Home>Campaigns>Primary 2020: Kennedy, Richter win; Gottheimer, Sires swamp challengers

Amy Kennedy celebrates her victory in the NJ-2 Democratic congressional primary on July 7, 2020 with her husband, former Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy, three of her five children, Gov. Phil Murphy and First Lady Tammy Murphy. Photo: Facebook.

Primary 2020: Kennedy, Richter win; Gottheimer, Sires swamp challengers

GOP race to take on Booker too close to call

By David Wildstein, July 08 2020 5:17 am

Amy Kennedy won a decisive victory in the NJ-2 Democratic primary to take on party-switching Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-Dennis) on Tuesday in a primary election delayed a month to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus and conducted almost entirely through vote-by-mail ballots.

Kennedy, a member of one of America’s most storied political families, dealt a stunning blow to the South Jersey Democratic machine.  She has a 61%-25% lead over Brigid Callahan Harrison, winning all eight counties despite Harrison’s endorsement by six Democratic county organizations.

In the 3rd district, Republicans nominated David Richter, a former construction company CEO, to run against freshman Rep. Andy Kim (D-Moorestown).  Richter leads former Burlington County Freeholder Director Kate Gibbs by a 2-1 margin after winning Ocean County with 78%.

Eight incumbent House members faced primaries, but despite gargantuan bluster, none of the challengers came close to winning.

Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff) obliterated Glen Rock Councilwoman Arati Kreibich by a 47-point margin in his bid for re-election to a third term.  Bernie Sanders endorsed Kreibich, whose 26% lags far behind the 40% mark Sanders hit in the 5th district in 2016.

The race to pick Gottheimer’s opponent is too close to call, with investment banker Frank Pallotta leading former Cresskill Councilman John McCann, Jr. by 4,364 votes, 53%-41%.

Three other incumbents facing loud progressive challenges also scored landslide victories.

Albio Sires (D-West New York) is trouncing Hector Oseguera, 76%-21%,  Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-Paterson) has an 82%-16% lead against Zina Spezakis, and Frank Pallone Jr. (D-Long Branch) is ahead of Russ Cirincione by an 85%-13% margin.

Four other Members of Congress crushed their opposition.

Van Drew leads former Trump administration official Robert Patterson with 81%.  Christopher Smith (R-Hamilton) is getting 95%, and Donald Payne, Jr. (D-Newark) is at 90%.  Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Ewing) leads 90%-10% against Lisa McCormick, a shadowy perennial candidate.

In New Jersey’s presidential primary, Joe Biden leads Bernie Sanders by an 87%-12 margin.  If his percentage holds above 85%, Sanders will be shut out of any at-large delegates to the Democratic National Convention.

Sanders, who dropped out of the race three months ago, is in range of capturing some district delegates.

The results may shift in the coming days as election officials finish counting mail-in ballots they received by Tuesday.

It’s not clear how many vote-by-mail ballots postmarked by 8 PM Tuesday will arrive before next Tuesday, nor is it clear how many provisional ballots were cast in the race. It’s also uncertain how many eliminated vote-by-mail ballots will be cured before election results are certified around June 23.

Cory Booker scored a massive 89% victory over Lawrence Hamm, a former Newark school board member who chaired Sanders’ New Jersey presidential campaign.

The Republican U.S. Senate primary remains too close to call.

Former U.S. Food and Drug Administration official Rik Mehta leads Hirsh Singh by a narrow 3,007-vote margin, 38.4%-36.6%.

Just three South Jersey counties gave pluralities to Singh, but his 25,197-vote lead in Ocean County has kept his candidacy very much alive.

In the politically competitive 7th district, Senate Minority Leader Thomas Kean, Jr. easily won the Republican nomination to take on freshman Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Ringoes).  Kean won 85% against a pair of challengers.

In the race to pick a challenger to Smith, who is seeking his 21st term in Congress, Democrats nominated Stephanie Schmid, a former U.S. Department of State official.  Schmid leads Christine Conforti by 46 percentage points.

Republicans have a too-close-to-call primary in the heavily-Democratic 9th district, where Billy Prempeh leads Tim Walsh with 82% of the vote for the chance to take on Pascrell.

It’s still not clear if Pallone will face a GOP opponent.  Neither of the Republicans who filed had enough signatures to qualify for the ballot; the only route now is a write-in campaign.

The race for Cumberland County freeholder is also too close to call, with just 47 votes separating two candidates and thousands of ballots still waiting to be counted.

Incumbents Carol Musso and George Castellini lead, along with former freeholder Donna Pearson.  Pearson ran on a slate with incumbent Jack Surrency, who was denied party support for a second term.

Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small, Sr. has 60% of the vote in a three-way Democratic primary.  The counting of ballots will resume in the morning.

Progressive slates in Middlesex and Union counties were defeated, and all nine freeholder candidates backed by the Hudson County Democratic Organization are leading.

Kennedy’s win represents a huge political victory for Gov. Phil Murphy, who endorsed the former public school teacher last month.  Despite a rancorous relationship with South Jersey Democrats, this was the first time Murphy endorsed a challenger in a Democratic primary against the powerful political machine.

This was also another election where unpopular former GOP Gov. Chris Christie became an issue.  Kennedy attacked Harrison relentlessly for an op-ed she wrote encouraging Christie to run for president.

It also meant a rare defeat for organization lines that had largely lined up behind Harrison.

Kennedy had won the Atlantic County Democratic convention and leads there with 79% of the vote.

She also became the first up-ballot Democrat to carry Camden County since 1979, when then-Rep. Jim Florio (D-Runnemede) mounted an rebel slate to topple the Camden machine.  George Norcross, now one of the most powerful Democrats in the state, ran that insurgency campaign.

Shortly after the race was called, Norcross endorsed Kennedy and pledged to help her defeat Van Drew.

Van Drew, a longtime Norcross ally but never his personal favorite, won the 2nd district House seat in 2018 but switched parties less than a year later after refusing to support the impeachment of President Donald Trump.

Kennedy will now face Van Drew in a district Donald Trump carried by four points in 2016.

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