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Variety, if not choice, in N.J. primary

Tuesday's vote involves redrawn districts but few contested races. Polls will be open from 6 a.m to 8 p.m.

Where else can you find a candidate who wants to lower the minimum wage for teens - and senior citizens? An Olympian at risk of being tossed off the ballot? An ex-con candidate who was haled off to jail during a previous campaign?

Tuesday's South Jersey legislative primary.

And that's just the first half of this political year. In the Nov. 8 general election, all 120 seats will be up for grabs, and candidates are running in slightly redrawn districts. Control of the Legislature is a big question mark.

But first voters get to weigh in on the nominees.

In South Jersey, "none of these primaries are competitive," said Brigid Harrison, a Montclair State University political scientist. "Usually, you're going to see factionalized primaries in political parties that don't have a stronghold on their primary electorate, and you're most likely to see them when candidates are vying for the opportunity to run against an entrenched incumbent."

Nevertheless, there are Republican primary challenges in Burlington, Camden, and Cape May Counties for Statehouse slots.

And there are contests in county and municipal balloting in South Jersey.

Two slates of Republicans are battling it out in the Gloucester County freeholder primary, while Burlington County has a single challenger to the GOP's endorsed candidates. Camden County has contested freeholder races in both parties. Medford, Paulsboro, Camden, and Willingboro are among municipalities with primary contests.

In the Seventh District Republican primary, Sen. Diane Allen, of Edgewater Park, is defending her seat against Carole Moore, also of Edgewater Park. A social moderate and fiscal conservative, Allen served one term in the Assembly before being elected to the Senate in 1997 in this Democratic-leaning district. Moore, who ran against Allen in 2006, is a former Willingboro substitute teacher and owns a bed and breakfast. She has called for setting a lower minimum wage for teenagers and senior citizens, saying it would allow small-business owners to hire more workers.

Allen sponsored a bill to create a task force to help senior citizens get back into the workforce and said she would reserve comment until its work was finished. As for teenagers, she was noncommittal, saying it was more important to "make it easier for businesses to hire workers."

A former news anchor, Allen has mostly followed Gov. Christie's lead but parted ways with him over funding for women's health clinics.

There is no Democratic primary for the Assembly seats in the Seventh District, even though candidate Ken Gordon's name will appear on the ballot, along with incumbent Assemblyman Herb Conaway and Troy Singleton of Palmyra, who will be bracketed together. Gordon said he had pulled out of the primary, but county Democrats never informed him that he had to send a letter to the Division of Elections to have his name removed.

He withdrew, he said, because "the party can't stand a contested primary at the legislative level. We need to make sure all our resources are pooled for the challenges coming."

Like all 40 legislative districts, the Seventh is a little different in 2011 thanks to the remapping in response to the 2010 census.

The Seventh, which covers much of western Burlington County, has a few new towns, including Moorestown, Mount Laurel, and Bordentown, and lost the Camden County towns of Pennsauken and Merchantville.

Democratic Assemblyman Jack Conners announced his retirement after Pennsauken, his hometown, was removed from the district.

Republican Assemblyman Joseph Malone is a new face to some of the voters in the Seventh because his hometown, Bordentown, was added. Previously, he served a district that ran from Northern Burlington County to Ocean County.

Republicans George Gallenthin of Woodbury and Keith Walker of Camden are fighting for the chance to go up against Democratic Sen. Donald Norcross in the Fifth District, which covers parts of Camden and Gloucester Counties.

To the southeast in the First District, which covers Cape May County and parts of Cumberland and Atlantic Counties, Republican Senate candidate Thomas Greto of Villas caused a stir after reports that he left the campaign trail in a 1994 run for a Pennsylvania House seat because he had been arrested on embezzlement charges.

His campaign manager, Ryan Bailey, said Greto didn't see how his past legal troubles were an issue in this race.

In 1994, Greto ran as an independent for a 161st District state representative seat in Delaware County, but disappeared from the campaign trail a couple of weeks before Election Day. Later it was learned that he had been sitting in a Delaware County jail on charges that he embezzled about $400,000 from investors. He was acquitted of the most serious charges and convicted of a misdemeanor.

He is a tea party-inspired candidate and is running against Republican Party-endorsed David DeWeese of Wildwood. The winner will face Sen. Jeff Van Drew in the fall.

Greto is running with two Assembly candidates who are challenging GOP-endorsed candidates.

One of the most publicized New Jersey races may never materialize.

Olympian Carl Lewis, who is unopposed in the primary, wants to run as a Democrat for the Senate in the Eighth District, which covers much of Burlington County's east side, but Republicans have raised such a fuss over his residency that a federal judge could take him off the general-election ballot.

U.S. District Judge Noel Hillman is working out a schedule with lawyers for Lewis and the secretary of state to determine whether Lewis should appear on the ballot. A ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit allows him to appear on the ballot until Hillman decides whether New Jersey's residency requirement violates the U.S. Constitution.

Soon after Lewis' April 11 campaign announcement, Burlington County Republicans sued, saying he did not meet the state's four-year residency requirement. Lewis maintains homes in Medford and California, where he voted in a 2009 race. But because judges have liberally interpreted New Jersey's residency requirements, Democrats are holding out hope that the nine-time track-and-field gold medalist will be their candidate against Sen. Dawn Marie Addiego.

Lewis hired a campaign manager and has been knocking on doors in the district and appearing at Democratic functions.

Addiego is preparing for the general election. A former freeholder and assemblywoman, she was appointed to the Senate when Phil Haines left to become a Superior Court judge.

All this is a preamble to the fall, when a reinvigorated GOP hopes to take control of the Legislature and Democrats hope to build veto-proof majorities.

Overriding a veto requires a two-thirds majority in both houses.

In the Senate, there are 24 Democrats and 16 Republicans, and 27 votes are needed to override a veto. There are 47 Democrats and 33 Republicans in the Assembly, where 54 votes are needed.

Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday.