There’s a big election in New Jersey this year and Governor Phil Murphy and all 120 members of the General Assembly are on the ballot. Most races are predictable thanks to partisan redistricting and/or an overwhelming democratic voter edge. A small handful of races, however, could be quite close.
We’ll preview those potential nail-biters below, starting with a couple primary races before highlighting a few of November’s most-anticipated showdowns.
New Jersey’s 20th legislative district is Elizabeth, Roselle, Union Township, and Hillside in Union County.
In June’s primary election, incumbent Senator Joe Cryan will try to repel two off-the-line challengers: a relative unknown called Jason Krychiw and Cryan’s own running-mate Assemblyman Jamel Holley.
Assemblyman Holley frittered away his state house credibility by trafficking COVID myths and anti-vaccine lunacy with some of the same folks who ransacked the US Capitol earlier this month. At an anti-vaccine rally in September, Stephanie Hazelton called Assemblyman Holley a “superstar.”
“Everyone here has love and appreciation for Assemblyman Jamel Holley!” Ms. Hazelton told told the crowd who chanted Holley’s name as he approached the podium and fell into Ms. Hazelton’s welcoming embrace.
This week, Ms. Hazelton was arrested for her role in the Capitol Hill riot.
Because of the company he keeps and for the dangerous conspiracies he nurtures, Jamel Holley knew he’d never get the Union County party line in November. And so he’s challenging the establishment in June’s primary instead.
Go big or go home, right?
Off-the-line candidates in NJ are usually the longest of long shots. But thanks to support from true believers like Stephanie Hazelton, Jamel Holley will have plenty of money to get his message out.
We’re already previewed who might replace Jamel Holley in the Assembly. That’ll be decided by Union County potentates.
NJ’s 37th legislative districts includes Englewood, Hackensack, and Teaneck in Bergen County.
The retirement of NJ Senator Loretta Weinberg created an opening in the Senate and Valerie Huttle and Gordon Johnson, Sen. Weinberg’s longtime running mates, both want the seat. The Bergen County committee will vote to award the line, probably to Mr Johnson, in next month’s county convention.
Valerie Huttle is a rare example of a NJ politician to win off-the-line (2007) and she’s got support from Garden State Equality, CWA, and NJ Working Families to bolster her chances to snatch victory in June’s primary election.
Sue Altman is state director for NJ Working Families an organization dedicated to electing progressive champions.
“Huttle’s record is demonstrably more progressive,” Ms. Altman told InsiderNJ. “Loretta’s legacy is one that carried a torch for progressive causes for decades. It is critical that seat go to a progressive- one with a reliable and strong voice for labor, for women’s issues, economic issues (which ARE the same as all of these), LGBTQ issues, workers rights, gun safety, and for democracy.”
Comprised of 15 town in Atlantic County, the 2nd legislative district is one of the few in NJ with mixed, bipartisan representation in Trenton. The incumbents are NJ Senator Chris Brown (R) and Democratic assemblymen Vince Mazzeo and John Armato. This will, I believe, be the most competitive district in the 2021 election cycle. Even though registered democrats outnumber republicans in the district by about 10 percentage points, unaffiliated voters are still a plurality.
Senator Brown, a military vet from the not-crazy wing of the GOP, is running for his second term in the Senate. He served the district for 4 years in the Assembly before that. Democrats, who hold both Assembly seats, don’t yet have a senate candidate so Senator Brown’s opponent is remains TBD.
Micah Rasmussen runs the Rebovich Institute for NJ Politics at Rider University.
“It all comes down to recruitment,” Mr. Rasmussen told InsiderNJ. “Atlantic Democrats may feel emboldened by backlash against the GOP over the insurrection, but will that translate into convincing the strongest possible candidate to run against Brown?”
The plurality of unaffiliated voters is also a factor.
“Nowhere else are you going to find unaffiliated still ahead,”Rasmussen told InsiderNJ. “Maybe that’s why Atlantic County is so swingy.”
Redistricting, that once-a-decade opportunity for politicians in NJ to redraw their own district, won’t affect the race this year but may be a factor in subsequent years.
“There are potential redistricting considerations for 2023,” Mr. Rasmussen added. “So whomever runs in the current district may see some changes in the next cycle. It’s been common over the last several maps for LD2 and LD1 to swap towns with each other— the Buenas, Somers Point— some have even speculated that Ocean City might be on the table.”
This Burlington-county based district is the NJGOP’s best, and perhaps only, chance to flip a Senate seat in the 2021 cycle. Incumbent Senator Dawn Addiego will be running as a Democrat for the first time in her life after a decades-long career as a GOP loyalist. It could be a very rude awakening for Addiego who who, before her surprising political lobotomy, spent her entire career voting against things like LGBTQ and abortion rights. A darling of the NRA, Addiego’s party switch came shortly after spending 8 years as a Chris Christie loyalist.
Senator Addiego is now the democratic party’s standard bearer in the district, a not-so-subtle reminder that South Jersey democrats prize power over principle.
“This is going to be a competitive race,” Maria Rodriguez-Gregg told InsiderNJ. She represented the district for 2 terms before stepping down.
“Senator Addiego is going to really need the Democrats to turn out for her in this race and that may be difficult because her record when it comes to Democratic policies is pretty terrible, so it’s going to take a lot more than an influx of Norcross cash to win,” Ms. Rodriguez-Gregg added.
Addiego’s republican opponent is Jean Stanfield who, after a long and distinguished career as BurlCo sheriff, won a competitive race for the Assembly in 2019.
“Jean Stansfield has a strong chance to win, if anyone does it would be her,” Ms. Rodriguez-Gregg said. “She’s fairly independent and likable. I think she can galvanize the base but really turn out unaffiliated voters which is going to be important in this district.”
And since Hammonton more or less provided the GOP’s margin of victory last time around, redistricting will impact LD8 more than most.
“If the district lines remain as they are, Hammonton, like in the previous assembly race, will make a difference,” Ms. Rodriguez-Gregg added.
GOP efforts in the district will be hampered by the retirement of Assemblyman Ryan Peter, a dogged campaigner and proven vote-getter. Peter’s departure (plus Stansfield’s run against Addiego) up the stakes for BurlCo GOP to field new Assembly candidates which won’t be easy in a County that’s bluer and bluer all the time.
Jay Lassiter is the part-time court jester of NJ politics.