This New Jersey update will focus on all of the important developments that have taken place since the last writeup. While we don’t have any changes to our ratings, we do have many new pre-primary changes to discuss.
District 2 – Last month we moved the 2nd from Leans Republican to Tossup following a retirement announcement from incumbent Republican Senator Chris Brown. For now, the Tossup rating is holding in this Atlantic County-based seat, which President Biden carried by 11 points last year.
The line-endorsed Democratic candidate for the seat is Vincent Mazzeo, one of the Assemblymen from the 2nd district. Serving since 2014, Mazzeo is now attempting to climb the ladder into the Garden State’s upper chamber. With Chris Brown out of the picture, his path to victory in this Democratic-leaning seat appears significantly clearer.
There are two major contenders in the Republican primary. Receiving the party-line endorsement is former legislator Vince Polistina. Running from outside the line is Seth Grossman, the 2018 US House nominee from the 2nd district. Given Grossman’s controversial history of racist and off-color commentary, the GOP would much prefer a Polistina victory in June.
Until we know the winner of the June Republican primary, we are keeping the 2nd district in our Tossup category. However, it is likely that Mazzeo’s victory chances would significantly increase should Grossman win the nomination next month.
District 16 – The 16th remains Likely Democratic following the retirement of Republican Senator Kip Bateman. It is highly likely that State Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker will be taking his Senatorial oath in Trenton next year. There have, however, been some interesting developments on the Republican side.
Former Congressman Michael Pappas has received the line to run for State Senate in the fall. Pappas served in Congress for a single term, losing a close re-election race to Democrat Rush Holt in 1998 after singing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Kenneth Star” to push for the Clinton impeachment during a House session.
While Pappas certainly faces an uphill battle when it comes to holding the 16th for the Republicans, it is a battle that he has the experience to wage. It will be interesting to see how, if at all, remaining name recognition helps him this November.
You can read more about this matchup here, in a NJ Globe article by David Wildstein.
District 21 – The home of long-time Republican Senator and Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr, the 21st will be vacant for the first time in many years. Kean Jr, who narrowly lost a Congressional bid against 7th district Democrat Tom Malinowski last year, is retiring to run for the House again in 2022.
The Republican shoe-in for the Senate seat is Jon Bramnick, the party’s leader in the State Assembly from the same district. Like Kean Jr, Bramnick is well known and well liked throughout the 21st. There is no doubt that he will be able to acquire ample cross-over support to make the race competitive, even in this Biden+18 seat.
But the Democrats have also recruited a strong candidate in Joseph Signorello, the Mayor of Roselle Park. Roselle Park’s eastern location could give Signorello an advantage in the important Union County portion of the seat. Don’t write off the seat because of its national party leanings, the Garden State suburbs are a completely different animal down ballot.
District 39 – As we mentioned last month, the death of longtime Republican Senator Gerald Cardinale opened up this Bergen/Passaic-based seat. Assemblypeople Holly Schepisi and Bob Auth both sought temporary appointment to the seat. Ultimately, Schepisi won the vote; she is now running for a full term in November. Auth has announced that he will run for another term in the Assembly, avoiding another contest with Schepisi. While narrowly a Biden district last year, the 39th is more Republican down ballot. We currently rate the seat Leans Republican.
District 2 – With Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo seeking election to the Senate this fall, Atlantic County Democrats have endorsed County Commissioner Caren Fitzpatrick to run with fellow incumbent John Armato. They face Republicans Claire Swift and Donald Guardian. We currently rate both seats in the 2nd as Leans Democratic.
District 8 – With Republican Ryan Peters retiring and his colleague Jean Stanfield running for the Senate, both slots in the 8th will be open this fall. Republicans Michael Torrissi and Brandon Umba will be facing Democrats Mark Natale and Allison Eckel. Like the Senate race, we consider both seats in the 8th district as a Tossup.
District 16 – Montgomery Township Mayor Sadaf Jaffer has received the line to run with incumbent Democrat Roy Freiman in the 16th. This comes after Andrew Zwicker announced he would be retiring from his Assembly seat to run for the State Senate. Democrats are favored to maintain both seats in November.
District 26 – While it is not a competitive seat in November, the 26th has yielded a fascinating three-way primary competition. The two incumbents are Jay Webber and Betty DeCroce. A third Republican, Christian Barranco, is also running. As any follower of Garden State politics will surely know, the party line is almost always akin to victory in a given county.
In Morris County, which makes up well over 70% of the vote in a Republican Primary, Webber and Barranco have the line. Despite being an incumbent, DeCroce only has the line in Essex County, a minor portion of the seat. The Morris County advantage, coupled with the new Webber/Barranco partnership will make it hard for DeCroce to hang on this June.
District 31 – In the Hudson county based 31st, Assembly Whip Nicholas Chiaravalloti recently dropped out of the race. This followed the Hudson County Democratic Organization’s decision to back William Sampson, a crane operator, for the 31st district’s single assembly seat. The Mayor of his home town of Bayonne, responsible for the Democratic Organization’s decision, has not commented on his suspension according to the New Jersey Globe.
Join us next month for our May write-up, providing a final preview of the June primary elections.