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LD 16 Candidates Forum

By Barbara A. Preston l October 4, 2021

The Montgomery News is a proud sponsor of a forum for Legislative District 16 candidates for assembly and senate. Princeton Community Television broadcast the forum live from Raritan Valley Community College on September 22. An archive version of the forum is also viewable from

One of the key goals of The Montgomery News is to provide fair and unbiased coverage of news in our community. This includes equal coverage of candidates— each candidate—running for public office. The newspaper staff members were delighted to partner with The League of Women Voters who share this vision. They did most of the work for this forum, and have strict rules in place to ensure that each candidate has equal time to answer questions.

Assembly and senate candidates for Legislative District 16 with Raritan Valley Community College students.

The forum has two segments.

Part one features the four Assembly candidates: Roy Freiman, Sadaf F. Jaffer, Joseph A. Lukac III, Vincent T. Panico are running for two seats.

Part two features Senate candidates: Michael Pappas and Andrew Zwicker.

The 16th District includes 14 communities in Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, and Somerset counties: Branchburg, Delaware, Flemington, Hillsborough, Manville, Millstone, Montgomery, Princeton, Raritan, Readington, Rocky Hill, Somerville, South Brunswick and Stockton.

Voter registration in LD 16 leans Democratic — 36 percent blue and 24 percent red, according to NJ Spotlight. While unaffiliated voters used to swing the results to the GOP, this is now a split district. LD 16 has a Republican senator and two Democratic assemblymen. Sen. Christopher (Kip) Bateman is retiring.

Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker of South Brunswick is running for the Senate and could become the first Democrat to represent the district in the Senate. Trying to keep the seat in Republican hands is former one-term Congressman Michael Pappas, the Bridgewater Township administrator and a Branchburg resident.

In the Assembly race, incumbent Roy Freiman of Hillsborough is running with fellow Democrat and former Montgomery Township Mayor Sadaf Jaffer. The Republican candidates are Vincent Panico, a Readington man who is president of the Hunterdon Central Regional Board of Education, and Joseph Lukac III, a U.S. Army veteran and Manville councilman.

Assembly Candidate Opening Statements

Roy Freiman (D) - Hillsborough resident and incumbent

It’s been an honor to serve in the 16th District for the past four years. I’ve been working with my colleagues to make New Jersey more affordable, and more accessible, and a fairer place for everyone. As we are recovering from COVID, I don’t believe in getting back to where we were before. It’s not good enough. That’s why, in Trenton, I have concentrated on getting millions of dollars of support for our small businesses. At the same time, I have worked to ease regulations so owners can adjust and adapt to the pandemic. That is why I secured funding for our schools so our children will have the resources, including mental health services, so they can achieve their full potential. I co-sponsored legislation that struck down cuts for women’s health care. And, I am the author of legislation for the single largest debt reduction in state history.

Sadaf Jaffer (D) - Montgomery Township resident and former Mayor of Montgomery

I am running to serve the community and make positive change. I’m a researcher at Princeton University. As mayor of Montgomery Township, I focused on community building, connecting residents with resources, and making sure all voices are heard. My experience as a government official and scholar have prepared me to fight tough battles for this district. As a member of the Assembly, I will work to guarantee as much prosperity as I can for everyone in this district. I would institute an economic recovery that promotes green jobs, promotes human and civil rights, and empowers an inclusive public health approach to COVID-19.

Joe Lukac III (R) - Manville resident and Manville Borough Councilman

I was born and raised in Manville. I still live there with my wife and children. I come from a middle class hard working family. I know what working families go through on a daily basis to keep a roof over their heads and to provide the basic things their families need. After graduating high school, I served proudly as an Army Combat Engineers for 12 years, honorably. I’ve been a member of electrical workers’ union IBEW#102 for 27 years. I am serving my second term on the Manville Borough Council, and I have served on the school board. Every one of us have witnessed Roy Freiman and his running mates rubber stamp the status quo ... raising taxes on the middle class, and driving working families and businesses out of New Jersey for far too long. The residents of New Jersey deserve better. They deserve leaders who are efficient and effective problem solvers.

Vincent Panico (R) - Readington Township resident and Readington Board of Education

I’m running because LD 16 needs someone in touch with Central New Jersey. I was born and raised here. I earned my associate’s degree right here at Raritan Valley (College). I started my first business in Central New Jersey in 2008. I bought my first house when I was 25 years old and I have lived the struggle of being a young adult trying to keep roots in NJ. I see my friends in their late 20s and low 30s still living in their parents house because they can’t afford to live in Roy Freiman’s New Jersey. I’m running for the legislature because I’ve been able to make a difference on the school board. For the past nine years, I’ve served on my local board of education, most recently as board president. During that time, we’ve gone debt free while expanding services, settled teachers’ contracts before they expired, and protected our students through calculated measures to avoid any COVID outbreaks. I don’t do it for personal interest. I don’t have any kids in the district. I do it because I care. I care about New Jersey. I care about my neighbors. And, I care about our future.

Senate Candidate Opening Statements

Michael Pappas (R) - Bridgewater Twp Administrator and Branchburg resident

The people of New Jersey have been struggling for a number of years. This past year, with the onslaught of the pandemic, has been an untold devastation from families that have lost loved ones to individuals whose businesses have been decimated, and the lack of a plan from the state legislature is one of the reason why I am running for state legislature. One-third of all small businesses in our state have closed permanently over the past year. The state’s reaction to the pandemic, with regard to the business community, has been disjointed. Large businesses were able to remain open with limited restrictions. Small businesses were required to close. Legislative oversight is critical. The legislators, and my opponent in particular, has ignored that critical role of legislative oversight. If I’m elected, no matter who the governor is, I will take that constitutional responsibility seriously.

Andrew Zwicker (D) - Physicist, Plasma Physics Lab, Princeton University and Kingston resident

I’ve had the honor of representing the LD-16 in the General Assembly since winning by just 78 votes in 2015, when I became the first Democrat in the district’s history. And, I’m the first physicist to ever serve in New Jersey. I spent my entire professional career working on alternative energy. In the legislature, I’m the chair of the science committee. I’m proud to have sponsored more than 200 pieces of legislation that have become law, including more than two dozen that protect our environment, ensuring clean air and fresh water for all. The laws also provide innovative ways of growing our economy; preserve farm land and open space; and ensure that access to voting in New Jersey is easy. Most recently, I’ve worked with my colleagues in the legislature to combat the economic toll that COVID-19 has left upon the small businesses in our communities. We will help them get back on their feet, and thrive.

Please visit to watch the full forums.

Learn about all local races at


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