By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media
LITTLE EGG HARBOR — Despite NJ Spotlight describing New Jersey Legislative District 9 as a “deeply red” Republican region, Democrat Gabriel Franco always said has a legitimate chance to win.
As voting closes today, Nov. 7, Franco remained positive as polls closed. An attorney by trade, Franco is the Democratic municipal chairman in Little Egg Harbor and a longtime resident of Ocean County. If he wins, he will become the first Latino to serve the district.
Franco is seeking to replace GOP Sen. Christopher Connors, a seat that has been owned by the that family for three decades. His father served in that seat as well. Franco is facing Berkeley Mayor Carmen Amato Jr.
Franco talked to Front Runner New Jersey about his background and how he believes it makes him to right person to serve all of the citizens of District 9, regardless of what walk of life they come from. A former volunteer with the Atlantic City nonprofit Friends In Action, Franco said he is at home helping people reach their potential.
“I am the product of immigrant parents,” Franco said. “My father was from Chile, and my mother is Puerto Rican. I grew up in Lakewood. Being raised, I saw this mixture of success and poverty.
“My mother was a nurse’s aide, and my father was he owned a trucking company. He was very entrepreneurial minded. At some point, I was maybe in third grade, when he lost a couple of key clients and the business really tanked. We became really poor really fast and ended up being a welfare for a while. That really shaped a lot of who I am today, on two fronts.
“One, understanding what struggle is like, to a degree, but then also appreciating the fact that our social safety net exists to help people avoid that trap. My father couldn’t get off of it fast enough. He felt a bit ashamed. They’re all doing well now, and everyone has stabilized now but and so with that, with that income.”
Franco attended Ocean County College, where he paid his way through school, then graduated from Seton Hall University and earned a full-ride scholarship to attend law school at
Valparaiso University in Indiana.
District 9 covers 19 municipalities in Ocean County: Barnegat, Barnegat Light, Beachwood, Beach Haven, Berkely, Eagleswood, Harvey Cedars, Lacey, Lakehurst, Little Egg Harbor, Long Beach, Manchester, Ocean Twp., Ocean Gate, Pine Beach, Ship Bottom, Stafford, Surf City and Tuckerton.
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