration advantage during the Trump years, which forced long-serving incumbent state Senator Kip Bateman (R-16) to opt out of seeking reelection this year.
A former school board member now serving his second term on the Borough Council, Lukac is running for the Republican nomination for the Assembly with Vincent Panico of Readington Township, who is currently the Board of Education President at Hunterdon Central Regional High School; and state Senate candidate Mike Pappas, a former United States Congressman.
Once served by the late Assemblyman Joe Patero, the last legislator from the town, Manville is that forgotten New Jersey community in many ways; the blue collar burgh that fought the country’s wars and now has to turn its beloved local library into extra classroom space because the local schools don’t receive fair funding from the state.
Lukac wants to do something about that, which is why he’s running, and whatever the challenges going forward, the Republican candidate, married to Sharon and father to three children, wants New Jersey to know, “We’re still here.”