New Jerseyans have returned 175,668 vote-by-mail ballots for Tuesday’s primary election – 26.3% of the 667,709 VBM ballots mailed by county election officials across the state, according to data collected by the New Jersey Globe.
Democrats are just narrowly outpacing Republicans on ballots that were recorded as return as of June 4, by a 32.8% to 31.6% margin.
A total of 166,876 unaffiliated voters received ballots for both the Democratic and Republican primaries. Of those, 13,306 returned their mail-in ballots, 8%. Unaffiliated voters – sometimes referred to as independents – may return either a Democratic or a Republican ballot, but not both; if they return both, neither will count. It won’t be clear until vote-by-mail ballots are counted on Tuesday how they break by party.
None of the legislative districts with competitive Senate and Assembly primaries appear to have a disproportionate share of returned ballots from unaffiliated voters.
In the 37th district, where there are competitive Democratic primaries for State Senate and Assembly, 29.7% of Democrats who received vote-by-mail ballots were marked as returned as of Friday. Gordon Johnson and Valerie Vainieri Huttle are facing off for the seat being vacated by Loretta Weinberg.
Johnson is on the organization line with former Tenafly Councilwoman Shaima Hader and former Englewood Cliffs Councilwoman Ellen Park. Vainieri Huttle is running with Teaneck Councilwoman Gervonn Romney Rice and Tenafly Council President Lauren Kohn Dayton.
This is the first contested Democratic Senate primary since 1993, when Assemblyman Byron Baer (D-Englewood) defeated Englewood Mayor Donald Aronsohn by 20 percentage points following the retirement of six-term State Sen. Matthew Feldman (D-Teaneck).
Republicans who received mail-in ballots in the 2nd district, where former Atlantic County Freeholder Seth Grossman and former Assemblyman Vince Polistina (R-Egg Harbor Township) are facing off in the GOP Senate primary, have returned 34.4% of their ballots.
Republicans are selecting a candidate to replace Christopher Brown (R-Ventnor), who is not seeking re-election to a second term. Either Grossman or Polistina will face Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo (D-Northfield) in a district that has elected Democrats and Republicans for the last 46 years. Brown flipped the Senate seat in 2017 following the death of State Sen. James Whelan (D-Atlantic City).
Democrats in the 20th district, where State Sen. Joseph Cryan (D-Union) faces a primary challenge from Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-Roselle), have sent back 30.6% of their VBM ballots.
In districts where GOP State Assembly incumbents face credible primary challenges, returned ballots are as follows:
* District 10: 39.4%. Assemblymen Greg McGuckin (R-Toms River) and John Catalano (R-Brick) face former Toms River Republican Club President Geri Ambrosio and Brian Quinn, allies of former Ocean County GOP Chairman George Gilmore.
* District 13: 31.6%. Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso (R-Holmdel) was denied party support for re-election to a third term. She is running off the line against Holmdel Board of Education President Vicky Flynn and incumbent Gerald Scharfenberger (R-Middletown).
* District 26: 29.3%. The district features an Assembly contest between incumbents Jay Webber (R-Morris Plains) and BettyLou DeCroce (R-Parsippany) and challengers Christian Barranco and Morris County Commissioner Tom Mastrangelo.
Barranco defeated DeCroce for the Morris GOP line and is running with Webber in the county that accounts for 78% of the Republican primary vote. DeCroce alone has the line in Essex and Passaic.
* District 39: 24.2%. Incumbents Bob Auth (R-Old Tappan) and DeAnne DeFuccio (R-Upper Saddle River) face a primary challenge from Saddle River Councilman John Azzariti and former Saddle River GOP Municipal Chairman John Kurpis.
Returned VBM ballot numbers statewide offer no real glimpse into the GOP gubernatorial primary, since former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli has the endorsements of all 21 county Republican organizations.