Battleground Dynamics with Time Ticking Down

Democrats trying to hang on to their slate in battleground LD-16 see Republican Ross Traphagen threatening to snipe an Assembly seat in the Nov. 7th election.

It’s real.

Aggressive, Traphagen – a young family man – runs in large part on pushing back against area overdevelopment, schools overcrowding and underserving, and overall diminishment of quality of life in Central Jersey.

Republicans actually want to sweep here, not just grab a seat, and the dynamics of LD-16 make this a contest capable of producing any combination of outcomes.

The Democratic ticket led by state Senator Andrew Zwicker (D-16) and reinforced by fellow incumbent Assemblyman Roy Freiman (D-16) – continues – in this projected low turnout election cycle – to highlight a team commitment to protecting a woman’s right to choose.

The essential slumbering quality of state elections this cycle ironically presents against an all-time dramatic backdrop of shocking and lurid political and geopolitical events.

Will Republicans’ inability to pick a speaker (at least as of right now, and even if they pick one, they appear handcuffed to the priorities of an indicted former president) impact these legislative contests? U.S. Rep. Tom Kean (R-7), whose congressional direct overlaps the 16th, dumped an ad into the atmosphere to counter the nightmare, even as his 2024 challengers heaped scorn. Will the indictments of U.S. Senator Bob Menendez – one of the state’s leading Democrats, who refuses to resign – damage his party’s ability to connect with voters? A party source, speaking on condition of anonymity, sounded demoralized Wednesday over the intractable excruciating headache created by the state’s senior senator.

These are cynical times, with bad actors occupying both sides.

Incumbents and their rivals (former GOP Congressman Mike Pappas wants Zwicker’s seat) have mostly


tried to stay on their main party messaging frequencies, with the Dems – like Zwicker and his running mates – sticking with pro-choice as their chief weapon of choice, and the GOP running with parental notification.

Amid the world ending, or seeming so, these emotionally projected abbreviated messages simplifying complex issues dominate in the dull atmosphere of New Jersey swamp politics.

This morning’s FDU Poll made Democrats squirm as they considered the boiled down dynamics of this cycle and what Republicans’ penetrating on schools means to incumbent security.

From the Poll:

“While New Jersey residents favor Democratic over Republican candidates in the upcoming race for the state legislature, Republican attacks based on parental control of schools cut into those margins substantially, potentially putting Democratic control of the General Assembly at risk. According to the latest results from the FDU Poll, asking residents about the parental control issue makes them six points more likely to say that they’ll support the Republican candidate in the upcoming election in their district, and nine points less likely to support the Democratic candidate.

“Republican candidates are using these attacks because they work,” said Dan Cassino, a professor of Government and Politics at FDU, and the director of the poll. “If voters are thinking about parental control of schools when they go to the ballot box, Democrats are in real trouble.”

The other battlegrounds besides LD-16?


and LD-38.

Gopal and Dinistrian

State Senator Vin Gopal (D-11) apparently has very high name ID – better than his colleagues operating in the same state senate sphere of influence. He lost his two running mates last time in a split ticket district.

But Gopal appears prepared to mix up the messaging, going with pro-choice protection, the trust of his own years’ long work product, and some sharp elbow throwing at his Republican challenger Steve Dnistrian to make the contest more complex than merely abortion vaporwaving. A political veteran with a high work rate, the incumbent senator doesn’t simply make the case for protecting abortion rights. He makes it with the flourish of protecting freedom, as in, the Democrats are the party of freedom, as the GOP once burnished that brand with someone like Ronald Reagan. Subtle? Not really. But more so than most incumbent messaging this cycle.

More later.

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