The War for the Shore: Incumbent LD11 Democrats Downey and Houghtaling Kick off in Neptune Twp.

Downey and Houghtaling
If you study this picture carefully you can find at least one statehouse Insider who does not hold elected office…

NEPTUNE – A Highway 18 crumb-scatter of gas stations, box store horizon crawl, nail salons, Starbucks and McDonalds franchises and union halls. The strangled sound of the shoreline. Gulls. This is where it started: the Bridgegate-fueled world crumble of Gov. Chris Christie after his world-beating 2013 election.


It was 2015, and Democrats Eric Houghtaling and Joann Downey stunned incumbent Republicans Mary Pat Angelini and Caroline Casagrande when they pried two assembly seats from the Republicans. “I only won by 250 votes,” Downey recalled. The win set the groundwork for Vin Gopal to spring into the senate seat in 2017 atop an LD11 Democratic ticket that stormed to victory under Gov. Phil Murphy.

That time Downey and Houghtaling won 2-1.

Now, Democrats see tough 2019 implications in the one-time swing district, in the throes of a turbulent first year for Murphy, who tries to rustle up votes to legalize recreational marijuana. It’s one of a handful of battlegrounds, which include 8 (the number one Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee [DACC] target this year), 1, 25, 2 and 16. Infuriated by the Democratic Governor’s tenure, Republicans savor an opportunity to pick off what was theirs as recently as four years ago, not only with the potential albatross of marijuana, but $15 minimum wage, too, which the incumbent Democrats here backed. The GOP’s going with Matt Wooley, a legislative aide to Assemblyman Sean Kean (R-30) and Mike Amoroso, a Freehold School Board member.

A Freehold attorney, Downey’s undecided on pot legalization, but maybe leaning in favor. A former Neptune Township mayor and electrician by trade, Houghtaling’s honestly undecided.

LD11 diehard Matt Anderson, right, (with former Neptune Twp. Mayor Randy Bishop and Houghtaling) will play a critical on-the-ground role in the campaign.

As usual, the pair radiated easygoing affability and little ground zero volatility at their 2019


campaign kickoff in the American Legion Hall here in Houghtaling’s hometown. Former Mayor Randy Bishop emceed the event, and U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-6) did a no-drama turn with the microphone at the front of the room.

They trust they can carry some anti-Donald J. Trump feeling between federal election years. But they’re also jittery about the possibility of low turnout and the potential they have to get stuck to Murphy.

“This year is the hardest election,” Downey told the room of supporters. “We are at the top of the ticket. This is going to be the year when we have to prove this is a stronghold. There’s no sitting back. There’s no waiting till 2020 to get Trump out of office.

“We’re going to do that, too, but every year counts,” the assemblywoman added. “Every election



In the audience sat former Interlaken Councilwoman (and Democratic Committeeman) Robert Napoli, who told InsiderNJ that he had sat in the same American Legion Hall and witnessed local history when the late Almerth Battle won a Neptune Twp. Council seat in 1973.  “She was the first African American councilwoman in Neptune Twp., who became not only councilwoman but a police commissioner in a township which at that time was predominantly Republican-controlled,” Napoli said.






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