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New Jersey awaits election results as polls close

By David Wildstein, November 02 2021 8:00 pm

It’s 8 PM and the polls are now closed in New Jersey, even in Cedar Grove.

For the 19th time under the current State Constitution, voters will decide who will serve as Governor of New Jersey for the next four years.

Gov. Phil Murphy wants to become the first Democrat in 44 years to win re-election to a second term.  He faces Republican Jack Ciattarelli, a former assemblyman from Somerset County.

About 11% of all registered voters had already voted before the polls opened at 6 AM.

Election workers across the state have spent the day tallying more than 732,000 ballots had already been cast as of Monday morning, including almost 525,000 vote-by-mail ballots and over 200,000 early votes cast during the state’s brand-new nine-day in-person early voting period.  Those counts should begin to show up soon.

Elect Casey by Norman Rockwell. (Saturday Evening Post, courtesy of the Rockwell Museum).

There were scattered reports of network and connectivity issues at some polling places, but many of the issues are related to human error relating to a high tech election with a workforce dominated by older Election Day poll workers.  But Superior Court Judge Will Anklowitz tonight rejected a bid by the American Civil Liberties Union and the League of Women Voters to extend voting hours to 9:30 PM.

Polls have shown a tightening of the governor’s race.  A Rutgers-Eagleton poll on Monday put Murphy’s lead at eight points.  A Monmouth University poll last week had Murphy ahead by 11 points, while surveys from Fairleigh Dickinson University and Stockton University showed Murphy leading Ciattarelli by 9 points.

New Jersey has more than one million more Democrats than Republicans, but a historical propensity to elect GOP governors.  Republicans have occupied the New Jersey governorship for 24 of the last 32 years.

Legislature

All 120 members of the New Jersey Legislature are up today, and while there are some competitive races across the state, Democrats are not in danger of losing their majorities in the State Senate and General Assembly.   The Senate has 25 Democrats and 15 Republicans; the Assembly has 52 Democrats and 28 Republicans.

The two most closely-watched races are in South Jersey.

In the Burlington-based 8th district, which includes parts of Atlantic and Camden counties, State Sen. Dawn Addiego (D-Evesham) faces Assemblywoman Jean Stanfield (R-Westampton).  Addiego won a special election in 2010 and won the seat three times as a Republican before switching parties in January 2019.

Stanfield, a first-term lawmaker who spent nearly 18 years as the Burlington County Sheriff, is trying to reclaim the Senate seat.

The 8th also presents the best chance for Democrats to pick up two open Assembly seats – one held by Republican Ryan Peters (R-Hainesport), who is not seeking re-election, and the other by Stanfield.

The GOP candidates are Hammonton Councilman Michael Torrissi, Jr. and Brandon Umba, the acting township administrator in Manchester.  They face Evesham Democratic Municipal Chairman Mark Natale and Allison Eckel, who holds the Medford seat on the Lenape Regional High School District Board of Education.

In the Atlantic County-based 8th district, Democrats are trying to pick off a seat Republicans won four years ago following the retirement – and later death – of State Sen. James Whelan D-Atlantic City).

Republican Christopher Brown (R-Ventnor) decided earlier this year to leave the Senate after one term and resigned in July to join the Murphy administration in a position related to the state takeover of Atlantic City.

In a special election convention, the GOP filled the seat with Vincent Polistina (R-Egg Harbor Township), a former assemblyman.  But the Senate has been in recess since June and Polistina has not been sworn in.

In a bid to flip the seat, Democrats are running Vince Mazzeo (D-Northfield), a four-term assemblyman, against Polistina.  Mazzeo defeated a GOP incumbent in 2013 by just 40 votes.

No district in the state has split tickets more than the 2nd, so the contest for two Assembly seats is competitive in its own right.

Assemblyman John Armato (D-Buena) is seeking his third term, with Atlantic County Commissioner Caren Fitzpatrick looking to take Mazzeo’s Assembly seat.

Republicans are running Don Guardian, who served as mayor of Atlantic City from 2013 to 2017, and Claire Swift, a former deputy state attorney general.

In Central Jersey’s 16th district, which includes parts of Somerset, Hunterdon, Middlesex and Mercer counties, Republican Christopher Bateman (R-Branchburg) is retiring after 14 year in the Senate and a total of 28 in the legislature.  This is the district Ciattarelli represented from 2012 to 2018.

Democrats haven’t held a Senate seat in a Somerset district since 1905, when Samuel Childs lost to Joseph Frelinghuysen, but the 16th became more friendly after 2011 legislative redistricting added two Democratic strongholds, Princeton and South Brunswick.

To replace Bateman, Republicans are running Michael Pappas, a 60-year-old former congressman and Somerset County freeholder who seeking a political comeback 23 years after losing his House seat.

The Democratic candidate is Andrew Zwicker (D-South Brunswick), a Princeton physicist who ousted Ciattarelli’s running mate, Donna Simon (R-Readington), in 2015 by 78 votes.

Assemblyman Roy Freiman (D-Hillsborough) is seeking his third term.  Former Montgomery Mayor Sadaf Jaffer is seeking Zwicker’s seat.  If she wins, she’ll be the first – or one of the first two – Muslim women to serve in the New Jersey Legislature.

Republicans are running Hunterdon Central Regional Board of Education President Vincent Panico and Manville Councilman Joseph Lukac.  If Panico wins, he’ll become the first commercial hot air balloon pilot in the legislature.  (Former State Sen. Malcolm Forbes was an amateur hot air balloonist.)

Two other districts remain on the radar screen as longshots: the Monmouth-based 11th and the Union-based 21st.

Republicans concede that Senate Majority Conference Leader Vin Gopal (D-Long Branch), who unseated three-term Republican Jennifer Beck (R-Red Bank) by a wide margin in 2017, will be tough to beat, but think they can pick up Assembly seats now held by three-term incumbents Joann Downey (D-Freehold) and Eric Houghtaling (D-Neptune).

Democrats are the underdogs in the 21st, where Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr. (R-Westfield) is retiring to focus on his 2022 rematch with Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Ringoes) in New Jersey’s 7th district.

Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield) faces Roselle Park Mayor Joseph Signorello for the Senate seat.

Nancy Munoz (R-Summit), who is a candidate for Assembly Minority Leader in Thursday’s legislative leadership elections, is teaming up with New Providence Councilwoman Michele Matsikoudis.  They face National Organization of Women New Jersey President Anjali Mehrotra and public school teacher Elizabeth Graner.

Local Races

Both parties are fighting to win a county clerk’s race in Atlantic County, one of the state’s few politically competitive counties. Edward McGettigan, a three-term Democrat, is retiring after a series of election mishaps. Hammonton Councilman Joseph Giralo, a Republican, faces Egg Harbor City Mayor Lisa Jiampetti, the Democratic candidate.

Democrat Thelma Witherspoon and Republican Andrew Parker are facing off in a do-over of their 2020 race for Atlantic County Commissioner in District 3 that was invalidated as a result of a screw-up by McGettigan, who failed to mail the correct ballot to 554 voters. Witherspoon outpolled Parker by 286 votes in an election that bounced through the courts until the summer, when the appellate division upheld an order to force a new election. Democrats tried to get Witherspoon seated, at least temporarily, but without success.

Republicans have a 6-2 majority on the Board of Commissioners – the District 3 seat is vacant – and while it’s mathematically possible for Democrats to take control, it’s unlikely. Democrats would have to win three of the four commissioner contests, including at least one in a district drawn to favor the GOP.

There are also potentially competitive county elections in Salem, Cumberland and Gloucester counties, with Somerset and Burlington at least worth watching.

Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop is seeking re-election to a third term and looking to bring nine city council candidates along with him.  In Tinton Falls, 97-year-old Mayor Vito Perillo is seeking a second four-year term.

There are competitive mayoral races in Edison, Parsippany, Monroe, Westfield, Hawthorne, and Hillside.

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