Primary Elections 2022: Where Things Stand Right NOW (an InsiderNJ Primer)

Ian Smith

Candidates have filed petitions and the state registration figures are now in line with the new map. The 2022 midterm election cycle is officially here.

Let’s look at some of the already interesting races on the horizon beginning with the primary.

In CD-2, Jeff Van Drew is seeking reelection as a full-blooded Republican. Recall that when he ran two

Van Drew
Van Drew

years ago, he sought reelection – successfully as it turned out – to a seat he won as a Democrat in 2018.

Democrats still hold a narrow registration lead of about 1,400, but do not be fooled. This is a conservative district, especially by the standards of New Jersey.

It’s certainly hard to see Van Drew having much trouble, but primary challenger Sean Pignatelli has Van Drew’s party switch in mind. He argues that Van Drew is not a real Republican and that his votes on Second Amendment issues prove it.

“I don’t want to be known as the Republican that defeated a Democrat in disguise,” Pignatelli says. “I want our district to be known as the district that was able to rid a Democrat from our Republican party.”

Healey, Kim, Smith

CD-3 is one of many districts that have become more Democratic-leaning. With a chunk of Ocean County severed from the district, the Dems’ registration advantage has grown from about 10,000 to a bit more than 60,000. That’s splendid for incumbent Andy Kim.

Of course, the recent news in the district is about Republican candidate Ian Smith, who was arrested for DWI a week or so ago. He also refused to submit to a breathalyzer test, which is an offense in itself.  Smith previously served time in jail for a drunk driving crash that caused the death of a young man.

Smith gained fame in right wing circles two years ago when he defied state pandemic orders and kept his health club/gym open. With that battle in mind, Smith said he didn’t trust the breath test.

His court case is set for next week.

In a more recent comment, Smith seemed a bit contrite.

“The previous statement I made was not for the intent for anybody to feel bad for me, bash police, or place blame elsewhere,” he said. “Right or wrong, these were the choices that I made. No matter what the outcome (in) court, I will handle it accordingly.”

No matter what happens in court, Smith faces a tough primary fight against businessman Bob Healey, who is the choice of the GOP establishment.

CD-5 has been one of the more competitive districts in the state. It still may be, although the district has

Gottheimer

lost Republican Warren County and moved east to cover more of Bergen. The Democrats’ advantage has grown from 17,000 to 57,000.

As of now, the GOP primary is the story.

Frank Pallotta was the GOP standard bearer two years ago, but this year Bergen Republicans have endorsed Nick DeGregorio,

Pallotta responded that the fix was in with the Bergen County Republican Organization and that actual voters will feel differently. He has been holding “Meet and Greet” events around the district.

Also in the race is Fred Schneiderman who takes credit for running the first TV ad of the campaign. The ad begins with the charge that Joe Biden is “crippling” America and quickly moves to footage of mayhem in the streets. It’s a BLM protest getting out of hand, but in truth, those seeing it may think of Jan 6 instead.

Beware of unintended consequences.

Malinowski, right, and Kean.
Malinowski, right, and Kean.

CD-7 is where Republican hopes are high.  Tom Kean lost by only 5,000 or so votes two years ago and the new map has made the district more Republican.

Democrats had outnumbered Republicans by about 13,000; now the GOP advantage is 17,000.

That’s a 30,000 vote swing with the new map.

The man who has to confront the changing arithmetic is Tom Malinowski, who clearly knows what he’s up against. He already is holding campaign events around the district and exploring new territory.

Kean has a number of primary challengers, most of whom are from the right. Phil Rizzo, who ran last year for governor, is one of them. Given the fact Kean is the choice of party leaders, it would be quite the staggering upset if he doesn’t win the primary.

CD-8 is one of the most Democratic-districts in the state. Albio Sires is not running again and his

Menendez, Jr.
Menendez, Jr.

replacement likely will be Robert Menendez Jr., the son of the senator. The only question here is how many Democrats will cast primary votes against nepotism as a matter of principle. Those inclined to do so can choose from four candidates.

Selen

CD-11 symbolized the GOP’s difficulties in New Jersey during the Trump years. Long a Republican stronghold, Mikie Sherrill “flipped” the Morris County-centric district in 2018 and won again two years ago. And now the new map has ballooned the Dems registration advantage from 11,000 to a bit more than 60,000.

Mikie Sherrill

 

No matter, Republicans are enthusiastic.

Morris County Commissioner Tayfun Selen is the frontrunner for the GOP nod, having been endorsed by Morris Republicans. But Paul DeGroot, who has the backing of Passaic County Republicans, and Toby Anderson, a military vet, are still in the race despite losing the Morris convention vote. They probably will make the primary fun.

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