SOMERVILLE – The suburban 16th District features one of the most bruising contests of the cycle, a mail piece after gattling gunned mail piece lower chamber showdown between Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D-16) and former Assemblywoman Donna Simon (R-16), with the former intent on hauling running mate Roy Freiman across the finish line tomorrow, and Simon attempting to nudge Somerset County Freeholder Mark Caliguire past Zwicker.
The Republicans have been trying their best to make Zwicker look like an ivory tower intellectual who’s afraid to come out from behind Ivy League walls, using Phil Murphy’s sanctuary cities and $1.3 billion in new taxes case to further cocoon him into irredeemable out-of-touchness. Zwicker, a scientist by trade and Princeton plasma physicist, says the GOP can’t debate him on the issues, so have no choice but to make it personal. In a wooded bungalow in the 16th a day before the election, he sat in a tiny room in front of a desk with call sheets spread out in front of him and his cellphone glued to the side of his ear. Relaxed and going number by number through his phone list of independent or undecided voters, Zwicker took a moment to hit back against the incoming attacks.
“You can’t hide who you are,” Caliguire told Bill Spadea this morning on 101.5 FM. “They’re far left. I don’t know how comfortable they are in Somerset and Hunterdon.”
Then Simon stuck Murphy around Zwicker ($469,510 raised individually, $425,276 spent; compared to $405,626 raised by the GOP led by incumbent state Senator Kip Bateman (R-16) and $313,308 spent, according to the state Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC).
“He will vote in lock step with Phil Murphy,” said the former assemblywoman.
Seared by ads from the Democrats that incorrectly note his vote to raise property taxes in Montgomery (he actually voted against a Democratic majority council at the time), Caliguire, running on the Republican ticket in place of retiring Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R-16), said the Democratic assemblyman hasn’t sufficiently given voice to the issue of a fair school funding formula.
“They never criticize my voting record or service to my district,” Zwicker told InsiderNJ, then lingered on the video his opponents’ allies rolled out of him making comments construed to be derogatory of the rest of the 16th District beyond Princeton. “They took a video out of context to create a narrative of ‘the other.’ I’ll put my service up against Donna Simon’s any day.”
Because he went to grad school and because he’s a scientist, his opponents want to slap the elitist tag on him, which is sad, Zwicker conceded, a sad state of affairs. They’ve also leaped onto what he called Kim Guadagno’s “false narrative” about sanctuary cities to brand him as Murphy roadkill.
He’s not ideological, he said, and that confuses the enemy.
“I said at the outset, when I first ran, I made a promise, that I would use evidence to make decisions,” Zwicker said. “I look closely at every issue, and if reelected, I’m going to carefully read every piece of legislation. I’m not going to be tied to political ideology.”
As for the school funding issue, Zwicker said he helped secure almost $1 million for the Manville School District despite Governor Chris Christie’s consistent underfunding of the formula. “I’m glad Mark is aware of that,” he cracked.