Battleground Legislative Races: Predictions and Perspectives

LD21 Democratic Assembly candidates Lisa Mandelblatt and Stacey Gunderman

First District:  Despite the fact that he is pro-Trump and I am the ultimate anti-Trump center-right independent, I have been an admirer of GOP Senate candidate Mike Testa, Jr. since I met him at a holiday party in December.  He has it all: Policy insight, charisma, political sagacity, and the name Testa, a time-honored name in the legal and civic communities of Cumberland County.  He is also a highly competent attorney, worthy of his family name and reputation. The candidates in the “Big Four” legislative races are approaching the Sweet Hour of Prayer.  They have given their utmost to their campaigns, and the rest is left to their GOTV operations.  Here are some brief election day observations. 

Testa’s opponent, incumbent Democratic Senator Bob Andrzejczak is an authentic decorated Iraq War hero, having won the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.  His amputated left leg is Exhibit A of his supreme patriotism. 

Normally, Testa would be favored.  Trump is a positive factor for Republicans in this district, one of the few places in the Northeastern United States where this is the case.  And as mentioned above, the name Testa is political gold in Cumberland and Cape May counties.  Finally, Mike has run a supremely focused and strategically sound campaign. 

Still, Testa is currently considered by most pundits to be an underdog, due to two factors: 1) He is being outspent by the Democrats, 7-1; and 2) Andrzejack and his Assembly running mates are running under the slogan, the “Van Drew Team,” named for incumbent first term Democratic Congressman Jeff Van Drew, who enjoys rock-star popularity in Atlantic, Cape May, and Cumberland County.   

I will not make an outright prediction on this race, which appears to be within the margin of error.  If Mike, only 43, does lose, it should be a Republican priority to get him to run again in a political climate more auspicious to the NJGOP. 

Eighth District:  If candidate quality was the determinative factor in this district, the Republicans would win by a landslide.  Assembly GOP candidates incumbent Ryan Peters, a former freeholder and Navy SEAL Commander and Jean Stanfield, completing her service as Burlington County Sheriff have a major advantage over their Democratic opponents Mark Natale and Gina LaPlaca in terms of both relevant experience and voter appeal. 

Yet the GOP candidates in this mostly Democratic district are perceived to be at best a 50-50 reelection possibility.  They are being substantially outspent by their Democratic opponents, and are running against a growing Democratic registration advantage.  The latter was an obvious major factor in incumbent Senator Dawn Addiego switching her party affiliation from Republican to Democratic last January. 

This race will come down to Election Day GOTV. Incumbent Democratic Congressman Andy Kim will be watching this race closely:  He needs a large Democratic margin in Burlington to win reelection. 

Twenty-First District:  Democrats Lisa Mandelblatt and Stacey Gunderman are likely to defeat Republican Assembly Leader Jon Bramnick and GOP Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz. 

Bramnick and Munoz have served with distinction in the Assembly, but in 2019, they have been hit with the perfect storm:  the huge registration shift to the Democrats over the past decade, the controversy over the wording of Bramnick’s law firm website regarding the defense given to sexual assault defendants, in which he appears to have had no role, the gun issue, the Trump factor, especially regarding women voters, and the Independent Conservative candidacies of Marty Marks and Harry Pappas.  Regardless of the outcome of this race, the denouement will be marked by high drama. 

Twenty-Fifth District: The controversy over Republican Anthony Bucco’s remaining as a candidate for Assembly while taking office as a Senator is a kerfuffle, but not an ethical scandal. This remains a Republican district, where the Bucco name continues to enjoy an excellent reputation.  Anthony Bucco and his running mate, Brian Bergen are likely to defeat their Democratic opponents, Lisa Bhimani and Darcy Draeger. 

New Jersey politics is a marathon.  In New Jersey, we have significant elections every year.  The 2020 campaigns begin at 8:01 this evening. 

Alan J. Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission.    

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