Open legislative seats in safe districts generally attract a crowd. And when two seats are open, you can double the fun.
That’s the case in LD-24 ranging over very Republican ground in northwest Jersey’s Sussex, Warren and Morris counties. Some know that Morris has become more competitive of late, but as of yet, Democratic inroads have not reached such western Morris outposts as Roxbury, Washington Township and the Chesters. After redistricting, those towns are all in the mostly Sussex County district.
Both current assemblymen Parker Space and Hal Wirths are not seeking reelection, opening their seats to the GOP world at large.
Many are already jumping at the chance.
Dawn Fantasia , a Sussex County Commissioner, is running and just announced she is doing so with Michael Inganamort, the mayor of Chester Township.
Also expected to run, or already in the race, are Josh Aikens, the school board president in Lafayette, political newcomer Enrico Fioranelli of Roxbury, Rob Kovic, a former candidate for the party’s CD-11 nod, Jason Sarnoski, a Warren County Commissioner and Steve Lonegan.
Lonegan, a recently relocated Sussex resident, has the most extensive background.
He was the mayor of Bogota, but he is probably better known for championing a number of conservative causes. Years ago, he led the fight against what may be a now-forgotten scheme of then-Governor Jon Corzine to sell or lease New Jersey toll roads as part of “asset monetization.” Lonegan also was the conservative alternative to Chris Christie in the 2009 primary and carried the GOP’s banner in a special Senate election against Cory Booker in 2013.
He has not been a real factor in statewide races, but he always did well in Sussex. On the other hand, a lot of voters may not care about – or even know – the history. Sadly, not everyone pays attention to politics every day. That makes it debatable how widespread Lonegan’s name recognition is in LD-24.
What seems obvious is that this contest is going to be about personalities mixed with past and newly-minted alliances. You can expect just about all candidates to take a strong conservative line, so much so that this can be a case of RINOs need not apply.
Scan Aikins’ social media pages and he is talking about Phil Murphy’s state of the state address as “another garbage speech chalk full of lies, misdirection and gaslighting.”
Fioranelli says in a release that families are being “ripped apart” by high taxes and that parents feel as if they have no control over their kids’ education. He adds, “It is time to make New Jersey normal.”
Barring some sort of seismic shift in voters’ attitudes, two new Republicans are going to win these seats in the fall. That brings us to a practical question. Getting things done to help the district demands an ability to work with Murphy, who will still be governor, and Democrats, who probably will still control the Assembly. Let’s see if such things are discussed by the candidates.
On the sidelines here – well, not really – is Steven Oroho, the district’s senator and the Minority Leader.
Oroho is not getting involved in the primary, leaving it to the voters to decide who runs with him.
Wise man, that Oroho.