Key Dynamics in some Key (and not so Key) Nov. 5th Elections

A War for New Jersey: Governor Phil Murphy, left, and South Jersey Democratic Party Power Broker George Norcross III.

Here are some 18 days away InsiderNJ observations from the campaign trail, including elections dynamics from those most competive legislative districts, and some of the least competitive districts:

LD1

Senator Robert Andrzejczak
Senator Robert Andrzejczak, LD1 Democrat.

Issues: Both sides have taken a tough stand against a sanctuary state designation and the encroachment of Gov. Phil Murphy’s progressive politics on the district. Republican challenger Michael Testa has repeatedly made his case against a Democratic budget that included $2 million for an undocumented worker legal defense fund. This is a huge farm community down here in a district that includes Cape May and a big portion of Cumberland. The latter county is particularly poor and overriding issues include economic development, fair share funding and infrastructure.

Political Dynamics: The South Jersey Democratic Oranization handled death of Senator Jim Whelan (D-2) and flip of his seat to state Senator Chris Brown (R-2) and the departure of proven winner Jeff Van Drew by flipping Dawn Addiego from Republican to Democrat to put even more insolation around Troy Singleton’s snatching of Diane Allen’s senate seat in LD7. That way, if Van Drew heir state Senator Bob Andrzejczak loses, they can point out that Andy would have been gravy. The larger atmospherics of what is going on with the feds’ investigation of the Economic Development Authority (EDA) tax incentives would contribute to the political perception of a Norcross weakening, splashed on supposedly

Cumberland County GOP Chairman Mike Testa

individuated South Jersey Democrats. So even despite the caucus numbers-protection and Van Drew in possession of his own longstanding history, an Andrzecjzak loss within the larger framework would represent a loss to Van Drew and Norcross/Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3). The irony (and why wouldn’t it be this way in what is still a conservative Republican district) is that Testa is spending more time targeting Murphy – and welding Andrzejczak to the progressive governor and statewide Murphy priorities – than he is harping on regional overlord Norcross. Moreover, Testa – now the state campaign co-chair of President Donald J. Trump’s reelection campaign – also has the advantage of running in a Trump-friendly district. The question in the final days will be whether Republicans can keep pace with what insiders expect will be a thunderous final display of Democratic Party money behind Andrzejczak and his (Van Drew) Team.

LD2

Gilliam: insignificant.

Issues: This was always a district built around significant debate, whether it was what politicans were going to do about Bader Field (2007) Atlantic City Casino PILOT funds (the late Christie era), or casino workers issues. Strictly a low turnpout election, this is a more low-key year, less defined than any other recent election cycle by overarching and clear-cut issues, and built on power-sharing between Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson and the incumbent Legislative lower-house Democrats.

Political Dynamics: Sources describe the disgraceful meltdown of the the mayor of Atlantic City as insignificant in the framework of the legislative races. The organization was already working well around a cult of personality who gave off an FBI agent behind every bush he walked past vibe and had largely depended on the Callaway organization for this political operations.

LD3

Kickoff
SWEENEY ALLIES: Mullen, right, with Assemblyman John Burzichelli.

Issues: None.

Political Dynamics: It’s a light jog around the track for Sweeney’s team (Assemblyman John Burzichelli and Assemblyman Adam Taliaferro), but the senate president and company don’t want to look vulnerable in any way, not in the middle of an ongoing political war. In 2009, after Sweeney had lined up the votes to remove Dick Codey from the throne of the senate presidency, Corzine defeated Christie by just a 47% to 44% margin in Sweeney’s Gloucester County. The results caused Codey backers to wonder aloud how someone ruling a county with such a marginal plurality of Democrats could unterake the priorities of statewide paarty leadership. Of course, Sweeney roared back in 2017 with a devastating 59-41% buttkicking of (ironically, to be sure) the New Jersey Education Association-connected Fran Grenier. But now leadership shifts within the NJEA suggest that the oranization wants to cozy up to the suspenders-wearing senate prez, mostly out a pragamtic reconition of his political power.

anti-Norcross activists Sue Altman and amir Khan in Camden.

LD5

Issues: The FBI is investigating the political establishment’s alleged improper use of EDA tax incentives to develp the Camden waterfront.

Political Dynamics Pertinant to the Legislative Race: None.

LD8

LaPlaca and Natale.
LaPlaca and Natale.

Issues: Disproportionate school funding cuts. School safety. Political independence. Affordability. Infrastructure. Affordable healthcare. Running for reelection with running mate Sheriff Jean Stanfield ($44K COH), Assemblyman Ryan Peters ($88K cash on hand) points out that Democrats have been in charge for two decades and done little besides raising taxes, increasing patronage, and making the state less affordable. His Democratic opponents, Gina LaPlaca ($4K current closing balance) and Mark Natale ($6.4K closing balance), argue that minority Republicans are useless in the legislature and unable to actually do anything, relegated to whimpering national GOP talking points, especially in defense of the National Rifle association (NRA). Peters and Stanfield are also eager to saddle their opponents with partisan branding, noting the presence of liberal Governor Murphy in Drumthwacket and the lack of a check on Democratic Party power. Peters has also repeatedly highlighted the culture of political bosses, which would muzzle LaPlaca and Natale.

Political Dynamics: Outspent 5-1, the GOP this weekend unleashed its first cable TV ad

Stanfield and Peters at the Apple Festival in Medford.
Stanfield and Peters at the Apple Festival in Medford.

buy in LD8 in the amount of $40,000. It targets the Dems’ party connection to Murphy and hones in on school funding. In a battleground district where every detail gets magnified, lobbyist LaPlaca’s shaky labor history caused the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) to back away from her and her running mate and endorse (and give money to) the Republicans, amd makes her vulnerable to backlash from hardcore labor-supporters in her own party, let alone those in the GOP. While the CWA and public sector labor yanked their support from her after learning about her crossing a picket line while at Verizon, Building Trades (including Electrical Workers, who ave her a $1,500 check) stuck with her. But those divisions hardly project an implacable fortress of support for LaPlaca in a district the Democrats are going after to attain a super majority in the Legislature. arguably more than any other contest, the 8th epitomizes those ongoing divisions between public and private sector labor, with the public sector going out of its way to pick against the Democrats. Like LD1, the General Majority PAC, which is close to the political interests of George Norcross II, has played here, and a loss by LaPlaca and Natale would stain the invincibility factor of the South Jersey boss. Then again, the two districts amount to extras on top of an already unwieldy caucus. Another interesting note: Republican candidate for Congress in the 2nd District David Richter (who wants to unseat U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew) gave $600 each to Peters and Stanfield; while state Senator Joe Cryan (D-20) chipped in $2,000 for LaPlaca. State Senator Troy Singleton (D-7) of the Carpenters is engaged for the BurlCo Democrats, and just hosted a fundraiser to replenish their coffers.

LD11

Women’s healthcare. Pay equity. School district consolidation. The Asbury Park School System lost some Abbott funding, which the GOP has tried to make Democrats (including incumbent assemblywoman Joann Downey and Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling, who have $52K in their joint account, in addition to reserves in their individual campaign accounts; compared to a closing balance of $4K for Republican Michae Amoroso, who’s running with Matthew Woolley) own here, going back to when incumbent Republican Senator Jen Beck ran (and lost) in 2017.

Political Dynamics: Tinton Falls is a 14K registered voter town in LD11, literally the county garbage dump scene of a control election pitting Democrats against Republicans in environs long controlled by the allies of Monmouth County Republican Committee Chairman Shaun Golden. In the larger sense this is a district where insiders keep careful 2021 watch. The population expansion of neighboring Lakewood has everyone on high alert, with both sides alert to a may that could slide Little Silver – home to state Senator Declan O’Scanlon (R-13) – into the 11th for an alpha make showdown with state Senator Vin Gopal (D-11).

LD14

DeAngelo.

Issues: Property taxes. Labor issues.

Political dynamics: The lower depths of the district hinge on control of the Mercer County town of behemoth Hamilton (60,000 of the district’s total 147,000 voters, where Dems have a 21K to 13K registration advantage but 26K independents generally decide elections). After burying her Republican opponent in the primary, Republican incumbent Mayor Kelly Yaede (a remnant of the John Bencivengo era) is now trying to stare down Councilman Jeff Martin. Once a nailbiter district, Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo (D-14) and Assemblyman Dan Benson (D-14) for years contented themselves with their own interaparty rivalry to satiate their respective political hungers. But even that’s cooled off. Electrian by trade DeAngelo used to be the Building Trades guy who could hold the hands of the Hibernians and stand in the parades with the Knights of Columbus, while Benson fronted a patina of youthful hipness more appreciated by young urban professionals. That changed when Benson became chair of the assembly Transportation Committee and found himself more inclined to develop relationships with DeAngelo’s Building Trades base.

LD15

Issues: None.

Somerset County emocratic Chair Peg Schaffer and East Windsor Mayor (and Mercer Democratic Chair) Janice Mironov

Political Dynamics: Within the accelerated development of a state party leadership showdown between John Currie and Leroy Jones, Governor Phil Murphy went to Mercer on Thursday to try to talk to a somewhat divided (or at least unsettled) party organization. Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes backs Murphy’s choice of Currie, but Mercer County Democratic Chair Janice Mironov isn’t so sure. “I’ve known governors going back to 1962 and I have never seen an incumbent governor not get his choice for state party chair, that’s my two cents,” said Hughes. When he picked Liz Muoio to be his treasuer, Murphy thought he was securing Mercer politics in his column, but Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds Jackson had other plans, and Assemblyman Anthony Verrelli is a Building Trades – not public sector labor – guy. Status: more focused on internal party politics than a general election where Democrats outnumber Republicans 60K to 17K.

Zwicker and Freiman
Zwicker and Freiman

LD16

Issues: Property taxes. Schools funding. High tech business and jobs stimulation.

Political Dynamics: Republicans in search of protection their control of county government put two candidates from Montgomery on the ticket in search of high turnout to help the countywide cause of incumbent Republican Freeholder Pat Walsh. For more, please go here.

Russo and Marano, Somerset Democrats depending on a clutch Franklin Twp.

LD17

Issues: None.

Political Dynamics: The district contains Democratic Party voter-rich Franklin Twp., where  performance will contribute to the success (or lack thereof) of the Democrats’ two countywide candidates. In a variation on the late Al Haig’s “I’m in charge here,” and Frank Hague’s “I am the law,” Assemblyman Joe Danielsen (D-17) of Franklin last month declared to InsiderNJ, “I am the tipping point,” to Democrats’ gaining control of the the freeholder board behind the candidacy of former Green Brook Twp. Mayor Melonie Marano.

Somerset County Clerk Steve Peter can break it down better:

LD19

Issues: None.

Political Dynamics: None, this year, save a walkover election in Sayreville. Perth Amboy Mayor Wilda Diaz is running for reelection next year in what most insiders say will amount to a power-sharing bore snore. Oh, and Speaker Craig Coughlin hails from this district.

LD21

Issues: Trump, Christie ties to the Republican Party, and Murphy progressive overreach, otheriwse known as Democrats’ “Socialist agenda,” according to the GOP’s cable TV ad.

Republican Janice Fields.

Political Dynamics: The most expensive race in the state, a loss here by Assembly Minority Leader Jonn Bramnick would have significant implications for the Republican Party. At a minimum, the GOP caucus would require a new leader, and circulated names include Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-26), Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi (R-39), Assemblyman John DiMaio (R-23) and Assemblyman Ryan Peters (R-8), if he can survive the onslaught in battleground LD8. Bramnick is obviously close to his distritmate, senate Minority Leader Tom Kean (R-21), but he also has deep ties to the Chris Christie wing of the party, built over the course of laboring as a minority party leader over the course of Christie’s eight years in office. Bramnick going down would represent a shift of power opportunity from the establishment largely defined by Christie and redirect it, possibly toward Webber, who was seldon overly friendly with the former Republican governor. Bramnick’s loss (and running mate Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz), too, would assuredly put Kean in a Davey Crockett at the Alamo posture, as the last muskett swinging Republican occupant of the 21st District and a hail mary player at best heading into his quasi-tragic, Trump-albatrossed 7th Congressional District challenge of incumbent U.S. Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-7). still, it’s a tough district for Democrats to win and if Bramnick and Munoz pull it off, the story (depending on the peformance of Republicans elsewhere) will add up to how Bramnick having to sandbag himself on his own turf impacted other GOP caucus members. In the meantime, all eyes are on Bernards Twp. rock star Jancie Fields, running with substantial buzz around her in Republican-advantage Bernards.

LD25

Democrats Bhimani and Draeger.

Issues: Property taxes. Murphy fatigue early. Trump agony late.

Political Dynamics. The mayoral race in Dover has larger proxy dimensions, with state Senators Dick Codey (D-27) and Joe Cryan (D-20) lined up on opposing sides. Sweeney-ites are looking for ways to dent Morris County Democratic Chairman Chip Robinson, who backs the continuing service of Murphy’s choice for Democratic State Party Chairman. If the chair doesn’t have a definitive win he can hang his chairmanship on a year after Mikie Sherrill flattened Assemblyman Jay Webber, expect ensuing howls from the Jones camp. This is also a prime pick up opportunity for Democrats, who want to snipe a seat out from under a Senate-focused Tony Bucco.

Baraka
Baraka

LD28

Issues: Contaminated lead lines in the city of Newark

Political dynamics: None.

LD29

Issues: Contaminated lead lines in the city of Newark.

Political Dynamics: None.

Jones, right and Currie
Jones, right and Currie

LD34

Political Dynamics: This is the home district of Essex County Democratic Committee Chairman Jones, who wants to unseat Currie to be the next state party chairman. In fact, Jones continues to serve as chairman of the local Democratic Organization in his hometown of East Orange, so he wants incumbents Assemblyman Tom Giblin and Assemblywoman Britnee Timberlake to excel and show strength. Part of the district (Clifton) falls in the realm of Jones’ rival, Passaic County (and Democratic state Party) Chairman Currie, whose candidate for sheriff, incumbent Richard Berdnik, will do the boss a favor by demonstrating something approaching Passaic parity with the Essex portion of the district.

Democratic State Chair Fun: Currie, Timberlake and Jones.

LD35 and LD36

Issues: None.

Political Dynamics: These districts fall within the Currie purview so it would be helpful to him as he tries to keep Jones at bay for the 36th and particulalry the Paterson-centric 35th to perform.

LD39

Issues: Grinding property taxes. Murphy agony.

Political Dynamics: Democrats will try to have some fun at Republicans’ expense here as they throw some money around in the final days and force Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi (R-39) and Assemblywoman Robert Auth (R-39) to sprint to victory.

Schepisi and Auth.
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