Essex County Commissioner District 4 Candidates Night debate

Photo By Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta
The two candidates for the open seat on the County Commission representing District 4. Adam Kraemer, left, and Leonard Luciano, right.

The two candidates for Essex County Commissioner participated in a League of Women Voters debate on Oct. 4 in Livingston.

Incumbent Democrat Leonard Luciano and Republican Adam Kraemer spoke in front of a small group at Livingston Community Center, discussing issues and offering why they were the right person to represent the 4th District on the County Commission. The Fourth District includes West Orange, Livingston, Caldwell and several other Essex County municipalities.

Luciano was sworn-in to fill an unexpired term as the District Commissioner in August of 2011, elected to his first full term in November of 2011, and re-elected in 2014 and 2017. He won a primary election in 2020 and was then re-elected in the general election in 2020.

He was born in Livingston, graduated Livingston High School in 1999, and currently resides in West Orange. He has a bachelor’s degree in humanities from Montclair State University, a masters degree in liberal arts from Thomas Edison State College, a New Jersey teaching certificate through Rutgers University and an Educational Specialist degree in leadership and administration from Seton Hall University.

Kraemer, who also lives in West Orange, has run for multiple offices, multiple times, with a small or zero campaign budget. He was born in Maplewood, graduated Columbia High School and had his Bar Mitzvah at B’nai Jeshurun in Short Hills.

He graduated from Colgate University and earned two master’s degrees from Teachers College at Columbia University.

Amy Ipp, co-president of League of Women Voters of Livingston, began the program by explaining that the League is a “non-partisan political non-profit founded 100 years ago that helps voters make their own decisions.”

Moderator Catherine Kazan, president of the Wayne LWV, explained the ground rules and let the candidates know they had one minute and 30 seconds to answer each audience question, which were written and submitted prior to the debate.

The greatest challenges facing Essex County were discussed. Luciano felt they were increasing public safety, maintaining taxes and continuing to better the quality
of life.

Kraemer felt the greatest challenges were making Essex County an affordable place to live, making sure law enforcement was safe and creatively lowering the county taxes. “We need fresh eyes looking at books. We need to think differently,” he said.

Another concern brought to the table was if either candidate was in favor of additional development of Turtle Back Zoo.

“Bigger and grandiose is not better,” Kraemer said. “It’s fine as it is. Forever wild does not mean a parking deck. People come first. Zoos are nice to have but it’s not a necessary component.”

Luciano explained that the zoo has been in Essex County for 60 years and that a lot of families don’t have enough money to go to Disneyland, but going to Turtle Back Zoo is just as fun. While he wouldn’t increase development because it would cut down trees, he’s in favor of trying to increase our preserved areas.

He also feels we need to stop development. “Development creates run-off. Run-off overflows our rivers. Just last week in Fairfield, a policeman had to pull a car that was in the flooding zone.”

Later in the evening, Luciano reiterated his stance against development. “It crowds our schools. Children learn best in smaller environments.”

Kraemer doesn’t think “development” is a bad word. “We need places for people to live,” he said. “There has to be zoning so it’s done right, so you don’t have traffic and drainage. You have to allow people to build.”

The candidates were asked if they were in favor of doing away with the party line on ballots.

“I live in West Orange. We don’t officially have a party line. Each person running is an individual,” Kraemer said. “I voted for Democrats in my time. Voters have to learn to think beyond parties. Independents should run.”

Luciano supports the political lines. “Until the system changes, I’m going to support the system that’s in place,” he said.

The entire candidate forum can be seen, archived, on the Livingston LWV’s Facebook page at:

Others from the LWV in attendance were Amy Ipp, co-president of Livingston LWV; Nishna Makala who has been helping the LWV since she was in eighth grade and founder of the Livingston League at Livingston High School; Ray Sapherstein, a student volunteer on the executive board for the Livingston High School chapter; and Rewa Jain, a freshman volunteer.

For additional information on the Livingston LWV, visit: https://www.lwv. org/local-leagues/lwv-livingston.