The Great LD 23 Guessing Game

WASHINGTON (Warren County) – Legislative District 23 in northwest New Jersey long has been a Republican bastion, a place where competitive elections, if they happen at all, occur in the June primary.

That still may be the case this fall with the GOP trio of Sen. Doug Steinhardt, a former state party chair, and Assembly members John DiMaio, the minority leader, and Erik Peterson running for reelection.

Democrats, however, say they’re in the game – finally.

As the Dems’ legislative team of candidates kicked off their campaign Wednesday evening at a local brew pub, Tom Palmieri, the party’s Warren County chair, looked on approvingly.

“This is the best campaign … the most organized campaign,” Democrats have had in years in the district, Palmieri said, adding that the candidates have been “knocking on doors” since July and that they’ve raised enough money to hire staff.

“It’s a tough race, no denying that,” Palmieri admitted.

The Democratic candidates are Denise King, a nurse, for Senate and Guy Citron, an entrepreneur with a degree in psychology, and Tyler Powell, a farmer, for Assembly.

Many of the state’s 40 legislative districts are oddly-shaped. But the 23rd may win the award for oddity.

Most of it hugs the state’s western border in Warren and Hunterdon counties. But then you have an “arm” running from Lebanon Township east all the way to Bridgewater and Somerville in Somerset County.

The stats give Republicans a fairly comfortable registration lead of about 14,000.

As the candidates mingled with supporters over craft beers, King noted how Democrats have turned once-Republican Somerset County “blue.” That magic, she said, or perhaps hoped, can materialize in LD-23 as well.

An obvious problem is that GOP strength in Warren and Hunterdon remains quite strong.

Palmieri credited Citron for bringing energy and enthusiasm to the campaign.

Speaking to about two dozen or so backers, Citron stressed his support for abortion rights and marriage equality, adding that Republicans today are listening to “the most extreme voices in the room.”

This year’s legislative campaign statewide is just getting started, but the themes are already out there and they are as divergent as can be. That’s no surprise in a heavily-polarized environment.

Democrats, as Citron did on this hot and humid evening, speak about women’s rights and of the “Trump cult,” or rather its continuing potential for violence and division. Like Trump itself, they see Republicans devolving into a narrow-minded and angry group of people upset it’s no longer the 1950’s.

Go to Republican events and the talk is very different.

This election, they’re prone to say, is about parents’ rights and restoring “sanity.” By that they mean an end to “wokeness” in public schools and off-shore wind preparation that the GOP claims is killing whales.

The gap here is pretty wide.

The central question is, how many people will watch it all unfold?  That’s not an academic inquiry.  In 2019, the last time the state Legislature topped the ballot, turnout was an uninspiring 27 percent.

So it’s no surprise that Palmieri said of the LD-23 race that if Democrats turn out strongly, “We win.”

You wanna guess what Republicans are saying at their events?

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5 responses to “The Great LD 23 Guessing Game”

  1. It’s about time to have our Democrats work for YOU! They are us – a nurse, a farmer, and an entrepreneur. These are the people we want to represent us – VOTE DEM all the way in November – show you want to save our democracy by having real, accomplished, smart, COMPASSIONATE people in office…

  2. Time for living in the 21st Century! C’mon voters, let’s not step backwards on equality, women’s rights, voting rights, education and critical thinking , and gun safety. Grievance politics seems like elementary playground nonsense. The younger generation needs an educated and safe worldview! Dems lead forward, while Republicans march backward!

  3. And what about warehouses? these blights on some of the best farmland in the state? Pollution of water, clogged roads with truck traffic — Dems are working hard to control their appearance, while the GOP is silent.

  4. The GOP candidates have refused to discuss or debate issues with their opponents. Without discussion of the voter priorities, it’s not surprising voter turnout is so low. The more entrenched a candidate is, the less discussion he wants.

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