Can a businessman beat a rocket scientist in the political arena? Princeton venture capitalist Scott Sipprelle unsuccessfully challenged incumbent Rush Holt, a former scientist at the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab, in the 2010 race for New Jersey’s 12th District seat in Congress.

Sipprelle has announced he will not run again this year. Eric Beck, a South Brunswick-based risk management consultant specializing in business continuity management, has announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination.

In addition to his business credentials, Beck, 53, cites a background that is atypical for a Republican. His parents were blue collar, union-oriented workers, and his previous jobs even include a stint as a “community activist,” having served as the state director of the Concord Coalition, a grassroots organization co-founded by former U.S. Senators Warren Rudman (R-NH) and the late Paul Tsongas (D-Mass). Beck was responsible for developing programs to educate the public about the adverse effects of continued deficit spending.

“As our nation continues to face daunting fiscal problems and a struggling economy, professional politicians like Rush Holt are still trying to tell us that we can spend our way to prosperity,” said Beck in making his announcement.

“The truth is that higher taxes and more debt are not the answer. Rush Holt is simply out of touch with the moderate voters in this district and does not seem to understand how big government hinders job creation. I will bring the same principled, fiscally conservative approach to government as I have always brought to my business career. As an entrepreneur and small business owner, I haven’t just talked about balancing budgets and spending within your means — I’ve done it. It is that experience that I want to put to work for the 12th district families who are struggling to make ends meet in this economy.”

“Rush Holt’s record in Congress has consistently demonstrated his belief in bigger government and higher taxes,” said Beck. “He was even ranked the most liberal member of Congress by the National Journal. I am excited and energized to present this contrast to the residents of the 12th District.”

Two years ago Sipprelle gained the Republican nomination after a primary battle. So far, says Beck, no other GOP candidate has announced an interest in the seat that represents a recently re-drawn district that some believe was re-configured to Holt’s advantage.

A resident of Middlesex County for most of his life, Beck’s father was a Teamster who worked at a refinery in Elizabeth and his mother as a nurse — eventually part of a unionized work force at a convalescent center. “They lived the American dream,” says Beck, who says they are now living comfortably in an assisted living facility.

Beck studied computer science and economics at Rutgers, Class of 1980, where one of his teachers was an associate of Arthur Laffer, one of the architects behind Ronald Reagan’s supply side economics. “I went into Rutgers as a traditional liberal and left with a changed point of view. I realized that resources are scarce and you have to make choices.”

After college Beck worked for the New Jersey Education Computer Network and Beneficial before returning to Rutgers for an MBA in entrepreneurship. “I’m pretty lucky,” he says. “I have actually been able to use all that I have studied in college.” For the past 20 years or so he has been involved in risk management, helping companies plan for or avoid disasters or other disruptive events. His current company, Risk Masters, is based in New York; Beck works out of a home office in Dayton.

Beck’s wife, Kathy, is a social worker at Robert Wood Johnson hospital in New Brunswick. Their daughter, a Rutgers graduate, was unable to find a job in the recession, took a job in retail, and now is studying at a trade school in Philadelphia. Their son left high school early to enlist in the Army and is now a sergeant in the Army Reserves. He recently returned from a deployment to the Middle East and is attending Montclair State.

The timing for a political campaign is good for Beck, in part because he had a great year in business last year and in part because both of his kids are now on their own. Beck credits Sipprelle for building some Republican identity in this heavily Democratic district. And that disadvantage does not deter him: “A lot can happen between now and November,” he says.

Sipprelle’s Role — A ‘Squeaky Wheel.’ In announcing his decision not to make a second try for the 12th Congressional seat, Scott Sipprelle said that, “while I remain as committed as ever to the principles of political reform and economic renewal, as articulated during my 2010 campaign, this is not my time to be a candidate. Over the last year I have become fully engaged, with a renewed passion and purpose, in my business of starting and building emerging growth companies.

“For now I intend to play an outside role in the world of politics, with a particular interest in supporting first-time candidates for public office,” said Sipprelle. “Through the Lincoln Club of New Jersey, I also intend to continue as a squeaky wheel, working to educate and inform the voters while supporting candidates with the courage and independence to serve as problem solvers.”

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