A Democratic Primary Looms for Bateman’s LD16 Senate Seat

Senator Troy Singleton and Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker respond to Governor Phil Murphy’s conditional veto of their bill that would require disclosure of lobbying groups and those who try to influence NJ elections.

There’s a new opportunity for Democrats in LD-16, a district that already has a heavy Democratic registration advantage.

Republican state Sen. Kip Bateman’s recent announcement that he won’t seek reelection creates a coveted political prize – an open seat.

Bateman is kind of a rarity these days; a centrist Republican.  And also one who understands that Donald Trump has done New Jersey Republicans no good at all.

In an interview with InsiderNJ.com, Bateman candidly admitted that the former president has hurt the party and that New Jersey Republicans need to “redefine” themselves.

Of the three legislators representing the district, Bateman is the only Republican. And with Dems holding an estimated 21,000-voter registration lead, he may be the last one- at least for a while in a district that spans parts of four counties in central Jersey. Somerset and Hunterdon are the dominant counties. In true gerrymandered fashion, the district has only one town in Mercer (Princeton) and one in Middlesex (South Brunswick).

It is logical for Assembly members to look to “move up” as soon as a Senate vacancy occurs. So, you can expect Assemblymen Andrew Zwicker and Roy Freiman to express interest in the Senate seat.

But they are not the only ones.

Laurie Poppe of Hillsborough, who lost to Bateman by less than 1,000 votes in 2017, already has said she wants to run this year, and has stated her intentions in a letter to the Somerset County Democratic Committee. In her letter, she stresses the campaign and public service work she did throughout the district challenging Bateman four years ago.

“Please know that I have been considering my options for some time and Senator Bateman’s retirement had no influence on my thought process one way or another,” she said in an email. “I wish Senator Bateman the very best.”

But there could be more candidates.

Zenon Christodoulou, the vice chair of the Somerset County Democrats, says he’s been approached by people who think he would make a good candidate.

He was non-committal in a phone conversation today, but in general, he said Democrats should be very happy to have a chance to take a Senate seat.

Peg Schaffer, the chair of the Somerset Dems, hasn’t endorsed anyone. She said she hopes a Senate candidate and entire legislative slate can be hammered out at a convention among party members from all four counties.

If not, a primary looms.

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