Primary Election 2020: An InsiderNJ Drill-Down

Kennedy, Harrison, Cunningham

A few days after the July 4 holiday may not be an ideal time for an election, but the COVID-delayed 2020 primary is upon us.

This truly is a jump into the unknown.

Will the turnout be better than expected?  Mailing in a ballot is easier than going to the polls although for many, voting in person is much more fun.

When will all the votes be counted? Close races may not be decided until a few days after the polls close, bringing a nineteenth century taste to 2020 politics.

There are also continuing problems in some counties about people getting ballots. Those who didn’t get ballots can vote in person at an emergency polling place in each town. That, of course, defeats the purpose of having a strict mail-in ballot election.

Nonetheless, there are enough fun races around the state to interest political junkies.

The Republican race to nominate a candidate to take on Cory Booker appears to center around two

Tricia Flanagan and Hirsh Singh.
Tricia Flanagan and Hirsh Singh.

candidates, Rik Mehta and Hirsh Singh.

Mehta has to be considered the favorite given the fact he’s racked up endorsements or support from 17 of the 21 county Republican organizations. That’s crucial in a primary. Singh, however, has been relentless in calling Mehta a “Democrat” and saying that he thinks like one even if his party label is Republican.

Singh’s website goes after “never Trumpers,” a suggestion that those who back Mehta are the same people who never wanted Donald Trump to be president in the first place.

Seeking to buttress his conservatice credentials, Singh vows on his website to “reinstate” the Second Amendment. And you probably never thought it went anywhere.

The internal skirmish is entertaining to be sure, but one can’t ignore the fact Booker – his failed presidential campaign and “Spartacus” moment notwithstanding – is going to be a formidable opponent this fall.. It is revealing that with the specter of Trump hanging over New Jersey,  an ethically-challenged Bob Menendez easily dispatched Bob Hugin two years ago. Are Republicans realistically going to do better against Booker?

Moving on, the best GOP congressional primary to watch has got to be CD-3 where Kate Gibbs and

Richter, left, and Gibbs
Richter, left, and Gibbs

David Richter are battling each other for a crack at Democrat Andy Kim.

Both Republicans have drawbacks that seem destined to plague whoever wins.

Richter has been called a “carpetbagger” for looking for a place to run and even to live. He initially wanted to run against Jeff Van Drew in CD-2, but then Van Drew messed up that plan by becoming a Republican. Richter, who had been living in Lawrenceville, already had bought a house in Avalon, which is in CD-2. But he apparently bought another one in CD-3 – Island Heights – when he decided to run there. Hopping around the state buying homes is not exactly a pastime of the common man.

Gibbs, of course, has an arrest record that includes such juvenile problems as public drinking and minor drug use, but also a slightly more serious charge of shoplifting.

Whoever emerges, the Kim campaign is going to have a lot of material come Wednesday morning, assuming the election is called by then.

Clearly, the most fascinating Democratic race is in the aforementioned CD-2 where Bridget Harrison and Amy Kennedy are fighting to take on Van Drew.

This race has split some of the heavyweights in the state Democratic Party.

Booker and Menendez are backing Harrison. As is the George Norcross machine.

Phil Murphy backs Kennedy.

Harrison’s supporters could be influential, but let’s not forget that Kennedy has party backing in Atlantic County, which has the largest bloc of Democrats among counties in the district. And while we are a few generations after “Camelot,” the Kennedy name probably still has some magic among Dems. The candidate is married to one of the sons of former Sen. Edward Kennedy.

As for Van Drew, he was riding high on that chilly January night when Trump came to Wildwood for a rally. Appearing on-stage with the president, Van Drew basked in the adulation from the crowd.

That, of course, was pre-pandemic and before the president suggested COVID-19 testing is not good and maybe people should ingest bleach. As the president’s poll numbers sag, you’ve got to wonder if Van Drew has any second thoughts.

Arati Kreibich announced her candidacy for NJ's 5th Congressional District, currently represented by U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer. Kreibich is a neuroscientist and freshman councilwoman from the Bergen County borough of Glen Rock.
Arati Kreibich 

There are two other Democratic congressional primaries that on the surface seem ho-hum, but you never know.

The truncated and delayed primary season has shown those on the left of the Democratic  Party have done well. They may not always win, but we have seen strong performances from left wing candidates in such disparate places as New York City and Kentucky.

That brings us to Congressional Districts 5 and 8 where left wing opponents Arati Kreibich and Hector

Kaszuba and Sires
U.S. Rep. Albio Sires (D-8).

Oseguera are challenging incumbents Josh Gottheimer and Albio Sires.

The unknown here is something we originally touched on – will there be more people voting in this primary than usual? If so, they may be young, progressives.

Both Kreibich and Oseguera are racking up endorsements from the left. This may all end up meaning nothing,  but over the weekend, I did hear a radio ad backing Gottheimer and championing his support for a number of liberal causes.

Someone is paying attention.

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