INSIDERNJ Campaign Zone Flashpoint: Ranking the (TOP!) Leg. Races Sept. 21st

Robert Andrzejczak and Mike Testa

Earlier this month InsiderNJ released our competitive rankings of all the legislative districts in the Nov. 5th arena.

The list basically stays the same, but events on the ground over the course of the last couple of days compel us to readjust the top, most competitive elections in the state.

On Sept. 2nd, LD8 was the most competitive InsiderNJ district.

It’s still right there, in part because of its ties to LD1.

But an LD1 mailer issued this past week by the General Majority PAC, for which South Jersey

Carl Golden, senior contributing analyst with the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University, talks about the escalation of public infighting between Gov. Phil Murphy and George Norcross over the NJEDA Task Force investigations into tax incentives which embodies a political strategy of deny everything and attack.
George Norcross III, Democratic Party Power Broker.

Democratic Power Broker George Norcross III raises money, prompts us to move New Jersey’s southern most New Jersey district into the top spot.

It’s driving the narrative right now for other battleground contests, specifically those funded by the General Majority PAC, and that intensifies LD8, where incumbent Assemblyman Ryan Peters (R-8) and running mate retiring BurlCo Sheriff Jean Stanfield have already denounced the mail piece.

Republican operatives are said to be on the ground (they were, as it turned out) chasing Democrats in LD8 today at the fairs and festivals, trying to get them to address LD1.

But LD1 is looking into its own cavernous soul right now.

All emanates from the south at this InsiderNJ moment in time.

In a presumably low turnout election year troughed between federal contests featuring U.S. Rep. Jeff

Van Drew
Van Drew

Van Drew (D-1), Legislative District 1 contest features Senator Bob Andrzejczak of Cape May and his ticket mates running under the lawn sign auspices of “The Van Drew Team.”

Going back to the beginning of the millennium when he snagged an assembly seat, Van Drew built LD1 into a Democratic district based on his own center-right brand. The hands-on pol propelled himself into  the senate in 2007, when he displaced incumbent Senator Nick Asselta (R-1). Now war hero Andrezjczak is trying to hold onto the seat in a district where registered Republicans (42,074) outnumber Democrats (38,510) on paper, with 57,545 independent voters hanging in the balance.

Cumberland County GOP Chair Mike Testa wants to restore the post-Van Drew era seat to Republican hands, and is wading through the tag of “boss” planted by mailers affiliated with the Democratic Party’s South Jersey-based overlord.

Antwan McClellan of Ocean City.
Republican Antwan McClellan of Ocean City.

Cynics evidently expect the widely condemned mail piece to bump Democrats in the rural district, but Testa and his running mate – targeted Ocean City Councilman Antwan McClellan – don’t agree.

The new dynamic now moves LD8 into the two spot, but one could easily argue – and Peters and Stanfield very well might – that the LD1 mailer detonates with more impact on their BurlCo-based turf.

There’s one other change.

Up north, we originally ranked LD25 ahead of LD21 in terms of competitiveness.

Our thought process included the leadership value of incumbent Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-21), running for more civility in politics even as his challengers chop away at his connective tissue to bombastic former Governor Chris Christie.

Incumbent Anthony Bucco wins renomination in a four-person GOP 2019 primary election in Legislative District 25.
Incumbent Anthony Bucco won renomination in a four-person GOP 2019 primary election in Legislative District 25.

But the death last week of Senator Tony Bucco (R-25) reasserts the name of a patriarchal presence in Morris County that likely gives the son of the late beloved senator, Assemblyman Tony Bucco (R-25), better reelection footing, possibly with the coattail lawn sign effect of taking his running mate into the endzone with him.

In purely political terms, the GOP will feel the long-term organizational impact of the loss of Senator Bucco, Morris County emblem of Philip Roth’s American Pastoral. But the short-term impact in this campaign cycle likely helps the younger Bucco and probably his running mate.

Debatable?

Yes.

It’s still a competitive district, but we will drop it two slots to the five spot.

LD2, in the neighboring space of LD1 and dependent on the same financial mechanisms, jumps to the three spot mostly by virtue of organizational connectivity to its southern border.

For the moment, LD21 stays in the 4 spot, now ahead of LD25 as a pickup opportunity for Democrats.

Lisa Mandelblatt and Stacey Gunderman, both running for State Assembly in the 21st Legislative District, won their primary against opposition candidate Jill LaZare. They are officially set to face off against Republicans Jon Bramnick and Nancy Munoz in the general election on November 5.
Lisa Mandelblatt and Stacey Gunderman, both running for State Assembly in the 21st Legislative District, won their primary against opposition candidate Jill LaZare. They are officially set to face off against Republicans Jon Bramnick and Nancy Munoz in the general election on November 5.

There are more (46,153 to 42,502) registered Democrats than Republicans in a district where 60,700 independents leaned Republican before the era of President Donald J. Trump.

Warren (3k to 2k registered R’s to D’s advantage), Forest hills (358 to 167),  Bernards (6.9K to 4.7K), Long Hill (2.2K to 1.4K) and Berkeley Heights ll favor the GOP. Others, including Chatham, Watchung, Kenilworth, Mountainside, and New Providence, have very close registration between the two parties. Democrats have a distinct edge on paper in Cranford, Garwood, Roselle Park, Springfield (2-1), and Summit (4.8k to 3.7k registereds). There’s an edge to Democrats too in Westfield (7,450 to 5,153 in terms of party registration)  – on paper.

Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz (R-21), Bramnick's Summit-based Republican running mate.
Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz (R-21), Bramnick’s Summit-based Republican running mate.
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