Ten Torque Points to Watch on Election Night, June 6th

Nicholas Chiaravalloti

10. LD31. Hudson has a way of inventing drama in the 11th hour to hold down an image that requires drama. This time it’s the Bayonne portion of the district doing its level best to offer a Shavian stage to the rest of the state. Mayor Jimmy Davis is up for reelection next year, and will have to wade through some headline headaches to get there. His ally, Assemblyman Nick Chiaravalloti (D-31) (pictured) will need to put up better than average numbers to make Davis look muscular ahead of the 2018 local contests. If he doesn’t, Davis will look dented in  time for a possible challenge from Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell.

9. LD33. State Senator Brian P. Stack (D-33) wants possible Governor Phil Murphy to know that the biggest, best oiled machine in the county belongs to Stack. So he’ll be looking to put up bigger turnout numbers than neighboring boss, state Senator Nick Sacco (D-32) as a way of proving dominance. Murphy minders see 10K votes coming out of each district for their gubernatorial candidate, but each rival will look to edge the other to once and for all project as the king of Hudson.

8. The Democratic Primary for Governor has mostly been a bore snore, on account of the party bosses lining up in lockstep behind retired Goldman Sachs banker (and former U.S. Ambassador to Germany), but if attorney Jim Johnson from Montclair can edge Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-19) for second place, he may have a future. The well funded second or third place finisher may want to stick a toe in CD11 next year to challenge wobbly U.S. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11). Or maybe this campaign was a test run to taking on U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross for a U.S. senate seat if one becomes available.

7. Having spent $20 million, Murphy is on pace to win, but there are questions about passion, or specifically lack thereof among a self-protected Democratic Party apparatus and nationally-focused electorate. Monmouth University Political Scientist/Pollster Patrick Murray says the Democratic Party lines equal 200K votes – and Murphy has all of them. But with few ruggedly competitive contests on the Democratic side, one veteran party member source says he’d be surprised if he sees 250K votes. In 2001, Jim McGreevey got 250K out of 270K votes. In 2005, Corzine got 210K out of 230K votes. In 2009 and 2013, Corzine and Buono both got fewer than 200K votes.

6. Keep an eye on LD2. Can Atlantic County Freeholder Ernest Coursey – bracketed with Johnson for Governor and Marty Small for Mayor of Atlantic City – break through a dispassionately disposed Democratic Party organization? For that matter, can Small defeat the organization-backed Councilman Frank Gilliam?

5. LD40. If former Assemblyman Paul DiGaetano fails to win, or if he loses badly, there may be repercussions. Maybe he won’t want the chairmanship of the Bergen County Republican Organization anyway at that point, but he may not have a choice. InsiderNJ has heard from party members irritated by DiGaetano’s decision to pursue his own senate run as the GOP writhes in collective agony. This and this were just the latest instances of a Bergen Republican Party in crisis.

4. Peter Murphy empowered. The Totowa GOP animal did time on mail fraud charges and he may be a past business partner of DiGaetano, but if Passaic County Clerk Kristin Corrado defeats DiGaetano on Tuesday night, Murphy will officially be back and more powerful than he has been in a decade. He won’t sit tight either and allow Bergen to redefine itself so that Corrado will leave herself open to a challenge in four years.With the Bergen GOP on its back, Murphy will have a chance to flex his power into the neighboring North Jersey county.

3. LD16 expectation. Guadagno wins, and Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D-16) can win reelection to a seat he won in 2015 by fewer than 100 votes. If Guadagno loses, Zwicker will have to run for reelection against a GOP ticket topped by Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R-16), long a high vote-getter in Ld16.

2. Will the speaker war get resolved at Murphy’s party on election night? Sources say Essex is right at the edge of releasing votes toward making Assemblyman Craig Coughlin (D-19) the next speaker. They just want to get on the other side of Election Night. Do they even wait until midnight?

1. Can Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R-16) win? A Stockton Poll last week reflects a very pessimistic outlook on the Somerset lawmaker’s chance to upset Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno. InsiderNJ has talked to Republican women who are embarrassed by President Donald J. Trump’s 2016 campaign-documented misogyny and want to get behind Guadagno to prove the party’s commitment to women in leadership. The assemblyman has run late radio ads noting his contrast point opposition to RGGI, a base play designed to galvanize the Lonegan win of the party in his favor. Party sources on both sides of the primary divide acknowledge momentum for Ciattarelli, who has impressed with his detail-oriented and unplugged style candidacy. A victory by Ciattarelli would not only signal the GOP’s willingness to move behind the era of Governor Chris Christie and his ally, but probably spell the beginning of the end of Ocean County GOP Chairman George Gilmore, a stout ally of the LG. It would also arguably make for a competitive general election contest and provide the state’s  voters with a high contrast between Goldman Sachs alum Murphy and Main Street business owner Ciattarelli.

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