INSIDERNJ’s WHO’S UP and WHO’S DOWN: Special Election Edition


Mikie Sherrill

The CD-11 Democrat proved an exemplary candidate on all fronts: fundraising, retail, debate, and personal story. In the end she was too powerful for the President Donald J. Trump-backed Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-26) to overcome as she dealt him a 55.5 to 43.3% loss. A large part of her appeal too, was her authentic and fearless ability to lead a real movement of very keyed-in activists, otherwise known as the #me2Movement.


Frank Pallone

The veteran progressive Democrat from Long Branch stands poised with a Democratic Majority in the U.S. House of Representatives to  assume the chairmanship of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee. Longtime staff loyalist Janice Fuller also won her Board of Ed. race in Ocean Township.

Patrick Murray

The Monmouth University Pollster was dead on with his polls throughout the course of the campaign season. Early, he predicted the surge in CD-7, a convincing victory by Menendez, a Sherrill win and a toss-up race in CD-3, all of which transpired.

Bob Menendez

The senior Democratic senator from New Jersey won reelection with 53.1% of the vote or 1.5 million (to

Stack campaigns for Menendez.

43.8% or 1.2 million for his Republican opponent, see below), withstanding a $36 million onslaught to grab another six years. And he won in the rain.

Phil Murphy

At the very least, New Jersey picked up three congressional seats (and maybe four by the time CD3 is tallied), and reelected a U.S. Senator, on the second year watch of the Democratic Governor. His choice to lead the party, Democratic State Committee Chairman John Currie, also had a good night, winning a clerkship in Passaic that eluded him for ten years.

Jeff Van Drew

The veteran state senator knew his district long before he ran for the seat and was able to maintain his poise and moderation while his GOP opponent – in a far more eccentric variation of Webber in CD-11 – had to resort to the Trump card. Van Drew defeated Seth Grossman 52-45.2% (122,562 to 108,822).

Tom Malinowski

He did it. He knocked off a GOP incumbent. People – Democrats – said it a few weeks ago: he had an unprecedented GOTV operation in CD-7. And that was after weeks and weeks of heavy artillery supplied by the DCCC and Democratic State Committee. Malinowski also had an Adlai Stevenson quality that appealed to well-educated district voters as he employed a surgeon’s delicate touch to extract the Trump-impaired Lance 50.3% to 48.2% (136,993 to 131,149 votes). In the process – assisted within his inner sanctum by campaign manager Colston Reid – his effort helped boost numbers in CD-7 battleground Somerset, which enabled Somerset County Democratic Committee Chair Peg Schaffer to score two freeholder seats.

Josh Gottheimer

Don’t forget about the CD-5 Democrat – the guy U.S. Rep. Donald Payne, Jr. once said would be the concentration of the cycle (and who could disagree with him two years ago, before Trump began his antics). A Bergen version of Sherrill in his own right who did it two years earlier, Gottheimer made it look impossible for a Republican to beat him in a district a Republican should win. He prevailed over challenger John McCann: 55.2% to 43.5%.



Donald J. Trump

Hey, New Jersey didn’t like Abe Lincoln either, you can almost hear the guy trying to rationalize; and in a way it’s true, New Jersey has not had the best national track record. Or any kind of record, really. And yes, while they could end up winning as many as 35 congressional seats, the Democrats should have won more like 60 seats (the AP reported a 219-193 Dem advantage on the night). But in terms of New Jersey – and maybe he doesn’t give a damn – he proved toxic here. He was never going to see this place beyond the front gate of his golf course anyway; and yet the point – the larger American point – is, we give a damn. When Trump looks at the ruins of the New Jersey Republican Party and tells Chris Smith to collect his regiment, Smith, like Pickett, will have to stammer in disbelief, “I have no regiment.”


It’s unfair that many of the fine people in the party would have to end up mowed down by Trump, but that’s what happened. Rodney Frelinghuysen and Frank LoBiondo saw it coming. They got out of the way rather than get flattened. But a lot of people in the GOP didn’t or couldn’t or wouldn’t get out of the way – and suffered the consequences of a presidency whose association in New Jersey (we’ll see about U.S. Rep. Tom MacArthur) spelled the crack of doom. “The divisive rhetoric of Donald Trump clouds the economic issues that Republicans are strong on in New Jersey, because people are so offended. I do not want Trump to turn New Jersey into a one-party state,” said Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick (R-21), who now faces the prospect, in a legislative district that overlaps with CD-7, of a hard 2019 challenge. Bramnick and running mate Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz last year survived the gathering anti-Trump GOP storm respectively by 2,500 and 2,000 votes. Somerset County GOP Chairman Al Gaburo ate a pair of countywide losses, but – for the moment – maintains control of the freeholder board in his home county. It’s volatile.


Leonard Lance

Look, he tried. He went out on his shield. But it had to have hurt. He really did attempt to listen and embody a district that probably existed at the time of Washington Irving. But between Trump and millennials and out-of-district money and a tilt rightward earlier in his congressional career and the ravages of the White House and requiring more than just soft support out of Hunterdon to beat the Union and Morris and Essex and Somerset-stampeding Malinowski, it was just too much.

Jay Webber

He was the congressman in waiting. When Rodney retired Jay was going to get that seat. There was no one else smarter or better prepared or better prepped on how to show the sharp elbows required in the event anyone else tried to take it from him. But Trump, and a certain moderate Navy veteran, simply smothered him (see above).

Joe Andl

Even if Andy Kim squeaks out the victory over MacArthur, his fellow Democrats don’t want the Burlington County Democratic chairman to stick around after the scandalous backfiring of his freeholder candidate, who himself wants to stick around – because he can. (Actually, the situation has changed). But actually, it’s New Jersey, so even if the situation is less than morally righteous, Andl secured control of the freeholder board, which means…

Bill Layton

The long-serving Republican Party chairman of Burlington County lost control of the Freeholder Board this year (the end of a 40-year era) as MacArthur will end up losing BurlCo by close to 30K votes. “There are more Democrats in this county,” said Layton. “I’ve been playing Russian Roulette for 12 years and I finally got the chamber with the bullet in it.”


Bob Hugin

It was fun while it lasted, but… no; actually, it wasn’t much fun. The campaign was bloody awful, as they say on the other side of the pond. Maybe there was no choice, we get it. Nick Sacco always said negative campaigns work. But it just felt like a horror show after a while.

George Youngkin

The Democrat running for Freeholder won his seat in Burlington, but agreed – based on what came to light during the election to resign once sworn into office, after party leaders – among them state Senator Troy Singleton (D-7) prevailed on him.

Rob Hemansen

The excitable former Bergen County Freeholder lost his Mahwah council seat.


Khizr Khan, father of fallen US Army Capt. Humayun S. M. Khan and his wife Ghazala. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

It’s dead, almost, or dying in our public life. Note that there’s one woman on this list, a woman who demonstrated certain transcendent public qualities, and that’s a blessing in this badly gnarled trough of a state; certainly we hope it will be for the people of the 11th District and perhaps beyond the dimensions of the district someday. Maybe it’s a portent of things to come. We hope so. The country, and New Jersey, need a helluva lot of help.  And that’s putting it as gently as possible.

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One response to “INSIDERNJ’s WHO’S UP and WHO’S DOWN: Special Election Edition”

  1. There really has been an NJGOP since Christie was elected. His total domination of the press and media did not allow anyone to get positioned to run state-wide, or even for a congressional race. Additionally, his antics as Governor – Bridgegate, excessive bonding, crude personality, etc. totally destroyed the brand. They can blame Trump all they want, but the destruction began with Chris Christie. It’s post-Watergate time for the NJGOP and there is no one with the leadership and political skills to bring them back. It’s sure not Jr. nor Bramnick.

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