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Employees of the Union County Clerk's Office draw ballot positions for the 2020 primary election in April. (Photo: Facebook/NJ Globe.)

What to watch for in today’s primary election ballot draws

By David Wildstein, April 16 2021 10:58 am

County clerks will draw for ballot positions on Friday afternoon.

The only drama will be on the Republican side, since the two Democrats challenging Gov. Phil Murphy in the primary were removed from the ballot.

That means the organization line headed by Murphy will get the first ballot line or column, and that off the line candidates such as Valerie Vainieri Huttle in the 37th district Senate race, will be in column 2.

Republicans will be looking to see how much ballot real estate will exist between the organization line and any off the line candidates.  Organization line candidates typically want the first column or top line; off the line challengers want to be as close to their main opponent as possible.  Line candidates want their opponents as far away as possible.

County clerks first hold a drawing to determine whether Democrats or Republicans get the top lines or columns.  Gubernatorial candidates will be drawn first, putting down ballot candidates who have bracketed with them in their line or column.

Since Murphy is unopposed in the Democratic primary for governor, he will automatically get the first Democratic line or column.

Because the two other Democratic gubernatorial candidates, Roger Bacon and Lisa McCormick, were tossed from the ballot after administrative law judges found their nominating petitions to be invalid, any off the line candidates will appear immediately following Murphy and the rest of the line candidates.

That means the elimination of McCormick and Bacon was a big win for Vainieri Huttle and her slate in Bergen County.  Otherwise, the three Democratic candidates for governor would have occupied the first three ballot columns and Vainieri Huttle would have been in the fourth column.

The Republican draw will be between Jack Ciattarelli, Brian Levine, Phil Rizzo and Hirsh Singh.  Any candidates not bracketed with those four will automatically be on the fifth line or in the fifth column.

Here’s what to watch for in the ballot draw sweepstakes:

Atlantic County: Seth Grossman, running for the GOP State Senate nomination in the 2nd district, did not bracket with any of the four gubernatorial candidates.   His ballot position – right up against organization candidate Vince Polistina or in ballot Siberia – depends on County Clerk Ed McGettigan’s draw.

Let’s be clearer: What Polistina wants is for Ciattarelli go get drawn first, putting three columns of ballot white space between him and Grossman.  Grossman wants McGettigan to draw Ciattarelli last, so his name could be directly adjacent to Polistina.

Ocean County: In the 10th legislative district, incumbents Gregory McGuckin (R-Toms River) and John Catalano (R-Brick) are running on the organization line with Ciattarelli against two candidates allied with former Ocean County GOP Chairman George Gilmore.  Rivals Geraldine Ambrosio and Brian Quinn are bracketed with Singh in a race where the bigger draw is a contested GOP primary for Ocean County Commissioner.

Monmouth County: Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso (R-Holmdel) lost part support for her re-election bid and is seeking a third term off the line.  Since is bracketed with Rizzo, DiMaso will be in his column.  Optimally, she wants the county clerk to pick Ciattarelli last in the gubernatorial primary draw, so that DiMaso’s name appears adjacent to the candidate Monmouth County Republicans picked to replace her: Holmdel school board president Vicky Flynn.

District 26: A complicated four-way primary for two State Assembly seats in the 26th legislative district involves ballot draws in three counties.

In Morris County, which makes up about 78% of the Republican primary vote, Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-Morris Plains) and IBEW Local 102 member Christian Barranco are running on the first-ever Morris GOP organization line.   Webber and Barranco will run with Ciattarelli in Morris.

Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce (R-Parsippany), who lost the Morris Republican convention to Barranco, is running off the line and is not bracketed with any gubernatorial candidate.  That means she will be in the fifth column.

A fourth candidate, Morris County Commissioner Tom Mastrangelo, is allied with Singh in Essex.  He’ll be in whichever column County Clerk Christopher Durkin draws for Singh.

Ideally, DeCroce wants Grossi to draw Ciattarelli for the fourth column to put her adjacent to Barranco.  Her worst case scenario is that the organization line appears in the first column.

In Passaic County, which is roughly 12% of the GOP primary vote, DeCroce is alone on a line with Ciattarelli.  Barranco rebuffed the line and is running with Webber and Rizzo in Passaic, so none of the candidates will be in column 5.

An identical situation exists in Essex, which comprises about 10% of the votes in a Republican primary.

Senate Minority Whip Joseph Pennacchio (R-Montville), who is unopposed in the GOP primary, is running on the organization line in all three counties.

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