State Rep. Chris Brown, R-8th Dist., said being a member of the minority party in Trenton hasn’t been easy.
The chance of legislation you’ve sponsored coming up for a vote, let alone getting passed, is pretty much slim to none. And he found it discouraging to see the property tax reform legislation he introduced for the past two years get ignored.
“Sometimes, I feel like I’m standing on a mountain by myself,” Brown said.
But ultimately, it was the problem of time commitment that made him decide not to run for re-election. He’ll serve until the end of 2015, then whoever wins in November will take over. Burlington County Republicans have endorsed former freeholder Joe Howarth as the candidate.
Related story: All 80 N.J. Assembly seats are up for reelection in 2015
Brown has four sons, ranging in age from 2 to 14. He coaches baseball and wrestling. He also runs a RE/MAX company with 115 agents and a title insurance company with about 30 employees. And there were only so many hours in the day.
“My focus is going to stay with my family and my company,” he said. “I don’t like being able to give only 50 percent. I’m a hundred percent kind of guy.”
Brown has served in the state Assembly since 2012. He’s a former county freeholder, and Evesham Township council member. For all of his obstacles as a Republican in Trenton, he started out a as a Democrat. But he switched parties in 2010, he said, after deciding that Republicans were more aligned with his outlook.
Even as a Democrat, he said, his main priority was increasing government efficiency. He said a lot of people — members of the public and the political establishment both — don’t seem to understand that government isn’t a perpetual motion machine that can provide unlimited services with no operating costs. Funding more services means either raising taxes, or taking the resources from somewhere else.
His approach was to find redundancies in operations that could be streamlined. At the county level, for example, he found that the Special Services School District and the Burlington County Institute of Technology both had their own superintendents, boards and purchasing agents. He pushed to combine those operations.
He sees not only inefficiency at the state level, but lack of focus. A lot of time and effort debating laws on social issues, such as which restroom transgendered people can use, but too little time on what he considers the most pressing issue facing the state — reducing property taxes.
Should Howarth get the job, Brown wishes him the best of luck. Though he predicts a similarly frustrating experience for his successor.
“He could have a cure for cancer and the Democrats won’t put it up,” Brown said.
Still, he doesn’t consider his time as a lawmaker to be wasted.
Passing bills is only part of an Assembly member’s job. The rest is helping his or her constituents navigate the state government and get things done.
“It’s a lot of small ball,” Brown said. “I was very available to a lot of constituents.”
Democrats are the majority party in both Houses in Trenton. In the Senate there are 24 Democrats and 16 Republicans. There are 48 Democrats and 32 Republicans in the General Assembly.
New Jersey’s primary will be on June 2, 2015.
The General election is Nov 3, 2015.
Brown’s district covers parts of Atlantic, Burlington and Camden counties. Some of the towns within the 8th District: Berlin Borough, Eastampton, Evesham, Hainesport, Hammonton, Lumberton,Mansfield (Burlington), Medford, Medford Lakes, Mount Holly,Pemberton Borough, Pemberton Township, Pine Hill, Pine Valley,Shamong, Southampton, Springfield (Burlington), Waterford,Westampton, Woodland
This post is part of our South Jersey Politics Blog