INSIDERNJ’S WHO’S UP and WHO’S DOWN: Week of Ongoing Intensification

LaPlaca, Natale, Peters, and Stanfield.


Cumberland County GOP Chair Michael Testa.
Cumberland County GOP Chair Michael Testa.

Mike Testa

Unlike, for example, the 21st District, the rural 1st contains a population that likes President Donald J. Trump. In the aftermath of appearing to reach a hand out to the Democrats with his tweet to U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-2), Trump made Testa – who’s challenging “Van Drew Team” member Senator Robert Andrzejczak – co-chair of his releection campign in New Jersey. The move sent a tremor of worry through Democrats, who began chattering about how tough Van Drew is in the 1st, and about how Andrzejczak is not Van Drew – and noting how wise it was for the South Jersey Democratic Organization to flip state senator Dawn Addiego (R-8) after Van Drew went to Congress. It didnt help that Politico NJ hit with a Thursday story further outlining “how the leader of a Camden nonprofit that wanted to purchase a large site near the city’s waterfront was concerned prominent attorney Phil Norcross and a high-ranking Camden official were unhappy they could not ‘exert control’ over the group.” The George Norcross business-affiliated General Majority PAC is pouring a considerable amount of money into Andrzejczak’s campaign, which helps operations but also gives Testa a clear case against an objectionable Camden County Democratic Party machine. To be clear, this contest is not over.

LD21 Democratic Assembly candidates Lisa Mandelblatt and Stacey Gunderman
LD21 Democratic Assembly candidates Lisa Mandelblatt and Stacey Gunderman

Lisa Mandelblatt and Stacey Gunderman

The fact that Republicans would air a cable TV ad on CNN in the middle of Tuesday’s Democratic Presidential debate shows just how deeply the campaign of the 21st District Democratic duo has pentrated. This is the home district of Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-21) and the scene of the most expensive legislative contest of the cycle. It bodes well for the Democratic challengers, especially when one considers the political trend lines of this area, which include wins by Westfield Mayor Shelley Brindle (2017) and U.S. Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-7). “Bosses aren’t supposed to get kneecapped,” an insider once told InsiderNJ, referring to Ray Lesniak’s rough weather reelection in 2011 as evidence of the Union County power broker’s unsteadiness. The same can now be said of Bramnick, where the pinned-down boss of the GOP caucus must spend his time attempting to protect himself as fires rage in other battleground districts.

Peg Schaffer

Somerset County Democratic Chair Peg Schaffer has been appointed Interim Vice Chair of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee, after Vice Chair Lizette Delgado-Polanco stepped down from the position.
Somerset County Democratic Chair Peg Schaffer.

This election is far from over, but at the doorstep of taking over the Somerset County Freeholder Board, the Somerset County Democratic Committee chair must be doing something right to get the GOP to place a prime time cable ad aimed at her countywide candidates, including former Green Brook Twp. Mayor Melonie Marano. Somerset Coounty is on fire right now, as incumbent Republican Freeholder Pat Walsh attempts to hold onto her seat and stave off (at least for a year, when Trump occupies the top of the GOP ticket) Democratic control.

Jon Hornik

Running for reelection as the mayor of Marlboro, Democrat Hornik looks to have an easy time of it in this one-time bellwether Monmouth Couty town. According to the Asbury Park Press, “All three Republicans had dropped out and only a single challenger, council candidate Alan Ginsburg, had been substituted. “We couldn’t find anyone. It is a difficult town for Republicans, always has been,” said local Republican Party Chair Derek Deluca, who quit the race after being hired as legislative director for Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso. “We were having trouble finding candidates for this year’s elections, that’s not really a secret. Then I got this job offer in July and I figured it was best to separate myself from extracurriculars.”


Ryan Peters, Jean Stanfield, Gina LaPlaca and Mark Natale

Whereas Donald Trump plays a damning role to the GOP to LD21 and LD25, and is actually a help in LD1, the President is not as much an overwhelming factor in Battleground LD8, where Navy SEAL Peters and his running mate, fellow Republican Sheriff Jean Stanfield, are up against General Majority PAC and Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee (DACC) money, but trying to retain the dimensions of a longstanding Republican district with individuated conservative records. Internal polling in both camps show a toss up race, as Peters got into a scrap this week with DACC boss Mike Muller.


Jon Bramnick

Bramnick, left, and DiMaio.
Bramnick, left, and DiMaio.

It’s kind of a tragedy that the guy (not to mention his running mate, the always professional Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz) who made a career out of civility in politics must now find himself flailing under the tank treads of Trump’s twitter feed, as Lisa Mandelblatt and Stacey Gunderman threaten to take down a key piece of the Kean empire. But that Tuesday night ad told the whole story as Bramnick tries to avoid succumbing to the same fate that last year did in Leonard Lance. Still, it’s not over. Bramnick and Munoz could survive, but this is a dogfight.

George Norcross

The headline from this week’s Philadelphia Inquirer story put an exclamation point on an ongoing problem for the South Jersey Power Broker: “New Jersey tax credits turned a Camden office complex into a lucrative investment. Now the feds and state AG are investigating.” More on the story from Politico NJ here.


Karl Eversmeyer

Following revelations that he posted pictures of himself in balckface on Facebook, the Burlington County Republican Party (including the GOP candidates for the Assembly in battlegroud LD8) withdrew its support from the Republican Westampton Twp. Committee candidate.

Phillip “Phil” Petrone

In a complaint filed last week in Somerset County Superior Court, Andrea Wardrop of Hillsborough alleges that the veteran Manville Councilman – currently the Democratic nominee for mayor – made numerous comments in borough hall about women’s cleavage, hugged and kissed office workers without their consent, insisted to women in the administrative offices that he would not leave without a hug and kiss, and walked behind Waldrop’s desk “on multiple occasions” and asked her if her legs were insured.


Nick Scutari

The 22nd State Senator, chair of the Union County Democratic Committee, must handle the continuing headache of a Mayor in his hometown of Linden who not only doesn’t want him to succeed, but is actively trying to see him fail, and firing off a letter to the U.S. attorney along the way.


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