The economy, the plight of the middle class, and job creation are among the main issues facing the three candidates running for Congress in New Jersey's competitive Third District race, according to retired Ocean County College Political Science Professor Richard Strada. 

"The wealth of the middle class has been declining and the wealth of the elite has been increasing during this economic downturn," said Strada, noting that is the most important issue in this mid-term election.

Republican Tom MacArthur, Democrat Aimee Belgard, and Democratic-Republican Organization of New Jersey candidate Frederick John LaVergne are seeking the seat being vacated by GOP Congressman Jon Runyan, who decided not to seek a 3rd term.

"The second major issue would be how you go about getting Congress, which is at its lowest level of public acceptance in history, how you get the two warring sides to work together and try to find a resolution to the several problems that confront the United States; the economy, the aging infrastructure, the basic need for jobs for a significant number of people in which their future generations, their children and grandchildren, will be able to have a life better than their parents and grandparents," said Strada.

As far as the ongoing Sandy recovery efforts and the possible closure or decommissioning of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, Strada considered them secondary issues in different markets where the candidates are looking for votes.

"The vast majority of people who live in the 3rd District were not affected by Sandy. It sells well on the Atlantic Coast. It doesn't do well in Burlington County," Strada pointed out. He added, "People may have sympathy for those who have been negatively impacted by the storm, but as you get further away from it, that issue tends to be less important. Same thing with the base issue."

Watch video of the candidates debate on October 17 at Ocean College in Toms River at www.wobm.com.