Home>Campaigns>Ciattarelli wins gubernatorial primary; Johnson, Polistina, Cryan easily take Senate primaries; DiMaso and DeCroce lose

Republican gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli and his wife Melinda. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe.)

Ciattarelli wins gubernatorial primary; Johnson, Polistina, Cryan easily take Senate primaries; DiMaso and DeCroce lose

Other incumbents fend off primary challenges without a problem

By David Wildstein, June 09 2021 6:18 am

Jack Ciattarelli, a former Republican assemblyman, captured the Republican nomination for Governor on Tuesday by a 49%-26% margin, becoming the first non-incumbent candidate in more than 100 years to carry all 21 counties in a contested Republican gubernatorial primary.

He will now face Gov. Phil Murphy, who is seeking to become the first Democratic governor to win a second term in 44 years.

In a Democratic primary for the seat of retiring Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg in the Bergen County-based 37th district, Assembly Speaker Pro-Tempore Gordon Johnson (D-Englewood) crushed Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Englewood) by a margin of nearly 3-1.

Republicans in the Atlantic County-based 2nd district nominated former Assemblyman Vince Polistina (R-Egg Harbor Township) to run for an open State Senate seat.  He defeated Seth Grossman, a former Atlantic County freeholder, by a 70%-30% margin.

Two incumbents lost their primaries after the own county Republican organizations denied them party support for re-election.

Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso (R-Holmdel) was defeated by Holmdel Board of Education President Vicky Flynn by over 2,000 votes in the Monmouth-based 13th district. Flynn will run with Assemblyman Gerald Scharfenberger (R-Middletown) in the fall.

In the 26th district, which includes parts of Morris, Essex and Passaic counties, Christian Barranco ousted Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce (R-Parsippany) by 488 votes.

State Sen. Joseph Cryan (D-Union) won a massive 62%-33% victory against Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-Roselle).  His running mates in the Union County-based 20th district, Assembly Majority Conference Leader Annette Quijano (D-Elizabeth) and Rev. Reginald Atkins, the Roselle Democratic municipal chairman and a former mayor.

Two Republican incumbents in the 39th district – Bob Auth (R-Old Tappan) and DeAnne DeFuccio (R-Upper Saddle River) won a contested State Assembly primary by more than 2,000 votes.

In Ocean County, Assemblymen Greg McGuckin (R-Toms River) and John Catalano (R-Brick) fought off two challengers that had the backing of George Gilmore, a former Ocean County GOP chairman who has been pursuing a political comeback.

Another comeback candidate, former Rep. Michael Pappas, who served one term in Congress in the 1999s, won the GOP nomination for an open State Senate seat.  He defeated Jeffrey Grant by a 65%-35% margin and will now face Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D-South Brunswick) for the seat of retiring Republican State Sen. Christopher Bateman (R-Branchburg).

In the Democratic primary for the Assembly seat Zwicker is giving up, former Montgomery Mayor Sadaf Jaffer defeated Faris Zwirahn, an instructor at Princeton University, by over 5,000 votes.  She will run with the two-term incumbent, Roy Freiman (D-Hillsborough).

Other incumbents with primary challenges sailed to landslide wins.

State Sen. Patrick Diegnan (D-South Plainfield) defeated Edison Board of Education Vice President Mohin Patel by a 3-1 margin in the 18th district.  Assemblymen Robert Karabinchak (D-Edison) and Sterley Stanley (D-East Brunswick) easily defeated Patel’s running mates, Lisa Salem and Maurice Alfaro.

In the 24th district, Senate Republican Budget Officer Steve Oroho (R-Franklin) won a lopsided 81%-19% win over Daniel Cruz, a member of the Andover Regional Board of Education.

State Sen. Ronald Rice (D-Newark), who was first elected to the Senate in 1986) won 92% of the vote against his primary challenger, Quadir Selby.

Against Assemblymen Ronald Dancer (R-Plumsted) and Robert Clifton (R-Matawan), challenger Ahmed Basuoni received just 537 votes in the 12th.  Next door in the 30th, Assemblyman Sean Kean (R-Wall) and Ned Thomson (R-Wall) scored gigantic victories against Eliezer Alter Richter, a Lakewood rabbi.

In the 21st district, where Senate Minority Leader Thomas Kean, Jr. (R-Westfield) is retiring – and probably preparing to run for Congress next year – Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield was unopposed for the GOP nomination for State Senate.

New Providence Councilwoman Michelle Matsikoudis won the GOP nod for Bramnick’s Assembly seat by nearly 6,000 votes against Jennifer Makar.  She’ll team up with Assembly Minority Conference Leader Nancy Munoz (R-Summit).

With 100% of the votes counted, Johnson leads Vainieri Huttle by 5,106 votes, 74%-26%.  He carried 12 of 12 municipalities, included a lopsided win in Englewood, where they both live.  Vainieri Huttle won only Leonia, albeit by a narrow margin.

Johnson, who is likely to become Bergen County’s first Black senator in a heavily Democratic district, had the backing of Bergen County Democratic Chairman Paul Juliano, Senate President Steve Sweeney, Murphy and Weinberg.   His win is a huge validation for Juliano and likely gives Sweeney another leadership vote in Bergen County.

Two Assembly candidates backed by the Bergen Democratic organization – Tenafly Democratic Municipal Chairman Shaima Haider and former Englewood Cliffs Councilwoman Ellen Park – scored landslide victories against Vainieri Huttle’s running mates, Teaneck Councilwoman Gervonn Romney Rice and Tenafly Council President Lauren Kohn Dayton.

Park is the top vote-getter with 7,122 votes, followed by Haider with 6,965.  Trailing far behind were Romney Rice with 2,800 and Dayton with 2,314.

Polistina defeated Grossman by more than 3,500 votes, 70%-30%.  He will now face Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo (D-Northfield) to defend a Republican State Senate seat.  The incumbent, Christopher Brown (R-Ventnor), flipped the seat in 2017 but has opted not to seek re-election to a second term.

In the 26th, Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-Morris Plains) ran far ahead of the rest of the field with 9,968 votes.  He received 7,665 votes on the line in Morris; he was also the top vote-getter off the line in Essex and Passaic, where he received 1,192 and 1,001 votes, respectively.

Barranco, a member of IBEW Local 102 and a former Pompton Plains councilman, secured the Morris line when he upset DeCroce by nine voters at the county Republican convention.  He outpolled DeCroce in Morris County by 896 votes and held her to a 286-vote win in Essex and a 122-vote margin in Passaic.  That puts him ahead of DeCroce, 6,858 to 6,370.

Barranco led in Butler, Jefferson, Kinnelon, Lincoln Park Montville, Morris Plains, and Rockaway Township, while DeCroce carried won Parsippany by about 240 votes and won in Fairfield, North Caldwell, Verona, West Caldwell and West Milford.

A fourth candidate, Morris County Commissioner Tom Mastrangelo, may have caused DeCroce’s defeat.  He received 5,743 votes – 4,514 of them in Morris County.

Auth and DeFuccio faced a primary challenge from Saddle River Councilman John Azzariti and former Saddle River Republican Municipal Chairman Jon Kurpis.

Following the death of 86-year-old State Sen. Gerald Cardinale (R-Demarest) this year, Holly Schepisi (R-River Vale) defeated Auth in a special election by eight votes.  Then DeFuccio won Schepisi’s old Assembly seat, defeating Azzariti by 7 votes.

Schepisi, who was unopposed in the Senate primary, backed Azzariti and Kurpis in the primary.

Auth was the top vote-getter with 5,462 votes, followed by DeFuccio with 5,242.  Azzariti finished third with 3,265, followed by Kurpis with 3,029.

Primary wins by Jaffer, Park and Haider could double the size of the New Jersey Legislature’s Asian American Caucus.  A win by just one of them would mean the election of the first Asian American woman in state history.

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