Who’s Up and Who’s Down: Post Primary 2017 Edition



Phil Murphy

He didn’t get to the coveted 50% mark, but he did win the election – a 26% blowout, in fact – capitalizing on a divided anti-establishment vote, a HUGE money advantage, and 21 out of 21 Democratic Party machine lines. The party establishment – particularly those chairs in the northern part of the state and their functionaries – love Murphy. Overall, speaking statewide, the party bosses and players find him personable and smart and capable, like the fact that this year is an easy jog around the track for incumbents, and are excited about their chances to retake Drumthwacket after years of hard labor (and humiliating dives) in the Christie era. He beat the rest of the Democratic field: 237,984 to 226,786; and consider this: he received more votes than the combined Republican field – a good general election portent. Campaign chief Brendan Gill and his team deserve credit for positioning their candidate early, and for clearing the field last fall of legitimate contenders for party lines.

Kim Guadagno

Relationships count in New Jersey politics. People in  her party – establishment machine people – like her. She outspent Jack Ciattarelli 2-1 and in the end she beat him 47-30% It’s going to be tough for Guadagno in the general, but all those years of relationship-building at the pinewood derby contests, cellophane-covered rubber chicken dinners, toys for tots, and assorted party organization shindigs – in short, everything the nationally-focused Chris Christie wouldn’t do – paid off. The GOP machine rewarded Guadagno the loyal soldier. Let’s look at the numbers. Guadagno had lines in counties making up 46.4% of the average GOP Primary vote share, and got 46.8% of the vote. Ciattarelli’s lines had 31.2% and he received 31.1? of the vote. In the words of one GOP insider – and one could just as easily apply this to the Democratic Party outcome, “Long live the lines.”


Sure, between the two of them, Jim Johnson and John Wisniewski capitalized on a lot of the energy in the party – and ultimately to little effect as they canceled each other out. But that party energy exists, and it’s potentially a good sign for Murphy (see above). It didn’t prove to be the absolutely lackluster event that early voting appeared to promise. 500,000 plus Democrats participated in yesterday’s election, showing the party still has a pulse in Trump World, and maybe mostly because of Trump World. Murphy’s closing argument on television punched up at Trump. Johnson immediately waved an olive branch at Murphy, and was reportedly toying with the idea of a Robert Treat Hotel appearance late last night in a symbolic gesture of party unity, but it will be up to Team Murphy and his minions to harness what appears to be an Apollonian chariot of passion in the party. Consider this: the recent gold standard of Democratic gubernatorial primaries was 1997 (McGreevey v. Andrews) when turnout was 14%. Last night, Dem turnout was around 25%, one of the higher vote total outcomes.

Chris Christie

He can do an endzone dance. If you look at hard collision points of the GOP Primary, Ciattarelli attempted to simply affix Guadagno with the Christie brand, trusting voters would be so fed up with the low approval rated governor that they would pay him back by giving Guags the heave ho. But the LG – differing with Christie on issues but still ultimately in a position of having to own the team uniform – beat up Cittarelli. Christie can chest thump in the knowledge that the Republican Party didn’t hit the total warfare button on his wing of the party and what at this point is his very shaky legacy.

George Gilmore

The Ocean County GOP chairman was a big Guadagno backer early, and stood on the LG side of a brutal chairman’s divide. He has his troubles. This could be a tough few months ahead. But last night at least, with Guadagno’s win, he could live La Dolce Vita with the rest of Team Guadagno. Guadagno beat Ciattarelli 60-20% (18,000 to 6,000) in Republican County-dominant Ocean.

Kevin O’Toole

The retiring state senator’s choice for the LD40 seat – Kristin Corrado – defeated her rival 62-30%. This was personal,  because O’Toole and Paul DiGaetano have a bad history of animosity for each other – and O’Toole’s demolition of his rival was so thorough, so vivid on every level of the game – that one can only imagine DiGaetano with a Battle of Salamis-sized headache today. Essex County GOP Chairman Al Barlas – a fierce O’Toole ally -also proved money in the clutch; and Totowa’s Peter Murphy won BIG.

Larry Weitzner

Whoever came up with “Jack it Up” – and we’re suspecting it was someone out of the Jamestown shop, and Weitzner’s job to sign off on it – crafted this year’s version of “Stender is a spender.” The jingle penetrated and permeated the New Jersey political atmosphere to the point where it was hard to look at a “Jack” sign without hearing “Jack it up” in the back of one’s mind. Tough. unfair. Below the belt. But effective in the street fight of the GOP Primary.

Brian Stack

The 33rd district GOTV animal produced the political equivalent of Lou Reed’s classic album: Rock and Roll animal, and could chest thump with abandon after registering the highest district-wide vote totals among Hudson’s senators. Flirting with Murphy world for Drumthwacket-wired attention, Stack harvested 20,439 votes to Nick Sacco’s 9,664 and Sandra Cunningham’s 9,777.

Jose Arango

There’s buzz. Look for LG Guadagno to have a press conference in the coming days, where it’s likely she’ll pick the affable Hudson County Republican Chairman to replace the snow-on-the-TV-screen chairmanship of Sam Raia. Raia got the job under the proviso that he keep his mouth shut and be as withdrawn as humanly possible in order to give Christie full vocal and theatrical range of the party as the NJ governor sought the presidency. Now Guadagno has a chance to pick her own party chairman and the word is Arango stands as good a chance as any. He was loyal. he waded into a few fistfights on her behalf, and he’s close to Gilmore without actually being Gilmore. In addition, of course, he’s Hispanic, a plus for a Trump World-struggling NJGOP. Editor’s Note: as it turned out, Guadagno instead chose Warren County GOP Chairman Doug Steinhardt, a name that InsiderNJ broke here, and fleshed out here.


Jack Ciattarelli

He ran such a great race – and got annihilated. It’s sad, really, and you can already picture some intellectual stroking his beard and morosely adjudging of his fellow man in the aftermath of last night’s contest, “It’s clearly a function of our impoverished educational system that Ciattarelli lost.” He was that detailed, and that well prepared and respectful of every element of the game. But the lines are the lines. This would be easier for Ciattarelli guys if he lost a squeaker, but the vote totals hurt: 109,000 for Guadagno to 70,374 for the assemblyman. out of the assembly in  the coming years, and with his Republican colleagues jockeying for position to run against Murphy (if Murphy wins this year’s general) in 2021, it will be difficult for Ciattarelli to create traction for a comeback. Tough, tough loss for a candidate who impressed a lot of people.

Paul DiGaetano

It’s difficult to know where to look. It’s too horrible. Bleak. Just think about this – the chairman of the Bergen County Republican organization won his own county of Bergen, where he had the line, of course, by just 80 votes. Think too about this repudiation: his slate mates lost Bergen by over 500 votes. Memo to future politicians who think they can use a county chairmanship as a trampoline to higher office while serving as chair: don’t do it.

John Traier

Nobly trying to do the right thing by resisting a mail fraud-hampered Peter Murphy, the Passaic County GOP chairman got caught in the tank treads of DiGaetano, which dragged him in the wrong direction. The chairman issued a late letter calling on voters to resist Kristin Corrado in Passaic. She won. Big.

Hank Lyon and John Cesaro

Trying to catch some anti-gas tax fever, the two resistance movement leaders ended up canceling each other out in their respective bids to displace Assemblywoman Betty Lou DeCroce (R-26). That outcome, moreover – and what transpired in Ld24, with the crushing victory by state Senator Steve Oroho – didn’t validate a radio wave barrage by 101.5 FM’s Bill Spadea, who tried to bullhorn the gas tax perpetrators out of office.

Ray Lesniak

The retiring state senator received 23,000 votes statewide, just 2,000 more than what he posted district-wide in  2013. He also got smoked in his home district. It’s tough, because he ran a gutsy, crusty and headline-generating campaign. In the end, though, he couldn’t get close to the slug-fest between Wiz and Johnson. Incidentally, Wiz (who lost his own district by 1,700 votes) and Johnson needed to have gotten together and figured out a way to unite their mutually destructive progressive causes. It wasn’t going to happen, though, because Johnson – in full bore squeegee the decks mode – objected to all of Trenton as the problem, of which Wisniewski is a piece.


This hurts. But consider the following: Ciattarelli had the endorsements of the Star-Ledger, the Bergen Record and the Philadelphia Inquirer and he still lost by 15 points.



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