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JERSEY CITY ONLINE ROBERTS CHALLENGES FRANKS & GOP TO LIVE UP TO THEIR WORDS ON I & R & TERM LIMITS
INCOMING CHAIR OF DEMOCRATIC STATE COMMITTEE SAYS CREDIBILITY & ACCOUNTABILITY ARE AT STAKE

Trenton May7th-- The newly-designated Republican gubernatorial candidate should match his words on political reforms with action, Assemblyman Joseph Roberts said on Monday, referring to the repeat political agenda offered by Bob Franks that he and the GOP-dominated Legislature failed to enact over the past 10 years. Mr. Roberts, the incoming chairman of the Democratic Party, said the same so-called reform measures described by Mr. Franks when he declared his candidacy for governor are a repeat of the Republican playbook when the GOP took monopoly control of state government but have been ignored since.

"The newly-designated Republican gubernatorial candidate recycled the same campaign agenda he and his political teammates failed to follow through on for close to ten years," said Assemblyman Roberts. "If Mr. Franks and the Republican majority he helped elect shunned their own promises from past elections, there is good reason to be skeptical of their commitment to these same promises this time. If the public gave them the benefit of the doubt before, the doubts about their credibility have now multiplied."

Mr. Franks, who held dual political roles in Trenton as an assemblyman and head of the Republican Party leading up to the 1991 elections, was recently handpicked by his party's powerbrokers as a replacement candidate for governor. Announcing his candidacy, Mr. Franks repeated pledges he used in engineering the past election wins, including a call for initiative and referendum, term limits, an elected state auditor and abolishing political action committees now used by legislative leaders. Not one of the proposals has been enacted into law in close to 10 years.

"I'm here to challenge the Republican majorities and their preferred gubernatorial candidate to follow through on their proposals," said Mr. Roberts. "They can't have it both ways. The authority of government must be accompanied with the responsibility of governing."

Up until this past week, Mr. Franks used his website for self-congratulatory praise for his role in Trenton, calling himself the "mastermind behind the legislative campaigns that resulted in Republicans regaining control of the Legislature with veto-proof majorities." In an apparent attempt to distance himself from the Republican record, the reference suddenly disappeared from the site.

Despite their control of 58 seats in the 80-member Assembly and holding 27 of the Senate's 40 seats, Mr. Franks was able to get only 26 and 29 votes respectively for his two I & R bills, which would give voters the ability to enact laws from the voting booths. Term limits were another frequently-touted idea abandoned by Mr. Franks and the Republicans. A measure to establish an elected state auditor moved through the Assembly before also being abandoned. A long list of bills to abolish leadership PACs never even got consideration by either of the legislative houses.

"One of the terrible ironies of the Republicans' crusade for so-called reforms is that they exacerbated the same public cynicism they exploited for political gain," stated Mr. Roberts, who now serves as the deputy chairman of the party. "One of the central themes of Democratic candidates is the restoration of credibility and responsibility in government. These qualities are especially important in a governor."

Mr. Roberts stressed that many Democrats, including himself, don't support all of these ideas, but the "transcendent importance of credibility and accountability are vital needs for effective governing."

"If Mr. Franks really believes in I&R, his Republican Party should use its control of government to act on his words," challenged Mr. Roberts. "If they want to abolish leadership PACs and impose term limits, put them up for a vote. If an elected auditor is so important, why wait?"

Also drawing a skeptical response has been Mr. Franks attempted identity change, Mr. Roberts noted. When the Republican gubernatorial aspirant announced his candidacy he tried to posture as a political outsider, with harsh criticism of the Trenton political establishment. Within a week, Mr. Franks was trying to take credit for the record of Republican incumbency in Trenton, saying "I'm going to be proud to embrace the record of Republicans in Trenton." Referring again to the importance of accountability, the Democratic leader said that Mr. Franks should "be true to his words and be responsible for his party's record."

 

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