The announcement today that Senator Chris Brown (R-2) will assume a new role in the Murphy administration will create an opening at the top of the LD2 legislative district in one of this year’s key battlegrounds.
“The county committee will call a convention and we will name a replacement to fill that vacancy through the next election in November and I fully expect, assume, and presume that our choice will be Vince Polistina,” said Atlantic County GOP Chairman Keith Davis.
In June, former Assemblyman Polistina prevailed over movement conservative Seth Grossman in the Republican Primary to succeed Brown, who had already announced his decision not to pursue reelection this year.
Of a pending convention to fill the vacancy caused by Brown’s departure, Davis added, “Obviously Chris has to resign his senate position. We would need that letter of resignation. Assuming that happens quickly in the next week or so we could have a meeting to [install Brown’s replacement].”
Republicans see Brown’s exit at this particular juncture as an opportunity to hold onto Brown’s seat.
If Polistina does indeed become the LD2 Committee’s choice, ad he is, after all, the party nominee, he will be able to face Democratic contender Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo as the incumbent.
It’s an advantage.
The title Senator Polistina is preferable to former Assemblyman Polistina.
One source cackled over the appearance – despite all primary evidence to the contrary as rifts seemed to heal between South Jersey and the governor – of the Murphy Administration appearing to help the GOP.
But that said, Polistina running as an incumbent doesn’t guarantee him victory.
When Senator Jim Whelan died in 2017, Colin Bell assumed the LD2 senate seat following a Democratic convention, but could not hold onto the office in a general election matchup with Brown.
Moreover, one GOP source said the Murphy Administration’s move with Brown had more to do with the senator building good relations with the Democratic executive, and him leaving in the first place gives the Dems a leg-up on a seat South Jersey Democrats want back in their column with Mazzeo.
Still, the loss of a seat in a close caucus fight (could it happen? Yes, though it’s unlikely) could impair Senate President Steve Sweeney’s (D-3) chances at remaining on the senate throne.
“Nah, they have it,” a source close to leadership told InsiderNJ, when asked if a Mazzeo loss to Polistina in November could block Sweeney’s re-ascent to the throne.
“Doesn’t effect his caucus count, but imagine he is for reelection purposes,” the source added.
Not everyone insisted on a saturnine spin.
“The real story here is that a sitting Republican senator would leave the legislature [instead of running for reelection], which shows how good a job the Murphy Administration is doing,” said Atlantic County Democratic Committee Chairman Mike Suleiman. “If anything, it’s a real testament to the job Sheila is doing and to the job that Phil is doing. It doesn’t affect our Vince’s strategy. It doesn’t change anything for Mazzeo.”
Suleiman, in fact, was on his way to a Monday evening fundraiser for Mazzeo and Senator Dawn Addiego (D-8), with special guest Sweeney.