From Leading a Platoon in Baghdad to Running for Office

Moorestown's Jeff Banasz, an ex-Marine, calls running for state Assembly 'just another opportunity to serve.'

Assembly candidate Jeff Banasz may be "a young guy with no political experience," but he knows what it takes to lead and make tough decisions. 

A former Marine who did a tour in Baghdad at the height of the Iraq War, Banasz—today an insurance broker for the Graham Company in Philadelphia—was always drawn to a life of service. Right after he graduated from high school, soon after the end of the Gulf War, Banasz remembered talking to his father about his interest in serving in the military.

There was a certain allure to military service—Banasz's grandfather was a Marine and was awarded a Navy Cross (the second highest military decoration for valor) for his service in Okinawa during World War II—and also, the idea of being able to get a job right out of college "sounded like a good deal to me."

Banasz, who grew up in Voorhees and Haddon Heights, enrolled in the Naval Academy and, upon graduating, served for five years in the Marine Corps. During his time in Iraq, he regularly led a platoon of soldiers whose average age was 19-20 years old.

"I would argue there's probably nothing more challenging than being a 26-year-old platoon commander in Iraq with 58 men under my command," said Banasz. "Leading at that level is one of the biggest challenges I ever had in my life."

So it didn't phase him terribly when local Republicans asked him to serve take an open county committee seat soon after he moved to Moorestown seven years ago. He became involved in local elections, and was also appointed to the zoning board, on which he now serves as vice chair. 

Most recently, he filed to run for state Assembly alongside Delran's Anthony Ogozalek, on the same ticket as Sen. Diane Allen.

"Politics is very similar (to military service). It involves being a leader, people trusting you, being able to think on your feet," Banasz said. "I've always enjoyed having the opportunity to serve, and this is just another opportunity to serve."

Though he and his running mates are still in the process of crafting their campaign message, Banasz said he's excited to be part of Gov. Chris Christie's "New Jersey Comeback."

"He's energized me," said Banasz. 

The deadline for candidates to file petitions for the June primary is 4 p.m. Monday, April 1. Check back with Moorestown Patch next week to see who else is running. 

DianeAllenFan March 30, 2013 at 12:41 PM
It's like the Republicans WANT to lose this race. Were there really no decent candidates seeking to run? Who are these people?! I have a hard time believing that these 2 guys are the best in the whole district.
Joanne Straub March 30, 2013 at 03:52 PM
I know Jeff personally. He will be a great Assemblyman. The Republican Party needs fresh faces with fresh ideas!
Ryan Tickner March 30, 2013 at 06:31 PM
Um, really Fan? Let's see, military experience. Check. Private sector experience. Check. "No political experience" as quoted in the article. Check. Sounds to me like an ideal canditate. What did you have in mind? Another politically connected person oweing favors all over the state to keep the status quo of unaccountable awful governtment? I would argue it's about time the the republican and democrat party started seeking out high quatlity individuals without ties to politics. We need more of this. Congrats to Jeff.
Gemini March 30, 2013 at 06:50 PM
Does anyone even like diane allen anymore? I thought the camera added weight but holy smokes..... Its too bad chris ciacchio wasnt picked because he would have been so much fun to make fun of. We have to check into this team and see what they are about. so far we have a fresh face and some guy who has had his head stuck up the partys butt since birth. He is about as good as our own joey donnelly. Say joey what are you doing abaout our flooding and high taxes?.
Human Rights Campaign March 30, 2013 at 07:28 PM
This is who we come up with? Bet the party just wanted him to self finance with some of the family money, nothing else explains it. Running mate is about as inside the boss politics as you can get. What a sad slate this time. And we all thought Keenan and Halgas were a bad pick!!!
Easter egg March 30, 2013 at 07:50 PM
Too bad he's gonna lose. Sounds like a decent candidate. I predict Diane Allen with 70% of the vote, Sigleton and Conaway win by 550 votes each over these two.
Hawkeye March 30, 2013 at 10:25 PM
That's it DAF & HRC. Let's rip the serviceman who has put his own safety at risk for us all. He's extremely deserving and a proven leader. Our Town Council is the laughing stock of the County, so its about time the Republican party stopped playing politics and backed someone with some qualifications. Ds will be hard to beat...
john e velcro March 30, 2013 at 10:54 PM
A US Naval Academy grad and marine Is light years ahead of anyone on town council. I am sure this is why they picked him over the Deputy mayor and mayor. I bet victoria is really jealous but until she settles down she is still a carpetbagger. Lets hope unlike the council, he doesnt reneg on campaign promises. Imagine Greg newcomer debating him or Garwood taking him out for late night munchies
Darren March 31, 2013 at 05:57 AM
Why are people acting like he's on a different side than council? They are the same party. Isn't Banasz even Victoria's runningmate on the MRMC? Why are you even bringing council up? I don't get what you are saying? GOP is united now from what I hear under Steve Solomon and Pete Miller
Paul Canton III March 31, 2013 at 10:59 PM
We're lucky to have a great citizen like Jeff represent us. No matter what your political affiliation...this is a good person. Thanks for being involved Jeff.
AFD April 01, 2013 at 01:16 AM
John, why would Victoria be jealous? Elaborate.... What beef do You have against our town councilmembers now? Elaborate.. We're you involved with picking these two candidates or were you "jealous" that you weren't part of the action? Maybe you have an inside track why you and some know why "real candidates" as stated weren't chosen to run against the Dems? It seems DAF is upset and wants some answers, perhaps you'd like to share? Is there more to this story?
AFD April 01, 2013 at 01:21 AM
I agree we should all thank Jeff for his service to our country! Going back to the dialogue, is there more to this story to answer some of the others "concerns" that "real candidates" or perhaps those who "move up the ladder" for a higher position were passed up for some reason? Or is this just talk?
Right Wing April 01, 2013 at 10:49 AM
He's gonna need all the help he can get, district 7 is a political suicide mission for any republican but Diane Allen it seems like
AFD April 01, 2013 at 10:59 AM
From what was heard early this morning, one of these three candidates is a placeholder is is going to retire this summer. So whoever is picking these people Steve, Pete, or John or whoever, may have to plan for a replacement if today is a day for such news is happening. Who's is the running? Maybe Jeff can move up? Today can buzz with a lot of news.
Time to make the donuts April 01, 2013 at 06:35 PM
This should be interesting.......
Soccer Mom April 01, 2013 at 07:39 PM
Jeff is a nice guy, and I wish him well in this. Personally would have liked to see Scott Cooper as our candidate for Assembly, though!
erik lewis April 01, 2013 at 08:16 PM
I served under Jeff in Iraq and I can tell you that with his leadership abilities, he will serve his community and state well. He treated everybody with respect and listened to our ideas. As a Sgt serving under him, I would gladly do it again and would stand behind him whenever he asked. Good Luck Sir!
AFD April 01, 2013 at 08:18 PM
The last heard today was that a Miller-Cooper ticket for town council was in the works. It looks like those people involved are saving the right people for the right time to run.
Concerned Citizen April 01, 2013 at 08:33 PM
I am not familiar at all with who Scott Cooper is, I have never heard of him. Do you prefer him because he is more qualified? If he is more qualified what are his qualifications? I am asking because I would like to become more informed.
Do Tell April 01, 2013 at 08:50 PM
Are you claiming that Scott Cooper and Pete Miller are going to primary our sitting Mayor and Deputy Mayor? Or are they running as Democrats?
john April 02, 2013 at 12:22 AM
Regardless of where you are on the political spectrum, Jeff is a fantastic candidate. A natural leader, with an energetic, positive, 'get it done' attitude that will energize bureaucrats on both sides of the aisle.
Haywood Jeublomie April 02, 2013 at 02:19 AM
Why would a smart attorney like cooper hang out with someone as dumb as miller? Hey pete why don't you and jeff have a debate at the next mrc meeting and we can see which of you is more qualified.
Time to make the donuts April 02, 2013 at 12:47 PM
Looks like we have a primary challenge coming including someone from Moorestown
Dime a dozen April 02, 2013 at 02:17 PM
Now that AFD ( im guessing april fools day) Is done with their April Fools jokes, leaving some to be "punked" with their apparent exaggerated news, Tell us donut guy who's running in the assembly primary?
Deeply Concerned April 02, 2013 at 02:28 PM
Right here: http://www.phillyburbs.com/news/local/burlington_county_times_news/tea-party-slate-to-challenge-gop-organization-candidates-in-primary/article_e3b2ee0d-43f0-57c3-bb8f-416797d8106a.html
time for some tea April 03, 2013 at 04:46 PM
Do you wonder who really represents you? http://www.politickernj.com/64284/sources-burlco-gop-wont-back-incumbent-assemblyman-rudder-ld8


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